Do novels fall into two categories: those A novels about language and those B novels about the world?
In his meditation on the works of James Joyce, Anthony Burgess delineated the two different types of novel, categorised into types A and B. The A novel, to summarise his argument, is completely in thrall to convention, tapping into traditional literary archetypes with a distinct focus on plot and character. The B novel, however, can incorporate plot and character (though it occasionally dispenses with such trivialities altogether) but its ultimate aim is to explore literary form, narrative and language.
Typical examples of the A novel range from Pride and Prejudice and The Hound of the Baskervilles to Portnoy’s Complaint and Saturday. Tellingly, the ultimate B novel is considered to be Finnegan’s Wake. Then there are, of course, those A novels that trespass upon B territory such as Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow which has a linear narrative style (albeit recounted backwards) but in its reversal of conventional speech encroaches upon ideals more common to the B novel.