Friday, August 01, 2008



"A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it."
William Styron

photo: Nessie at the Caledonian Canal
©LK Hunsaker - All Rights Reserved

I have recently been looking at definitions of genres. I'm switching mine, at least what I call it. The term  "literary" scares readers, many of them. And it sounds a bit pretentious, I suppose. What I do is more mainstream than literary, by definition ... but then, it depends which definition you read. They vary.

One site equaled mainstream novels to "blockbuster" fiction. Hm.

Mainstream, to me, equals "all of the rest of us" -- meaning, all of us not easily categorized and making lots of noise as to "what" we are. Genre fiction is like the term "Republican" or "Democrat" or "Activist" or "Hippie" or "Goth" or "Emo" or "Prep" or "Shy" or "Outgoing" or any other term that defines narrowly. Genre fiction is romance that has a basic plot with a happy ending. It's a mystery that is solved at the end. It's a horror that has more fear than understanding. Society's versions of genre fiction are the activists who yell to have no drilling of oil in our country, the goths who see everything as black and negative, the hippies who think no weapons is the only answer, the republicans who are all white and wealthy business people, the democrats who live in city apartments and fight for underdogs.

The problem with genres is that they are limited. They are important. They pick up the basic issues and expand on it. They choose an aspect and dig deeply into that one aspect. But, they are limited. There is always so much to the story that remains unseen.

They get the most attention. Those following labels and staying within the realm of their chosen aspect are louder, better seen, more vocal. But there is more.

Mainstream: all the rest of us who don't fit neatly.

We're the moderates. We're part shy and part outgoing. We're part prep and part emo. We don't focus enough on one thing that everything else is lost. We wander. We meander into different genres, using parts of several, expanding into other things, other paths, smelling the daisies along the highway, going to small-town parades just to hear the band. We have many interests and if you stick with us long enough, you're bound to enjoy the ride.

We're the backbone of fiction (Irving, Robinson, Hemingway) pointing out true life in all its shades. We're also the backbone of society, blending the genres, making little noise and pulling little attention, but standing stalwart and steady.

We're Mainstream -- in the middle of everything. We're opposite of Blockbuster, although some of us do stand out now and then. We aren't looking for quick and easy and get-rich-quick. We focus on the art of it, the gritty, unglamorous work of it. And we may be fairly silent, but we won't be silenced.

We have things to say. Listen closely and "see the wood through all the trees..."

["see the wood" lyrics quote from Steadman: Come Alive ©2000]


TC said...


It was nice meeting you on the square in Mercer.

I had a chance to read your excerpt, and the short story. Both were very interesting. And I know you're wanting me to say more. And I will.

But first, visit my blog and read that post, leave a short (or long) comment, and in the meantime I'll lengthen my critique.

I think to be called a "mainstream" writer infers a certain amount of kowtowing to popular culture. That doesn't appear to be the case with your work, but then I've only read what's here and what you gave me the other evening.

You've given me a few things to consider, or perhaps more aptly, a few things to consider writing about.

LK Hunsaker said...

Yes, mainstream sounds that way, except John Irving is called mainstream by current definition and what I do is similar, with a bit less grit and a bit more romance, but along those lines. I've always wondered at the use of "mainstream" to apply to work that is actually opposite of that. Romance fiction and horror are more actual "mainstream" ie. more widely read.

We who understand word meanings balk at it, but for some reason, it is used to describe fiction that's more society-centered, or literary, if you will.