Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There's Someone For Everyone

by Sophie

Tell us how you feel about genre vs. literary.

How do I feel about genre vs literary? I feel like there is no way to have that discussion without me ending up wanting to scream and pull people's ears off their heads, so let's talk about something else. (Warning, though...anyone who drags their sorry ass into MY SFARWA meeting while I'm president and exhibits one ounce of genre snobbery will find him- or herself shown the door...)

This is related, and it was on my mind today: writer crushes.

I don't mean that you have a crush on the writer. Well, you sort of do, but only because they write such beautiful prose that you want to marry their book and make it omelettes and take care of it when it's sick and tattoo its name on your hip.

(I am sorry, but I am not going to reveal the identity of my current writer crush because it would be wayyy to embarrassing and also way too easily misconstrued. Kinda like when a certain dear friend of mine, with whom I had shared the identity of the author who I modeled Stella's would-be boyfriend after, figured it out and announced it to the whole bar where he happened to be sitting.)

Anyway it's all subjective, of course, which is nice because just like your mom always reminded you that "There is someone for everybody" it turns out there is also some book for everybody as well.

Me, I love a knock-down turn of phrase. It's language that gets me every time. I went through this Woodrell phase where whole paragraphs were lodged in my head. (Fellow Woodrellites get it; I was in the TallyHo once when the whole table was quoting at each other. I'm sure we sounded deranged...) If it had occured to me I probably would have bought an extra GIVE US A KISS and made a dress out of the pages, or something.

But other people don't care about the language - they love the cliffhangers. Or the worldbuilding. Or the action scenes. Or even, God love 'em, the unapologetic gore or the super-creative were-creature love-fests with fur and fangs 'n stuff. That's cool! Hey, you don't give your best friend a hard time about the fella from the cop bar who started out as a dirty weekend and ended up moving his toothbrush into her bathroom...cause it's really not your business who she chooses. She gets to like who she likes. In guys and also in books.

Oh, my...looky there, in my usual lurching and clumsy circular manner I've managed to address today's subject after all. Just in case you missed it....let me paraphrase: genre or lit? - take your pick; but telling anyone else what to read is like telling your friends who to hook up with at closing time. It ain't cool and it's not your business.


Jen Forbus said...

Yep! That's precisely what I mentioned yesterday with Rebecca. I'm in my own little sphere. I read what I like. If you'd like to join me in my own little sphere, you're welcome and we'll have a wonderful time talking about great crime fiction. If you want to look down your nose at me because I read crime fiction, I have no time for you. Talk to the hand.

And Sophie, my book crushes are too many to mention! :)

Chris said...

For me, it's all about the prose as well, though there's no one style that does it for me. Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, sure, but also Donna Tartt, Susanna Clarke, and P.G. Wodehouse, just to name a few.

What strikes me as funny is that so-called literary fiction is supposed to be all about the prose, and so few of my literary crushes fall under the category, so maybe prose ain't the only thing that trips my trigger.

I rather like a definition I read recently for literary fiction (I wish I could remember who said it): literary fiction is a distinct genre that doesn't realize it's a genre.

Michael Wiley said...

Speaking of "knock-down turns of phrase," I love the line about pulling people's ears off their heads. My brother-in-law had part of his left ear ripped off while playing rugby. And then we have Mike Tyson's famous ear biting. But pulling someone's ears completely off? Both of them? Because they're discussing genre v. literary fiction? I like that!

Sophie Littlefield said...

Jen, you embody the kind of reader I can get in line with: like what you like and spread the word, and don't take any crap for your preferences. Go you!

Chris, well, you know I love what you do. You fall squarely into the lovely prose place for me. And that definition is *great* and I will probably steal it.

And Michael, wow, all I can think is maybe I ought to challenge genre snobs to rugby. I don't know the game but I bet I could learn...

Chris said...

Okay, that's a compliment I'd be psyched to get from anybody -- but coming from someone as obviously talented as you? DAMN. Day officially made.

Shane Gericke said...

"I don't mean that you have a crush on the writer. Well, you sort of do, but only because they write such beautiful prose that you want to marry their book and make it omelettes and take care of it when it's sick and tattoo its name on your hip...."

THAT'S a lovely piece of language, Sophie. I don't know how you come up with these gems. But they make me smile because they're just so damn perfect.

Also, can I be an honorary member of SFARWA? My cop characters kiss n coo n stuff when they're not splattering miscreants. Do I get some sort of, you know, secret Romance-into-Guy decoder ring?

Sophie Littlefield said...

Shane! You are welcome at any San Francisco/Romance Writers of America meeting, any time. We like the fellas there. Barry Eisler's going to be our May speaker and I try to get the gents to come visit whenever I can. Although I think I must be doing something wrong because the two new member prospects in '09 didn't stick...maybe I'm too scary :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Scary? How could you be scary, Sophie? Like, what kind of wimp is scared of someone who threatens to rip both their ears off?

Provocative post, as always. I too loved the line about the omelettes that Shane quoted.

Mysti Lou said...

Sophie, you can turn a phrase like nobody else!

Shane, I'll buy you lunch if you ever come to an RWA meeting of Sophie's. They are great fun, educational, and humbling -- romance writers work as harder than journalists, and are far less starry-eyed. Yet still so kind and encouraging!!!

Definitely not too girlie (except the way they cut the doughnuts in half!)...

Sophie Littlefield said...

becky i think the ear-ripping thing came from my mom-to-teenagers status. one of them is serrrrriously messing with my mojo today. And Mysti!! Thanks for popping in to second the RWA thing. 'Cause every time I see you there I consider it a coup. And laughing my butt off over the donuts. I always end up eating at least 2 donuts, but in parts. More ladylike? Hmmm.

Kelli Stanley said...

Nice one, Soph! :)

Of course, if I saw somebody with somebody whose face I remember from America's Most Wanted, I'd intervene ... ;)


Joshua Corin said...

I agree, Sophie. To each his/her own. So what if I prefer Richard Laymon to Richard Russo? So what if I would rather read Karin Slaughter instead of Karen Joy Fowler?

Although I do enjoy Russo and Fowler...