I just finished reading The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. Besides being one of only two books I read on my phone (I feel like a South Korean teenager, only middle aged, white, and unable to learn foreign languages), it is also one of two books of contemporary fiction of a sort that we might call ‘literary fiction,’ for lack of a better term.

And I’m wondering if we don’t need a better term. Because how good are they? How good are 99% of the contemporary novels that are classified as being literary?

The Art Forger is good. The ending is a little too pat and neatly tied up, but it’s a nice slice of a part of the art world (kudos for placing it in Boston and not New York) with nice touches to it. But the best bit was the back and forth between ‘now’ and epistolary sections from the late nineteenth century… but if that’s what I really want, why not read the much superior Possession by A.S. Byatt for a second time?

I also reread James Lasdun’s The Horned Man and, while still a brisk and disturbing read, plunges too quickly into its rabbit hole to achieve the effect is truly desires.

And I’m just thinking, how good is all of it? Folks like Byatt or Toni Morrison or Orhan Pamuk aside… is it really good?