Thursday, January 28, 2010
"Tell us how you feel about literary vs. genre."
Short answer? Not much. But I'm blogging, anyway.
Those who know me will tell you I have very little patience for labels. I have very little patience, period, so with boxes and labels and the tags, I run out pretty damn quick.
I know they're necessary for bureaucracy to keep running the world, necessary for bean counters and insurance companies, necessary for DMVs and census takers and every other entity that seeks to bag, tag and file away people into sortable categories ...
And I know they also have their positive uses. Part of me has always enjoyed cataloging stuff, reveling in the organization that labels and such provide. Arranging chaos into an attractive pattern, taking comfort in the order that order provides. I try to embrace the Yin and Yang of it, balancing chaos and category like symbiotic halves, necessary for both brain and soul.
No, what makes me crazy is when labels become more important than what they seek to identify. When labels supersede humanity, let alone books, when "computer says no" becomes a standard reply in so-called customer service.
With books--and other creative endeavors--it's the implicit value judgment that bothers me . The idea that one label--of books, films, art, music--is "better" than another. One is art, one is popular culture. One is worthy of transcending the ages; one is disposable "entertainment" ... as if entertainment is a dirty word. [For the record, it's not--I know them all.]
So where does this come from?
Exclusivity. The root of all snob appeal. If only a few can afford to eat at a restaurant, it must be good. If only the top fifty thousand people can get a new electronic gadget and are willing to wait in line to get it first -- hell, we all need one! And God forbid that someone else wore that Oscar dress.
The few vs. the many, patricians vs. plebians, aristocrats vs. peasants ... the list goes on. And anything that smacks of "popular"--even in 2010--will garner an upturned nose and a stuck-out pinky, and possibly a sniff of disdain. Review *that*? It's -- it's just a mystery. A thriller. A romance. A ... fill in the blank genre.
It's never been about literary vs. genre. It's been cult vs. popular, books that--according to the snobs of the world--supposedly only the intelligentsia are intelligent enough to appreciate versus those that ordinary people read for escape.
Pfah. I've read more than my share of academic nonsense, made up doctoral cant invented to impress each other and justify a too-expensive education, that at the end of the day says nothing and contributes nothing to our understanding of the subject matter or one another. Words designed to keep people out--not to let people in.
I've been published in that arena, presented internationally. And the literary vs. genre divide exists there, too, in what subjects people choose to study and what studies get funding. It exists everywhere, and as writers, we are affected by it.
But here's some news for the exclusive set ... Shakespeare wrote for the groundlings. Euripides, Sophocles? Popular playwrights. And you don't get much more "common" than Aristophanes.
ALL fiction--unless it's a completely narcissistic example of literary onanism--is meant to be shared and hungers to be popular. Some of it entertains, some of it enlightens, some of it makes you think and changes your life. And some of it does all of the above, and does so in high-heeled genre pumps, too.
So, yeah ... I'm a genre writer. And a literary writer. No versus required.
And on that note--next week is City of Dragons!! Thanks for reading!