Is Shyam Selvadurai’s novel Funny Boy considered popular literature?
Why do you think Funny boy novel belongs to popular literature category ?
- ‘Popular’ fiction is considered distinct from ‘literary’ fiction. The core differences between the two forms are that popular fiction novels tend to be plot-driven, are often genre pieces and use largely simple language to express their points; literary fiction is more character-driven, focuses more on wider themes than plot points and tend to utilise more language techniques, such as metaphor and imagery, to express points rather than abundant dialogue. Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel Funny Boy is a coming-of-age novel (split into six ‘stories’) which follows Arjie, a boy from a wealthy Tamil family who is considered ‘funny’ (a euphemism for homosexual). The novel would arguably fit more neatly into the category of literary fiction based on the distinctions outlined above. Rather than being strictly plot-driven, it deals with a range of serious themes, including ethnicity, sexuality, gender and marriage: in doing so, it engages with elements of the Tamil diaspora, and discusses aspects of societal tension stemming from the Sri Lankan civil war. It has also been part of university syllabuses for both its postcolonial elements and its depiction of marginalisation – universities tend to study literary fiction, although this is not to say that popular fiction is never studied. However, Selvadurai also makes a conscious choice to utilise clear and simple prose and avoids the language techniques which are often present in loftier literary texts. Its elements of humour also render the storytelling style as more ‘populist’, as literary fiction tends solely to concentrate on the seriousness of situations. Overall, we can ascertain that Funny Boy straddles the line between literary and popular fiction due to its simple and accessible treatment of complex subject matter.
Selvadurai, S. (1995). Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories. London: Vintage.