I am. I don’t want to be thought elitist. What’s going on?
The word is used as a slur to describe those who are thought – by their accusers – to consider themselves superior. The elite and the elitists – so the thought goes – need to be brought down a peg or two. Unpleasant feelings hang around the word, both for the accuser and the accused. There was a sketch demonstrating the ridiculous nature of social hierarchy. Three men stood in line. The tallest, played by John Cleese, looked down on the other two; the middle one, Ronnie Barker, looked up to the tallest and down on the smallest; the smallest, Ronnie Corbett, looked up to both. I smiled but I also squirmed.
Placing a comparison into a vertical structure induces those unpleasant feelings. Better to remove that structure and see comparisons in a horizontal way. X is neither better nor worse than Y; they are different.
This morning I asked a Facebook group of writers this question: does anyone consider in this group consider they write literary fiction, as opposed to genre? The tenor of the responses could be summed up by one word that appeared: ‘dunno’.
The word signalled to me that the writer might be taking a particular stand. Any moment, in this exchange, I expected the word ‘elitism’ to appear. Sure enough it did. It made me think of the trends we are witnessing in the US, UK and Europe. Dunno is okay. More than that, it’s expected, accepted and admired. Down with experts. Down with quality. Down with the elite.
But I don’t want to think vertically. We can see and compare different things in a horizontal way. Categorising is useful for readers and writers. I write literary fiction. I don’t write genre fiction. I’ve tried. I sat down to write romance but found I couldn’t. Humour and satire kept creeping in. I admire anyone who can write what a great many people want to read. It may be genre. It may be the kind of literary fiction that publishers are after at the time, or is by one of the current names with a good record of sales and critical acclaim.
As a reader, I choose literary fiction and I exercise my own benchmark of quality. What I read has to be well-written, entertaining and thought-provoking. I aim for the same in my writing. In recent years, I have tried to regain my foothold in the mainstream world and received enough rejections to try self-publishing. I enjoyed getting books onto Amazon via Createspace. But how to find readers – that’s the big question.
I’m sure there must be many writers who, like me, write literary fiction and who may have been published by mainstream publishers in the past but who are now being rejected. I set up an ebook publishing site in 2010 to cater for these writers, but running the site was too time-consuming and too like my other job – counselling. It was taken over but is now defunct. I would like to find writers like me in the self-publishing world: non-genre, literary fiction writers, being rejected by mainstream publishers. If anyone reading this considers they fit into this category, do please get in touch.