« A Few Words from Kirby Gann | Main | Elizabeth Poliner on Mutual Life & Casualty »

Oct 18, 2005


David Thayer

You touch on some critical issues for writers and readers in your post. One is the novel in stories approach, a device that offers literary novels a freedom genre novels are denied, but compromises the reader's ability to derive emotional satisfaction from the work. If a novel feels desperate, or quiet, then the reader is asked to do too much, and turn away from the work. Overly structured work leaves the reader with too little to do, except to flip pages. Literary novels are moving away from structure and genre novels are being pushed toward it. By pushed I mean the editorial push away from complexity in genre and emotional engagement in literature.


David, I fail to see where the literary/genre divide has any relation to novels in stories? How do literary novels gain "freedom" with this type of structure?

I'm in disagreement about structure in works. Structure can in itself be a guiding principle of discovery in a novel, providing ample value for a ready who does more than "flip pages".


Kassia, you focus much on the thematic relevance of the novel your own experience, which would explain your interest in the novel. For those of us who don't have that thematic interest (not women of a certain time/place, I imagine) the work is rather lacking in other pulls to read.

What drove me away from the novel (book of stories) is the writing. I found it so... overdone and painful that I had to stop reading. I might have been able to overlook that if I were more interested in the subject matter.


You're right that I have a particular interest in this theme -- though I will confess that I have a strong bias toward female protagonists in general. It's my way of rebelling against a childhood of boys in fiction.

Your comment about not being a woman of a certain time and place is most interesting to me. I'm sure you caught wind of the study last year relating to men/boys and reading books about female characters. I didn't fully agree with the conclusions the researchers drew, but often think that we are not taught to read about women's perspectives in the same way we're taught to read about men's. Many times, I've heard the argument that women's fiction (however you wish to define it) is very domestic, and I'd say that's a fair assessment. This was a domestic book at its heart.

For me, of course, this is a plus. I am fascinated by the ways family members impact each other. This is a topic I could discuss for many bytes -- maybe I'll squeeze another post on this theme in this week.

If ever proof of the subjectiveness of reading was required, it comes in our reactions to Poliner's writing style. For me, her voice was very comfortable, though I did have some difficulty differentiating the voices of the various characters. When I thought back on this, it was less troublesome for me in this work than others. I'm not sure why.


I had a writing teacher who was very big on structure, and will admit, until I took her class, I didn't consider structure seriously. I am since reformed. I think that the lack of structure is what causes many novel-in-stories books to fail. They often feel like good ideas without a fully set middle (trying to go for a baking analogy -- shall we just assume I was clever enough to work it out?).

I do think David's right about genre novels being guided toward strict structural adherence. Structure should be viewed as a foundation, but the execution of the story should be wide open. As long as it won't fall to pieces (still no baking thing, but again, it would be an excellent analogy here). There is a strong push in genre fiction to color within the lines. Success should be replicated early and often -- yet the real successes are those books that don't feel like the book that came before.

Literary fiction is often defined by the notion that it doesn't adhere to the conventions of genre (I think this is more the structure David means, though if I'm wrong, he'll correct me). Mystery novelists cannot explore the concept of novels-in-stories, and though I'm not seeing how it could be executed, it would be an interesting experiment. Maybe, though, science fiction authors can expand their boundaries. It seems this has happened, though my brain is clearly far too feeble to recall a specific title.

the happy booker

Kassia, I do hope you post again. I would love to hear your thoughts on domestic fiction and family interaction. (Frankly, I would read your discourse on cereal box packaging, since I'm a big fan of your posting style.) As for the novel-in-stories format, stick around-- Poliner will be here later in the week to share her thoughts on novel structure & and the world of "women's lit." Wendi


I'm looking forward to her comments. And playing with a post on domestic fiction and family interaction. See, the thing was, Rosalie was wearing her sister's pants that day (I believe this is true). Can you imagine her surprise if she googles herself?

As for the cereal box, well, I just inked a deal with Capt'n Crunch... They read that I started my reading career at the breakfast table.

David Thayer

Capt'n Crunch has excellent structure. I understand the desire to explore unconventional ways to tell a story, Elizabeth Crane comes to mind, I enjoy her work. Bel Canto was a wonderful novel that fooled the genre border guards.
I hadn't realized there had been a study of men and boys reading a female perspective, but I accept your point that domestic stories might not appeal to men and women the same way. And, yes, I was referring to coloring within the lines, one of the great tribulations of my early school days. If I hadn't been sitting next to Sandy Mussolino I'd still be there, forced to take those damned naps.


There is, by the way, a lot of fun with coloring within the lines. I learned this from my mother. She is, hands down, the best colorer I've ever met. Amazing with crayons and never strays beyond the lines. But her work is completely different from anything I've ever seen -- I've tried to color like my mother (my career as a visual artist ended about the time I figured out that stick figures were beyond my skill level), and cannot come close.

This is why I do not fear or disdain structure. No two artists will achieve the same result and sometimes one will take your breath away.


Do you want to get resume writing service, which fit the area of research you wish?. You can rely on our resume writers, as you rely on yourself. Thanks because that is the good way

Mortgage Refinance

I really loved reading your thoughts, obviously you know what are you talking about! Your site is so easy to use too, I’ve bookmark it in my folder.

Resume Writing

Very helpful post. Very clear commentary and suggested phrasing are most impressive, as are his and your generosity in sharing this explanation and example.

resume writing

Thanks for the post. It was not a useless reading. Think I should read the book you mentioned here.


Hi people!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!! :) :) :)
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and each year I like to get into the mood-extend the holiday, as it were-by reading "Thanksgiving novels." Of course, those stories are mostly about families, about coming together to heal old hurts and giving thanks for the gift of love. ... . ===
Have You Been Currently Better Off These days Than You Were 7 Yrs Ago?

online degree

I really like your post and helpful too. I love you follow you and learn more.

Health News

I can't believe how much of this I just wasn't aware of. Thank you for bringing more information to this topic for me. I'm truly grateful and really impressed.

Access Health Care

I can't believe regarding this revolution change its mind blowing.


You're right that I have a particular interest in this theme -- though I will confess that I have a strong bias toward female protagonists in general. It's my way of rebelling against a childhood of boys in fiction.

Inversiones en petroleo

I think that this post is very good because has useful information.

Generic Cialis

Szia, nagyon szép munkát végzett, sok embert keres a most fognak talál elegendő forrás az Ön tippeket, még várjuk a további tippeket, hogy

Account Deleted

This looks absolutely perfect. All these tinny details are made with lot of background knowledge.


I really like your blog and there are some interesting points made. There are so many sites out there which are badly presented that it's a pleasant suprise to find a good one.


Lavoro veramente bello, ci sono molte persone alla ricerca di che ora troveranno fonti abbastanza da vostre punte.

 Research Papers

I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post.

Term Paper Writing Services

That work and research has been based before on many information as they enabled to get just the proper info.

The comments to this entry are closed.