LiteraryFiction Newsletter

Literary Fiction

August 6 2011 Literary Fiction Newsletter

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.”

– William Faulkner, Light in August (1932)



Another Definition of Literary Fiction
What takes fiction to the realm of literature? Five elements ... and one vital ingredient.

Award Winners of the Past Decade
Casting about for the next great read? Here are a few that come highly recommended.



The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

An award-winning first novel, this is the story of a doctor, her beloved grandfather, the enigmatic “deathless man,” and the title character. These are the major players, but many other characters appear in chapters alternating with the narrator’s story.

Having grown up under the threat, followed by the actuality, of civil war in the Balkan region, Natalia became a doctor like her grandfather – a noble profession in a land of pain and suffering. She is on her way to an orphanage across the border when she receives news that her grandfather has died, not at home but miles away, in a village no one can place on the map. Natalia’s adventures unfold as she recalls stories of her grandfather’s childhood, which was full of wondrous events and brutal people.

Téa Obreht, who at 25 became the youngest winner of the Orange Prize back in June, has a flair for the poetic and an affinity for mythical settings. The influence of Latin American authors, acknowledged at the back of the book, is evident in the tale of the deathless man, which adds a dimension of magic realism to the grandfather’s past. It’s this narrative strand, not the main one about the tiger’s wife, that captured my interest. Unfortunately, it’s the thinnest strand in this bag of many yarns.

Still, The Tiger’s Wife is a very impressive debut. If Obreht has any more stories in her notebook after this, she certainly is a writer to look out for in the future.



What is the most boring classic novel of all time?

Isn’t that an intriguing question? It was on a 1950 Columbia University Press survey, according to columnist Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times Book Review (“Inside the List,” July 31). The top five answers? Quite a few allegories:

Pilgrim’s Progress - John Bunyan (1678)
Moby Dick - Herman Melville (1851)
Paradise Lost - John Milton (1667)
The Faerie Queene - Edmund Spenser (1590)
The Life of Samuel Johnson - James Boswell (1791)

Possibly it’s the didactic nature of allegories that ruins a good story. The survey was directed at teachers, librarians and booksellers – and they should know what they’re talking about.

But what book would you choose? Send in your selection via the comment box on my bio page, or post it on the forum. I’ll compile a top five of our own for next week’s newsletter.


Happy reading ... and don’t get bored!

Lane Graciano
Literary Fiction Editor, BellaOnline

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