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Topic of the Week: Literary Fiction May 3, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Uncategorized.

Topic of the Week for May 4-8, 2009:
Literary Fiction

Do you chat about literary fiction, or discuss it? All this week in LitChat we’ll be looking at how and why literary fiction can break all of the rules and get away with it.

Read the transcript from Elise Blackwell’s guest hosting of LitChat here.

Elise Blackwell

Elise Blackwell

Joining us as guest host on Friday, May 8, is Elise Blackwell, author of Hunger, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, and Grub. Her short stories and nonfiction have appeared in Witness, Topic, Seed, Global City Review, Quick Fiction, Coal City Review, and elsewhere, and Elise has given readings and talks at dozens of literary festivals, universities, and bookstores. Her newest novel, The Unfinished Score, will be published by Unbridled Books in spring 2010.

Elise happened to be born in Austin, Texas, though she spent most of her formative years in southern Louisiana, punctuated by stints elsewhere. She studied creative writing as an undergraduate at Louisiana State University and then received an MFA from the University of California-Irvine. Before publishing her first novel in 2003, she worked as a bartender, entomology lab grunt, journalist, food critic, grower of exotic fruits, translator, and academic flap copy writer. She has taught at the University of California-Irvine and Boise State University, and is currently on the creative writing faculty of the University of South Carolina. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, the novelist David Bajo, and their daughter Esme.

Elise´s debut novel was named a “best book of 2003” by the Los Angeles Times and a “best read of the year” by the Sydney Morning Herald. Her novels have been widely reviewed, and each was selected by independent booksellers as a Book Sense pick. The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish was named to the New Orleans Times-Picayune “books of 2007” list and chosen by the Monroe News-Star as “Louisiana book of the Year.” Grub was included in Kirkus’ “best of 2007” issue as well as named to the Book Sense Annual Highlights list.

You can follow Elise on Twitter at @eliseblackwell.



1. Mrinal Bose - May 4, 2009

Elise, has literary fiction lost its glory in the tumult of today’s publishing? Is it going to be dead?

2. Elise Blackwell - May 4, 2009

Hi Mrinal,

A great and complex question. Literary fiction is in many ways struggling (both with its identity and in its effort to reach its readership). There are multiple causes, but the business practices of large publishing houses contribute to the problem–as does marketing as literary fiction works that don’t really strive to be literature. That said, having just returned from a great PEN World Voices festival, I believe literary fiction is as rich as its ever been, perhaps more in some other countries than here but here as well. And of course the popularity of book clubs is one bright spot on the American literary landscape.

I look forward to talking more about the issues Friday on LitChat!

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