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Is literary fiction better than genre fiction?

10 May 2004

'Genre fiction says: 'Forget the gas bill. Forget the office politics. Pretend you're a spy. Pretend you're a courtesan. Pretend you're the owner of a crumbling gothic mansion on this worryingly foggy promontory.' Literary fiction says: 'Bad luck. You're stuck with who you are, just as these people are stuck with who they are. But use your imagination and you'll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care...'

'I don't mean that literary fiction is better than genre fiction, though I do prefer curling up with an author such as A.M. Homes rather than Helen Fielding. Nor do I mean that the distinction is a rigid one. On the contrary, some of the best novels - Jane Eyre, The Woman in White - have a foot in both camps. I mean only that novels can perform two functions and most perform only one.'

Mark Haddon, author of the prize-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in the Guardian