The following series contains spoilers from The Kite Runner, but if you don't like books with sexual assault you'll be glad I spoiled you. This isn't a book review, though, but a defense of Literary Fiction.
I struggle with talking about literary fiction, cause it's hard to define. Like porn, I know it when I see it. Maybe I like Storywonk's Alastair's idea that a genre is meant to elicit a certain emotional satisfaction by the end; in which case for me a literary read very gently and slowly unfolds its ideas and themes, uses subtlety, never tells me I'm supposed to cry at x point, or rejoice at y. Sometimes they're hard to get into like Nadine Gordimer's My Son's Story, and sometimes the storytelling is clear and fluid, like Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance; but I feel slowly filled, and by the end, deeply nourished. And the writing itself is always excellent.
Now if I'm going to read because I want to be deeply touched I'll choose something arty over regular storytelling. Cause an book that's trying too hard to move me feels manipulative. I don't like an author who takes on a really serious, complex subject, and combines that with melodrama. I can take all the dumb coincidences, and violence, and moustache twirling villains that an 80s bestseller throws at me--Krantz, Sheldon, Puzo, Collins--because they were only trying to entertain. But if you're going to combine coincidences, violence and mustachios with a serious look at Taliban Afghanistan... gag me with a smurf. A riproaring tale of murder! and warlords! would be fine. Puzo in Afghanistan, if you will. But don't try to be heavy deep if you aren't already, well, heavy deep.
I'll stop here for today, and continue this tomorrow.