All literary fiction is mystery
Have you tried to read modern “literary” fiction? It’s a mess.
Maybe it’s because I come from years of journalism where the most important parts of a story are up front, and then the least important pieces can be cut from the end. Reverse pyramid.
But I’ve also read in how-to-write books that you should lead off with something attention grabbing.
Yet most of the short fiction I read that’s being produced today is unintelligible in the beginning, and sometimes, unintelligible all the way to the end.
They are mini-mysteries. But you’re not trying to figure out whodunit, you’re trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. The writers are cheating you into reading more just to make sense of it. Teasing you with half answers decorated with careful, self-aware prose.
And when you finally do find out the secret, you feel a little swell of pride. You navigated the obscure references and half truths. Translated real information out of the metaphors. Tied together the web of fiction-writing rules that were broken just to be artsy.
That pride isn’t in the heart, it’s in the head. “Oh, I’m so clever.” You can pat your college education on the back. The writer, too, feels a surge to his ego that he was able to craft a riddle that only the most educated, patient and persevering could solve. If he had a point in writing it, it was hidden in a swamp of art.
Meanwhile, the average reader isn’t buying literature because it’s not written for the average person.
Just tell me a good story. Make me feel something. Make me learn something. Don’t waste my time.