In the second category are novels that are hard and bright; you see that it is a constructed object that can be admired or analyzed. You may not love the book, but you might admire the technique and the effort. I found The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma to fall into this second category.
Jansma's novel is about an unnamed young man who wants to be a writer, the outlandish and rich friends the man falls in with while in college, and how those friendships and his writing career play out. The protagonist is an excellent liar. He reminded me a bit of Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Although he is good at speaking fiction, he has difficulty launching a career writing it. Beyond those basics, the rest of the plot is a bit of a mosaic, with stories within stories, which makes it difficult to summarize but interesting as a creative project.
If you are looking for something to read that has an edgy, experimental feel to it, then The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is for you. If you are looking for a book with a plot to you can soak up and be drawn into, try something like The Last Summer of the Camperdowns.