Sock Puppets Telling Knock-Knock Jokes

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The manuscript I’m working on, under contract for 2026, is due to the publisher in June. It’s consumed years of my life off and on. I remember showing an early version to a writer group member and how offended she was by being “preached to” via my exploration of social and political themes including immigration, capitalism vs socialism, and religion. She said novels should only entertain. She couldn’t relate to the genre of literary fiction. Character driven versus plot driven. Exploration of deeper themes. Potential for ambiguous endings. Casual regard for rules.

It’s not for everybody. Of book genres, it’s the least popular—trailing way behind Fantasy, Thriller, Romance, and the others. Sometimes I wonder why I’m in it. Sometimes I feel like the guy who built a house from recycled bottles, created the largest ball of string, greatest collection of left foot shoes versus right. I go to the mountain climber explaining why they gave so much to climbing and that answer “Because it was there.”

Literary fiction is art. Art is meant to make a statement, express a given moment of being, hopefully prompt a connection. The best art embraces, pinches, tickles and kicks through its acknowledgement of what is here all around us and within us. Right and wrong, loss and triumph, pain and glory. Without exploring these delicate balancing acts all I’d have left is to show you some sock puppets making knock-knock jokes. Entertaining but not very telling of the true human experience.

Art should have opinion. Art should not always please. Art should always bring “Because it was there” to the table.

Literary fiction is not for everyone. There’s sacrifice required. Of writer and reader both.