Jane Austen wrote for money. She also made readers laugh. So why are her books considered literature rather than genre fiction? Clever marketing, claims Elizabeth Edmondson over at the Guardian. Despite many attempts to define “literary fiction” as something dry and bland, writers have historically written to entertain (and to sell their words)—the importance of categorization comes much later:
Of course, the fact that lit crit types make some absurd claims for lit fic doesn’t mean writers within this category don’t write good books. Or bad books, just as in all the other types of fiction. And categorisation is what it’s all about. Describing books as lit fic may determine whether a book gets reviewed or not. It also determines where it gets shelved in bookstores, although with ebooks and online booksellers we’re moving into more fluid ways of labelling books, so that books which don’t fit neatly into slots find a place and a readership.