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Thread: Classification of fiction

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Reading, England

    Classification of fiction

    I am currently reading Middlemarch by George Elliot and Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis. I wondered what you would call a story like Middlemarch. It is a 19th century classic, but apart from that? It is not a bildungsroman, or a romance or a gothic horror story. It is about the lives of a group of people in a market town. It is not exactly a satire. Could it be a "state of the nation" book; is that an accepted classification? I suppose Lionel Asbo could be classified as a comedy, a satire or a state-of-the-nation book. The plot of Middlemarch reminded me of New Grub Street, which was about another group of people, not all of whom know each other, all connected with the writing trade. You could not call that a state of the nation book, or a satire exactly. Then I thought that actually there is a lot of fiction that does not fit into a classification very well. Which categories would you place these books in:

    The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, which followed a history of a family over forty years.
    We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, written as a series of letters by the mother of a high school killer.
    Notes of a Scandal by Zoe Heller, about a sexual affair between a teacher and a schoolboy written from the perspective of a very unreliable narrator.
    A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, basically two different stories and a subplot.

    I have not read this book, but how would you classify Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe?

    Thinking about it, when you go into a bookshop, books are often arranged according to genre: horror, science fiction, crime, etc. Others are arranged according to whether they are old classics, young adult, poetry, plays, biographies, travel writing, etc. Then there are all sorts of other non-fiction from cookery to philosophy to chemistry text books. However the biggest section of the shop will be filled with fiction books that do not come under any category.
    Last edited by kev67; 01-08-2014 at 11:53 AM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  2. #2
    I just want to read. chrisvia's Avatar
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    Anti-Victorian? I mean this in the same sense as anti-hero.
    "J'ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage."
    - Rimbaud

    "Il est l'heure de s'enivrer!
    Pour n'être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps,
    enivrez-vous sans cesse!
    De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise."
    - Baudelaire

  3. #3
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    Oct 2006
    This was a good question and I've just come across it. Social realism could be a genre covering some of these. But there are sub-genres like family epic and novels that could be defined by their approach - say epistolary. A lot of good novels cover several genres. I doubt if George Elliot said to herself "I'm writing a State-of-the-nation novel" Middlemarch is a novel I need to read again.

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