First let me say that for the most part I enjoy tales of the fantastic more than anything else and the majority of the books on my shelves involve some element of the unreal. That said, I do read 'literary' books from time to time and right now I'm reading The Lacuna.
What I find interesting is that I am currently involved in a group that wants every story to cut to the chase, get right to the action with minimal back story. I actually enjoy a well-written, engaging back story. And many times it's a necessary set up. Think of Lord of the Rings. It is some time before Frodo actually sets out on his quest. All the rest was back story and side steps. For example, the whole Tom Bombadil bit could easily have been cut. But think how much we enjoyed that whole side story, however unnecessary it might have been. Sometimes the rest means more because of what came before, and sometimes the rest would mean nothing without what came before.
That said, I'm off to do a little cutting because I'm no Barbara Kingsolver yet :)