Friday, January 25, 2008

The Curse

Gene forwarded a link to a Wired magazine article where Clive Thompson actually compared genre writing positively to "literature" (i.e. stories with people a lot like you* to whom very little happens except for a small epiphany by the end of the story/novel; subgenres include stories about people who have really horrible chldhoods yet survive, or people who have really horrible divorces and/or deaths, yet survive, etc.). As Gene pointed out, too, the writer seriously undercuts any credibility he might have by ignorantly conflating fantasy and science fiction (Gene: "How many dragons are on the covers of SF books? "). But he means well:

From where I sit, traditional "literary fiction" has dropped the ball. I studied literature in college, and throughout my twenties I voraciously read contemporary fiction. Then, eight or nine years ago, I found myself getting — well — bored.

It's a feeling shared, seemingly even by the mainstream writers themselves, who all seem to be writing fantasy, science fiction or alternate history these days. Over at the Guardian, Mark Lawson takes on those who sneer at mystery writers with some really effective scorn:

So the reason for the survival of these prejudices can only be that whenever populist fiction makes an attempt to drag itself through the doors of the academy, it's held back by the dead, reeking weight of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code manacled to the ankles. But it makes no sense to discredit the best of a genre by invoking the worst: no television reviewer argues that Newsnight is rubbish simply because America's Next Top Model stinks.

If only everyone were that sensible. Good books are good books. But it's great to see mainstream journalists finally coming around to what so many of us have always known.

[*This generally only applies if "you" are white, middle class and have been through an MFA program]

1 comment:

C. Margery Kempe said...

Fred Vargas seems to agree:

Since the 1970s, Vargas argues, serious literature has regarded stories as "slightly silly", forcing them to become "refugees" in the crime novel. "It has been a literature of narcissism about 'me and my family', 'me and my problems', 'me and my lover'. I'm sick of it, especially as Proust did this perfectly all those years ago. But when he spoke of himself, he spoke of the whole world. Most writers today just speak of themselves. And Hemingway's language is precisely the opposite of Proust in that it feels rougher, and while Proust could deal with the infinite smallness of life, Hemingway has the infinite hugeness of it."