Is there a prerequisite that all "literary" novels must leave a reader baffled? Because to be honest, I've read quite a few in the last few months and constantly walk away, shaking my head and wondering what I missed. I have noticed some bizarre patterns in the stories I've read. See if any of these are familiar to you. Here's a list of rules I've come away with:
1. In a literary novel, characters can screw around with evidence at a crime scene and get away with it. This seems to occur often--from the husband who cleans up the glass of scotch he threw at his dead wife (even living in the house with his family while the police are still investigating the murder), to the child who runs away with a crucial bit of evidence and hides it for years afterward,to the parent who burns bloody clothes. It seems that as long as they're "protecting" a loved one, characters can get away with...well...clues to murder. And the police never suspect anything.
2. In a literary novel, at least one endearing character should die horribly. Preferably a main character, and preferably toward the end of the book. Generally suicide, but murder works. As does a horrific car accident just when all seems right in the victim's world.
3. In a literary novel, the ending should leave the reader bereft. Suicide, rape, unsolved murder, unrequited love, the more bitter the ending the better...apparently.
4. In a literary novel, the romance is predictable but makes no sense and has no redeeming quality. It seems to me that the romance in these types of novels always occurs between two single people who may have lived in the same small town for years, but never met until the driving incident at the beginning of the story. Even if their careers should have intersected a dozen times before! And the romance isn't crucial to the story at all. In fact, in most cases, the story would be better without these two people falling into bed due to some contrived circumstance.
5. In a literary novel, children and teenagers act with more maturity than the adults. You know how, in sitcoms, the kids always have the wisecracks and get all the best lines? Well...in the literary novels I've read, these kids have the wisdom their adult counterparts lack.
Personally, I'm running back to my romance novels for some sanity and happiness in my reading world. While the occasional thought-provoking pot boiler is an interesting detour, I can't see myself ever putting down roots in such a world.