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Old 03-06-2011, 12:01 PM   #1
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Recent Literary Fiction

Many books don't fit nicely into genres; some of these win awards; a few become mega-sellers (although very few). Literary fiction is supposed to have legs: it gives voice to a place and time but is more "universal" and continues to feed readers one generation after another. The best moves the reader today, sits in his heart tomorrow and is the substance of reflection over time. Like Beethoven's music, once heard, it becomes part of the musical journey and a reference point to appreciate future musical encounters.

My intention of this thread is to record acknowledged recent literary fiction that doesn't easily fit popular genres; there are threads for those already.
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Old 03-06-2011, 12:08 PM   #2
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Cool Water - Dianne Warren

Cool Water by Dianne Warren
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada, Feb 2010
Winner: Governor General Literary Award 2010

A day in the life of Juliet, Saskatchewan. The lives of several families examined. Struggles, minor succeses, a death, an epiphany. Secrets kept, secrets unleashed. Love requited. Hopes renewed. A 100 year old horse race, 100 miles in length, rerun 100 years later. And thereby hangs a tail or two. And a tale or three.

I wondered if I read the same book the jurors of the GG prize read. They wrote: "The place is a small Saskatchewan town, the time spans barely more than a day. In this exquisitely constructed novel, Dianne Warren makes each moment shine; her narrative flows seamlessly from character to character, all stunningly depicted. The implied silences of her elegant minimalism amplify the lush prose. Cool Water immerses readers in the difficulties and joys of everyday life."

Already a quarter the way through, I was restless; the prose is present tense with the inner voice of the character on screen pondering each moment as it ticks by. The characters are unremarkable, sometimes petty, mainly colourless and hard to connect with. Instead of a novel, there are several short stories that have been forced together, the sum being less than the parts. And yet ... there was some charm, there were characters drawn more deeply, the opening historic race did help set the stage in a cagier way than is first apparent.

Easy to put down, harder to complete, this relatively slender novel has relatively slender rewards. But there are some.

A review appeared in The Globe and Mail, National Post, Quill & Quire and other Canadian publications.

Available from Kobo for under $10; also in paper from Chapters/Indigo, Amazon and others for $14 to $20.

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Old 03-06-2011, 01:09 PM   #3
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This may be of some interest.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:55 PM   #4
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A great idea for a thread. I'll contribute if I come across something good.

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Cool Water by Dianne Warren
Despite your misgivings, I'm curious about this one. Thanks for mentioning it.
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Old 03-07-2011, 10:02 AM   #5
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This may be of some interest.
This is a terrific link! The article in England's The Guardian discusses literary fiction, what it is, and identifies 12 first time novelists worth watching.
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Old 03-07-2011, 10:03 AM   #6
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A great idea for a thread. I'll contribute if I come across something good.

Despite your misgivings, I'm curious about this one. Thanks for mentioning it.
Excellent! That's exactly the point of this thread. Cheers!
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:23 PM   #7
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Blood Hunt by Neil M. Gunn

Not available on Kindle I'm afraid but a timeless classic. Gunn's prose is effortless and yet gripping. It's one of those books you wish you'd never read so that you could read it again for the first time (if you follow).
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:20 PM   #8
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Not exactly under the radar, but Cutting for Stone is excellent.

eP
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:20 AM   #9
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Smile Interesting...............

Lost count of the arguments I've had about this - I suppose it's a sort of "I couldnt tell you what it is, but I know it when I read it" .............. ?

For example, I would put Flora Robson's "Lark Rise" trilogy there, but her "little" books are so much more, beautifully crafted social history and comment for a start.
But I would , I think, also put Lee Burke there, despite the usual classification of his chosen genre, due to the sheer quality of writing, the strength of feeling that emerges for his home, the skill and accuracy of his attacks on the Establishment, and more....
Conan Doyle did OK, after all.......

But I do sometimes feel writing is classified as literary if it either gets accepted into a "Lit" competition, is over 80 years old, or we are told it is by someone who everyone thinks should know ! Apart from everything we sort of morphed into accepting as "Lit" thanks to our schoolteachers.
And never touched again afterward because of it.............

But, we all love doing it, so I'll go a bit left field and timorously suggest Robert Wilson's "A Small Death in Lisbon" , and, even more hesitantly, "The Sleeper" by Paul Adam, a fascinating glimpse into the world of rare violins. ( Sadly, I don't know if it's been ebooked yet. But it's a really good read anyway....... )
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Old 03-11-2011, 01:44 AM   #10
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Thanks for the suggestions!

I am hoping to stay focussed on "recent" literary fiction ... as opposed to overlooked gems (which would make a fascinating thread of its own -- Barbara Pym's A Glass of Blessings comes to mind).

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese from 2010 is a great suggestion ... can someone elaborate on why it is notable? Sleeper by Paul Adam from 2005 sounds like a great premise ("this mystery novel revolves around the current and historical violin industry - violin makers, players, dealers - primarily in Italy") ... is there more background one has?

In short, looking for specifics with a little detail to tempt us to read something (recent) or at least pique interest.
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:24 AM   #11
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Smile "The Sleeper"...info...

Hi Sensual

Desperately trying to give an idea without giving too much away!

Ummm.....
It concerns a group of (elderly) friends who regularly meet to play classical music, and are connected with old instruments in some way. One is found ....severely inconvenienced, and his surviving friends look into this, which leads them into the arcane, fascinating, and, well, sometimes "difficult" world of very rare instruments....
I found it incredibly involving, and the sort of book you learn a lot of great interest from, almost without noticing it, if that's not too precious.
One of those books you keep on the shelves, not taking down the charity shop................

And I found a quote from a crit :-
'Tension that resonates like flawlessly tuned strings … complex and sumptuously pleasing.' The Guardian 'Praps a bit OTT, but close.

Enjoy..
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:55 PM   #12
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This may be of some interest.
The line I understood the most was this one:

"The label "literary fiction" is often used disparagingly, as if "literary" were synonymous with "pretentious" or "plot-free". "

I tried to read the rest, but got bored with the article.

SP: If literary fiction is supposed to be ageless and enduring, how can we know about last year's book? I still don't understand this thing called 'literary fiction'. Is it just fiction that doesn't fit any of the usual named genres?
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Old 03-11-2011, 05:58 PM   #13
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Question Hmmmmmmmm......

Personally, I don't think "Literary Fiction" has to be "ageless and enduring".

Of it's time, probably - and I don't mean about ie contemporary.

I always have a vague idea in my head that literary means rather woolly things, I suppose !
Written intelligently, with care, with attention to detail - fine or broad sweeps here - with passion, with knowledge of the subject addressed, with accuracy....
And, vital this, doesn't treat the reader like an idiot?

But I don't have a check list, and I am happy to veer off course if it grabs me - but it has to last the length of the writing.
AND, it has to entertain me.
Oh, I don't want to be preached at, but am willing to be persuaded

Now, stands back and waits for brickbats of outrageous fortune, with my ever-ready cucumber slices over my orbs...
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Old 03-12-2011, 01:21 AM   #14
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Pholy:

Let's not over-think the term "literary fiction" -- I tried to set broad parameters in the OP. (I didn't call it ageless and enduring, btw: hard to do that for "recent" publications.) Lots of fiction fits easily into one genre or another: thrillers, for example, or cozy mysteries. We already have threads for many of these.

Here I am intending for us to share other works; I even added the word "acknowledged" since there are clearly works that aspire to deeper depictions of the human condition; or are word-smithed with particular cunning; or in some other way stand out from the pack. Many, but not all, turn up as leading award nominees.

Carpetmojo:

I like your snippets of what "literary" might mean to you: written intelligently ... with passion ... entertain ... don't want to be preached at, but am willing to be persuaded.

All:

I'm also hoping the discussions are mainly about the books, and not primarily about "what literary fiction means to me". Ultimately, I am looking for some collective insight into some worthwhile recent books to read that might otherwise be overlooked in other threads devoted to specific genres.

Uplifting and memorable books ... tales that help you think about the world in a new way ... always welcome.
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:24 AM   #15
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Smile Righto...................

Yes, well, reading my last, I was a little surprised I'd written it - but glad to say I still agree with it !

So, having put the literary world to rights, here's an offering that is a delightful suprise of a read, ostensibly a memoir of a lad growing up, and his continual struggles to learn to catch fish. But it is so much more, including an element of darkness intruding, and his relationships with his father and another "mentor" key components.
"Blood Knots" by Luke Jennings. Pub. 2006. Available as ebook ePub (certainly Smiths & W/stones in UK, Amazon for Kindle).

My wife, who views fishing and all its works (apart from the actual eating bit) in much the same manner as dental work without anasthetic, and is wary of most "pastoral sounding" writings, was absolutely captivated by it, and in fact introduced me to it's charms.

(Intersetingly, my son and I learned to fly-fish together a few years ago, and it awoke some interesting memories, all pleasant .......I think.
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