The Literary and the Non-Literary Novel in the Twenty-first Century

Vivek Kumar Dwivedi


The dividing line between the literary and the non-literary novel has never eluded readers. Even some of the raciest and most thrilling novels can have literariness, and on the other hand, some of the novels written in the simplest style with hardly any literary devices can be classed as literary. Perhaps a novelist can never be quite certain that he has written a literary novel until literary critics decide that he has done that. Of course, there is the obvious literary novelist that appears sometimes, but in the twenty-first century, he has to be exceptionally fortunate to be accepted by the publishing marketplace.


The twenty-first century seems to have blurred the line of distinction between the literary and the non-literary novel even further. What Derrida said about the inseparability of literary and non-literary language is probably equally true about the literary and non-literary novels in this century. It is difficult to say where one sub-genre begins and where the other ends. Reading Jodi Picoult’s Handle with Care (2009) is an education in this context. She sits on the fence between the literary and the non-literary novel. She shares certain features with someone as non-literary as Chetan Bhagat and some with someone as literary as Arundhati Roy.


The paper is divided into three parts. The first part explores the difference between a literary novel and a non-literary novel. The second part deals with how the difference between these two genres is narrowing and the third part seeks to study two novels, Handle with Care and The 3 Mistakes of My Life (2008) as representatives of literary cum non-literary novels and non-literary novels respectively. The paper seeks to delve deeper into these lines.


Fiction, India, Picoult, Bhagat, Literary

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