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Old 09-02-2013, 11:35 AM   #91
Solitaire1
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Originally Posted by Catlady View Post
Oh, OK. I still wouldn't explain it, though, as it shouldn't take long for a reader to get the gist of what you're doing.
Due to the strong opinions on the matter, it's likely the best way to handle it. To me, the key is to be consistent so that the reader can figure out what is going on. I still use the square brackets combined with italics when indicating thoughts, and that's the only thing I use the combination for.
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Old 09-02-2013, 04:57 PM   #92
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Originally Posted by Hitch View Post
I disagree--that's not what I inferred from the original post, nor the follow-up to the discussion. There's a marked difference between someone picking up, say, "The Road" and trashing it because for some reason, they thought it was going to be a buddy-travel adventure, and a reader "not getting it," which was the language of the original post.

Catlady said nothing more than that which had already been said; when an author endeavors to use either a device or artifice which distracts from the substance, he risks detracting from the work, or taking the reader out of the work; to which the reply about readers "not getting it" was posted.Again, you seem to have inferred something entirely different from the original series of posts than did I. Catlady's original post said:
You simply are not getting the point TGS made or that I made. Now you are misconstruing the point that Catlady made.

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Originally Posted by Catlady View Post
The problem is that any use of a nonstandard style calls attention to itself, which distracts the reader from the substance--so an author should have a darn good reason to abandon conventional practices of punctuation.
What does she mean by "substance" except a conventional story? She's making a strict delineation between "style" and "substance" which many forms of literary fiction does not do. In other words, she's saying that an author should only use nonstandard style if it doesn't detract from a conventional story. To which TGS replied

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Originally Posted by TGS View Post
Which presupposes the "substance" is what you think it is.

There is often more to literary fiction than telling a story. If you don't get that, that's OK, but it doesn't really warrant you, or anyone else, rubbishing a piece of work because it rubs up against your expectations.
In other words, in literary fiction very often the style is the substance. Sometimes, the substance is all about "calling attention" to the style itself. Ulysses isn't about the story. It is about the way language and style affects meaning and experience. The story is simply a day in the life of Leopold Bloom. Of course one could say that Joyce's montage of styles "detracts from the substance" of the story, since it would have been much simpler to tell the story of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom with conventional prose. But the "substance" of the novel isn't the story itself.

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There's nothing in either post which discusses a reader's expectations being somehow askew, or the reader misunderstanding the genre; the reply is clearly stating that the reader simply doesn't understand what the author is attempting to do in literary fiction. This line:
Um, yes there is. Again, TGS's post


Quote:
Originally Posted by TGS View Post
Which presupposes the "substance" is what you think it is.

There is often more to literary fiction than telling a story. If you don't get that, that's OK, but it doesn't really warrant you, or anyone else, rubbishing a piece of work because it rubs up against your expectations.
What do you think "presupposes the substance is what you think it is" means except that her expectations of what constitutes "substance" in a novel are contrary to what they are in literary fiction, which he expands upon in the next line

"There is often more to literary fiction than telling a story." He finishes the post by saying that a work of literary fiction doesn't warrant you "rubbishing" it because "it rubs up against your expectations."

Again, to reiterate, TGS is saying that some people, like catlady, have expectations for literary fiction that are contrary to what the genre is about.

Quote:
is obviously not about someone picking up a romance novel thinking it's a thriller, or vice-versa. The very term "literary fiction" takes this out of the simplistic realm of genre confusion. The sentence pretty clearly states that the reader is simply too stupid to "get" what the author was doing in our hypothetical piece of literary fiction. And if that wasn't clear in that post, the succeeding two posts between the participants crystallize it.
No, the succeeding posts do not illustrate any such points. Now you are making stuff up. Here is what was actually said

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Originally Posted by Catlady View Post
Could you be any more condescending?
Quote:
Originally Posted by TGS View Post
Oh yes, easily.
TGS was not being condescending. He was pointing out that not all kinds of fiction adhere to Catlady's notion of a separation of style and substance. In response, she decided to attack TGS, which he deflected with sarcasm.This isn't a case of him attacking her or being condescending, this is a case of her being hypersensitive.

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And I repeat: authors are free to experiment with whatever form they wish, to achieve any effect that they wish. However, there's also a cognitive-dissonance, faux-distinction between "art" and "commerce" that is all-too-frequently blurred in the writing (and painting, sculpting, etc.) world. (Personally, I blame this on the Church, dating from medieval times, but that's another discussion altogether). Your position seems to be that even if the reader plunks down their hard-earned, if they got something that they didn't expect--and didn't like it--they don't have the right to say so. Why don't they?
Again, another failure at reading comprehension. I never said a reader has no right to say they hate a work. I said it is ridiculous to pick up a work with faulty expectations and then to criticize that work for failing to meet those faulty expectations.

i.e., it is silly and immature to pick up a work of literary fiction and then complain that it has unconventional style or that it doesn't tell a conventional story.

You can complain. But your complaint is as legitimate as a man complaining that the horse he bought can't do algebra.

Of course many people simply don't like literary fiction. Many people don't see any point in literary experimentation. This has nothing to do with literary fiction being "art" and other forms of fiction being "commerce." I never once said that literary fiction is "art" and other forms of fiction are "commerce." What I said is that literary fiction attempts to do things that other forms of fiction don't.

That literary fiction doesn't follow the rules that other forms of fiction follow.

Whether or not the nature of literary fiction, its experimental and rule-breaking tendencies, render it commercially viable or unviable is irrelevant.

It has nothing to do with whether literary fiction is business or not. If literary fiction doesn't sell, then it doesn't sell. But if you change its nature it is no longer literary fiction.

Again, this is not a business or art issue. This is an issue of definition. If horror wasn't selling, I couldn't save the horror genre by telling a romance story with all the conventions of the romance genre. It wouldn't be a horror story anymore, it would be romance.

The same logic applies to literary fiction. If you change a story so that it focuses on a conventional story or "substance" and doesn't experiment with style, it's no longer a work of literary fiction. Maybe you have to do that to sell the work. But if you do, it isn't literary fiction. This isn't a good or bad thing. There is no divine mandate that authors must write literary fiction, no imperative that literary fiction must exist or be popular, no necessary reason why it must be published. It is simply a form of fiction.

The commercial standard here is simply irrelevant.

Quote:
This line of arguments puts the burden on the reader, not the author; if the reader's not "up to snuff," well, then s/he should keep her mouth shut. If a piece of experimental literary fiction is incomprehensible to the reader, and she hates it, well--she's just not smart enough to understand it.
Sometimes the reader is at fault, such as when a certain poster repeatedly fails at reading comprehension even when the posts he is responding to are written in plain conventional english.

It is okay to criticize a piece of experimental literary fiction if you come into the work with the correct expectations. It is okay to say that "the author doesn't use quotation marks for some literary effect, but fails to achieve any effect."

Quote:
Your example of horses and algebraic horses is not, I fear, truly representative of the issue.
Yes it is. Since people keep criticizing literary fiction for failing to tell conventional stories or for using unconventional style, clearly your example of people "not getting what they paid for" is faulty.

Quote:
The artistic (and commercial) risk is the artistic (and commercial) risk--and like any venture, the audience is still entitled to say what they think. Why is that "silly and incongruous?" You don't think that idea is the height of condescension?
The audience is entitled to think and say whatever it wants. But it is silly and incongruous for criticizing a work that fails to meet faulty expectations. That isn't condescending. That's rational. As i've already stated, the commercial standard here is irrelevant.

Quote:
You can say that "the market-place isn't the only legitimate standard," and you'd be right; but the reality is, it's readers who put down their own money, to buy an author's efforts. If they don't like it, the writer can console himself with the idea that the hoi polloi simply don't have the education to understand what s/he was trying to do.
This is irrelevant to the points I made or this discussion. This has nothing to do with authors insulating themselves from criticism. This has to do with ignorant and narcissistic consumers buying products based on their own faulty expectations and then complaining that it is the producer that failed them. Here is what I mean by "the commercial standard isn't the only standard."

How do you judge the quality of liquor?
Well, one way would be sales.
But what if everyone for some reason stopped liking any form of alcohol.
Would removing the alcohol from the liquor make it better liquor?
No.
Because if you remove the alcohol, it would cease to be liquor.
But the fact that people suddenly stopped liking alcoholic beverages doesn't make liquor worse than it was before.
At best you could only use the commercial standard to judge the quality of liquor itself by comparing the sales of kinds of liquor to other kinds.

Another scenario.
Suppose I'm someone who hates alcohol. I pick up Budweiser, take a sip, and say, "this Budweiser is terrible!"
"Why?
"Because it has alcohol in it! The brewer is terrible."

It is one thing to say I hate alcohol. But it would be silly to say it is bad alcohol because it has alcohol in it, which is the standard many people are applying to literary fiction.
Quote:
You are viewing various aspects of literary fiction as "art," but publishing is a business.
No, I am saying that literary fiction with standards that differ from other forms of fiction. It should be based on those standards. It is as simple as that.
Quote:
Any author who sells his work, either to a publishing house or as an Indy, is operating a business. And like any business, his products are open to criticism, from whoever buys them, for whatever reason. It really doesn't get any simpler than that. And if you disagree, ask every author you know whether they'd rather sell one copy of their novel, and win a Pulitzer, or a million copies of their novel, but not. (I know what the 2,000+ authors who've passed through our doors would say, pretty much down to a wo/man--even the poets.)
All irrelevant to my post.

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The Jekyll and Hyde part of this is the disconnect between how an author views their "art," coupled to the capitalistic cart that puts the book on SALE to a buying public.
Again, irrelevant to the points I made.

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I saw one that was purportedly a novel, but had each speaker identified like a screenplay, with the character's name followed by a colon, even though the narrative was written in the normal way. (The author told me that he couldn't be bothered to write all those dialogue tags, and that it was "too much work.") That's not "experimental fiction," it's just BAD fiction, written by people who've never even taken a high-school writing class.
Your right, that isn't experimental fiction. According to your own account, the author wasn't trying to experiment. He was just lazy. I don't see what this has to do with experimental literary fiction.

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I think nowadays we readers are increasingly burdened by bad books, and it indubitably must weary us all, so that we are suspicious of even a solid talent's work, when it departs from the norm.
90 percent of everything is crap. That applies to all forms of fiction. I don't see your point here.

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I can say without batting an eyelash that my view of authoring, publishing, etc., has changed dramatically over the past five years, and I think that anyone heavily involved in the Indy publishing industry has to be equally affected. I realize that my perspective of "books as products" will be unwelcome to many who write. {shrug}.
That's nice. It has nothing to do with the points I or TGS have made.
Quote:
I suspect, however, that it's a view that's more widely shared by readers than many authors would like to think. I'm not interested in a fight about it; you can tell yourself that I'm a Philistine and just blow it off. ;-)

Hitch
Right, you spend a whole post misconstruing and digressing, then based on your own biases and prejudices insinuate that I'm a snob. Whatever.

Last edited by spellbanisher; 09-02-2013 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 09-02-2013, 05:44 PM   #93
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Spellbanisher, you just spent a whole looong post telling Catlady and Hitch how ignorant and unrefined they were, while making it sound like you were defending the super speshul genre of literary fiction.

Kudos to you for your ability to insult, while seeming to just be using logic.

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Old 09-02-2013, 06:29 PM   #94
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Originally Posted by spellbanisher View Post
You simply are not getting the point TGS made or that I made. Now you are misconstruing the point that Catlady made.

What does she mean by "substance" except a conventional story? She's making a strict delineation between "style" and "substance" which many forms of literary fiction does not do. In other words, she's saying that an author should only use nonstandard style if it doesn't detract from a conventional story. To which TGS replied
No, you are the one misconstruing. Where the heck did I ever say that substance = conventional story? Where did I make a delineation between style and substance? I made a very simple and rather obvious point that because unconventional usage distracts the reader, an author needs to have a good reason for it.

Quote:
In other words, in literary fiction very often the style is the substance. Sometimes, the substance is all about "calling attention" to the style itself. Ulysses isn't about the story. It is about the way language and style affects meaning and experience. The story is simply a day in the life of Leopold Bloom. Of course one could say that Joyce's montage of styles "detracts from the substance" of the story, since it would have been much simpler to tell the story of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom with conventional prose. But the "substance" of the novel isn't the story itself.
I said: "The problem is that any use of a nonstandard style calls attention to itself, which distracts the reader from the substance--so an author should have a darn good reason to abandon conventional practices of punctuation."

Do you see anywhere in that statement a mention of STORY? You are the one who is equating substance with story, and then telling me how unenlightened I am to conflate the two, ignoring the fact that I never so; YOU did.

Quote:
What do you think "presupposes the substance is what you think it is" means except that her expectations of what constitutes "substance" in a novel are contrary to what they are in literary fiction, which he expands upon in the next line

"There is often more to literary fiction than telling a story." He finishes the post by saying that a work of literary fiction doesn't warrant you "rubbishing" it because "it rubs up against your expectations."

Again, to reiterate, TGS is saying that some people, like catlady, have expectations for literary fiction that are contrary to what the genre is about.
I said nothing about my expectations, for literary fiction or anything else. But I'll tell you one expectation I have: to let my words speak for themselves and not be analyzed to such an extreme that the meaning is totally distorted.

I said nothing about story. I said nothing about literary fiction. I said nothing about expectations. Got that?

Quote:
TGS was not being condescending. He was pointing out that not all kinds of fiction adhere to Catlady's notion of a separation of style and substance. In response, she decided to attack TGS, which he deflected with sarcasm.This isn't a case of him attacking her or being condescending, this is a case of her being hypersensitive.
BS. He twisted what I said to suit his own purposes, and decided I was some sort of dull-witted dolt who couldn't understand Literature with a capital L. As it is fruitless to argue with someone so lofty, yes, I responded with sarcasm. And then I left the field, only to find my original simple comment has become the subject of considerable back-and-forth.

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Again, another failure at reading comprehension. I never said a reader has no right to say they hate a work. I said it is ridiculous to pick up a work with faulty expectations and then to criticize that work for failing to meet those faulty expectations.
How funny that you are criticizing others for the same failing you exhibit. My initial comment had NOTHING to do with expectations.

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Of course many people simply don't like literary fiction. Many people don't see any point in literary experimentation. This has nothing to do with literary fiction being "art" and other forms of fiction being "commerce." I never once said that literary fiction is "art" and other forms of fiction are "commerce." What I said is that literary fiction attempts to do things that other forms of fiction don't.
Oh, someone claimed you said something you never said? Join the club.

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The same logic applies to literary fiction. If you change a story so that it focuses on a conventional story or "substance" and doesn't experiment with style, it's no longer a work of literary fiction. Maybe you have to do that to sell the work. But if you do, it isn't literary fiction. This isn't a good or bad thing. There is no divine mandate that authors must write literary fiction, no imperative that literary fiction must exist or be popular, no necessary reason why it must be published. It is simply a form of fiction.
One more time: it is YOU who equated the word substance with conventional story. Not me.

Quote:
Sometimes the reader is at fault, such as when a certain poster repeatedly fails at reading comprehension even when the posts he is responding to are written in plain conventional english.
Gosh, that's what you did with my post, isn't it? Good thing I didn't try to be unconventional and literary.

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It is okay to criticize a piece of experimental literary fiction if you come into the work with the correct expectations. It is okay to say that "the author doesn't use quotation marks for some literary effect, but fails to achieve any effect."
So happy to have your permission.

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Yes it is. Since people keep criticizing literary fiction for failing to tell conventional stories or for using unconventional style, clearly your example of people "not getting what they paid for" is faulty.
Who are the people who "keep criticizing literary fiction for failing to tell conventional stories or for using unconventional style"?

Quote:
This is irrelevant to the points I made or this discussion. This has nothing to do with authors insulating themselves from criticism. This has to do with ignorant and narcissistic consumers buying products based on their own faulty expectations and then complaining that it is the producer that failed them. Here is what I mean by "the commercial standard isn't the only standard."
"Ignorant and narcissistic"? "Faulty expectations"? Seriously? How do you know what expectations the reader had before picking up a certain book? Seems to me that you're judging after the fact--if the reader complains that some book with literary aspirations is garbage, your default is that it's the reader and not the book that is the problem.


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That's nice. It has nothing to do with the points I or TGS have made.
Right, you spend a whole post misconstruing and digressing, then based on your own biases and prejudices insinuate that I'm a snob. Whatever.
You've misconstrued and digressed and used your own biases and prejudices to insinuate that I'm "ignorant and narcissistic." And you did this based on a SINGLE mildly-worded sentence, not a diatribe.

Whatever.
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:42 PM   #95
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@Spellbanisher

I'm perfectly willing to admit that the conventions, and even the goals, of literary fiction are different from those of most forms of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers often use different techniques than others because those techniques better suit their writing goals. Good writers write with purpose, and use the techniques that help them best achieve it.

What I do not believe is that literary fiction writers use experimental techniques simply to call attention to the fact that they are using the technique. They use them to achieve their specific writing goals, and sometimes they don't succeed.

When that happens, people notice the technique. They often pay more attention to the fact that the author didn't use quotation marks to distinguish dialogue than to the dialogue itself.

The majority of literary fiction writers that I am aware of write to comment on or explore aspects of the human condition. If all their readers can talk about is that they didn't use quotation marks, then that writer has failed. It's not a matter of misplaced expectations, it's about a problem with the technique.
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:50 PM   #96
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Originally Posted by Catlady View Post
No, you are the one misconstruing. Where the heck did I ever say that substance = conventional story? Where did I make a delineation between style and substance? I made a very simple and rather obvious point that because unconventional usage distracts the reader, an author needs to have a good reason for it.
If you distinguish between style and substance, then what does substance refer to but the story? If you are not referring to the story, then your entire post just begs the question. What is substance? When you distinguish between style (the method of transmission) and substance (that which is being transported), you have two things: how something is being told (the style) and what is being told, i.e. the story (the substance), at least when we are talking about novels. If the style is not substance, then we are talking about a straight up story here. If you are not referring to the story, your use of the word "substance" is meaningless and undefined.

How can you then say that an unconventional style detracts from the substance?

I'm sorry, but I'm not gonna play your sophist games. It isn't possible to have a coherent discussion with people who are deliberately vague and equivocal and use terms in novel ways without expliciting defining them just so you can try to "win" the discussion and pretend that you are being misconstrued or condescended.

Last edited by spellbanisher; 09-02-2013 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:59 PM   #97
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Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
@Spellbanisher

I'm perfectly willing to admit that the conventions, and even the goals, of literary fiction are different from those of most forms of genre fiction. Literary fiction writers often use different techniques than others because those techniques better suit their writing goals. Good writers write with purpose, and use the techniques that help them best achieve it.

What I do not believe is that literary fiction writers use experimental techniques simply to call attention to the fact that they are using the technique. They use them to achieve their specific writing goals, and sometimes they don't succeed.

When that happens, people notice the technique. They often pay more attention to the fact that the author didn't use quotation marks to distinguish dialogue than to the dialogue itself.

The majority of literary fiction writers that I am aware of write to comment on or explore aspects of the human condition. If all their readers can talk about is that they didn't use quotation marks, then that writer has failed. It's not a matter of misplaced expectations, it's about a problem with the technique.
Sometimes, as in the case of James Joyce's Ulysses, a writer use techniques to direct attention to the use of language itself.

While I agree with the drift of your post, I would place a caveat on your last point. Yes, one can say that a technique is faulty if it detracts from the authors main purpose, as long as the readers understand when they pick up a work of literary fiction that it will contain unconventional styles to achieve a purpose. If their perspective, is, however, that deviation from conventional style, like omitting quotation marks, is ipso facto pretentious, then I wouldn't say that the author has failed in his purpose, but that the reader read the book expecting it to be something that it was never intended to be. In that case, we are in a situation similar to someone who hates alcohol complaining that there is alcohol in his budweiser.

Last edited by spellbanisher; 09-02-2013 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:15 PM   #98
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Originally Posted by shalym View Post
Spellbanisher, you just spent a whole looong post telling Catlady and Hitch how ignorant and unrefined they were, while making it sound like you were defending the super speshul genre of literary fiction.

Kudos to you for your ability to insult, while seeming to just be using logic.

Shari
I never said they were unrefined. This has nothing to do with someone's upbringing or education. Even a an illiterate boorish slob raised by wild hogs can accept that a thing should be judged by the standards of what it is supposed to be. Asserting that i'm calling people "unrefined" is just your attempt to smear someone you don't agree with as a snob.

I assume that everybody in the world, myself included, is ignorant about the vast majority of things. It's one of the biggest reasons i visit on forums, because i am ignorant on many things.

I never implied that literary fiction was super special. I stated that literary fiction has certain defining features, just like everything that exists, just like every other genre of fiction. In that regard every genre of fiction is special.

I even stated that there is no reason literary fiction must exist. I even stated that i don't make
the distinction between literature as "art" and literature as "commerce."

I did say that literary fiction should be judged by what it is, just like everything else in the universe. My gosh that makes me a condescending, snobbish, arsehole!

Last edited by spellbanisher; 09-02-2013 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:32 PM   #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spellbanisher View Post
Sometimes, as in the case of James Joyce and Ulysses, writers do use techniques to direct attention to the use of language itself.

While I agree with the drift of your post, I would place a caveat on your last point. Yes, one can say that a technique is faulty if it detracts from the authors main purpose, as long as the readers understand when they pick up a work of literary fiction that it will use unconventional styles to achieve a purpose. If their perspective, is, however, that deviation from conventional style, like omitting quotation marks, is ipso facto pretentious, then I wouldn't say that the author has failed in his purpose, but that the reader read the book expecting it to be something that it was never intended to be. In that case, we are in a situation similar to someone who hates alcohol complaining that there is alcohol in his budweiser.
The point of literary fiction is not that it will use unconventional styles, but that it may use unconventional styles, and if so it will be done with purpose.

I'd also argue that when it's done well, the reader's expectations don't matter much. The work does its own talking.
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:41 PM   #100
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Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
The point of literary fiction is not that it will use unconventional styles, but that it may use unconventional styles, and if so it will be done with purpose.
I agree. That's why i said "sometimes," although i did say that lit fiction writers "will use unconventional techniques." That was inaccurate language on my part, which is true for the subsequent 3 posts and has probably led to some confusion. I have asserted that lit fiction uses unconventional style, when i should have qualified it with "sometimes or may use unconventional style."
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I'd also argue that when it's done well, the reader's expectations don't matter much. The work does its own talking.
Fair enough. I see your point and it is a good one, but i get the impression that many readers will toss a work at the first hint or encounter of unconventional style or needlessly obsess over how a novel is supposed to be written.

Last edited by spellbanisher; 09-02-2013 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 09-02-2013, 08:01 PM   #101
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Originally Posted by spellbanisher View Post
I'm sorry, but I'm not gonna play your sophist games. It isn't possible to have a coherent discussion with people who are deliberately vague and equivocal and use terms in novel ways without expliciting defining them just so you can try to "win" the discussion and pretend that you are being misconstrued or condescended.
Good. Just leave me out when you post your highfalutin and pretentious drivel.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:21 PM   #102
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This is sad.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:32 PM   #103
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How can you write such long posts about quotation marks nonetheless, on a forum??
If you're that interested in the topic, why not publish a paper on it?
Do you honestly believe book forum is a place for long winded tirades? Nobody even reads your posts except yourselves and those participating in this "e-peen, who's got a bigger one" wars.

Honestly, MR sometimes puts me off because of all those pretentious posts that mean shite in the end.
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:53 PM   #104
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Fair enough. I see your point and it is a good one, but i get the impression that many readers will toss a work at the first hint or encounter of unconventional style or needlessly obsess over how a novel is supposed to be written.
The tossing is IMO their privilege and the obsessing their problem.

I toss a lot of books for various reasons, but don't assume they are bad because I don't like them. I don't particularly care if others do, or feel it is incumbent on me to educate or remonstrate them. Probably because I have too many other things to obsess and bitch about.

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Old 09-02-2013, 10:14 PM   #105
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The tossing is IMO their privilege and the obsessing their problem.
Yes, the tossing is anyone's prerogative. My point was that a book with an unconventional style can't "speak for itself" if it is tossed before the reader even gets into it. I don't think that is a problem, nor do I think people should force themselves to read books with unconventional styles if they are not disposed towards such a thing, anymore than someone who is indisposed to alcohol should force himself to try different wines. But i also wouldn't pay much attention to that person's wine critiques.
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