PDA

View Full Version : Reverse Snobbery



CaroGirl
10-30-2009, 04:21 PM
As someone who prefers challenging, literary novels, I was really drawn to Nathan's blog post yesterday:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/


there is definitely something that is lost in the over-celebration of mass appeal and the lowest common denominator and the dismissal of experts, and I really think it can be taken too far. What about aspiring to create something that is great, rather than merely popular? What about pushing the envelope even when it's not what's currently in fashion? What is wrong with being elite and appreciated by experts if not by the masses?
And when writers start thumbing their nose at dense and challenging literature solely because it's hard to read it really starts verging on reverse snobbery.

But to thumb one's nose at literary writing because it's hard to understand is to stop learning about what is possible with words.
I completely agree with his take on this issue. Anyone interested in discussing?

scarletpeaches
10-30-2009, 04:30 PM
Nothing to discuss with me, I'm afraid. I agree wholeheartedly! Can't add anything except a big thumbs up.

Alpha Echo
10-30-2009, 04:34 PM
Ditto!

sheadakota
10-30-2009, 04:38 PM
As someone who prefers challenging, literary novels, I was really drawn to Nathan's blog post yesterday:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/



I completely agree with his take on this issue. Anyone interested in discussing?
I agree but I also think the opposite can be true as well- Literary writers tend to view genre writers as substandard IMO- I read literary writing but don't enjoy much of what I have read- not because it is difficult- I think I'm fairly intelligent, but because I simply did not enjoy it- I read and write for that matter for pleasure and entertainment. Some will argue that is the reason they read literature and I say wonderful!
But give me a great detective or mystery any day. But don't think poorly of me because of that (not you CG:)

Just my little 'ol 2 cents:tongue

emilycross
10-30-2009, 04:55 PM
I agree but I also think the opposite can be true as well- Literary writers tend to view genre writers as substandard IMO-

I don't think this is true - or at least i'd hope not! I think its the literary 'critics' rather than writers that look down on genre writers (and vice versa).

Personally i love both literary and genre books - and would love to write in both areas. I wish this whole either/or west side story would end.

Good writing is good writing!

Perks
10-30-2009, 04:56 PM
I'm going over to give Nathan a virtual smooch or high-five or... I dunno... something.

CACTUSWENDY
10-30-2009, 04:59 PM
I have a question to add to this. Do you think it is possible to write great lit. in a genre? Did not Poe do this? (As an example.)

For some reason I always get the impression that great lit. has to be a bit on the stuffy side. I, for one, and only my opinion, feel that any genre can be done very well. Maybe even be carried over to the coming generations as a must read. Maybe I have the wrong out look of what true lit. is. There are many of the classics that have stood the test of time. I wonder what we have seen in the last 30 years would ever fall into that? In my great-great grand kiddies school....what will the 'must read' books be? Only time will tell.

It might also be said of that in any of the art industry. What paintings will be hailed as great? What movies? What musical pieces? The eye of the beholder will truly be put to the test.

scarletpeaches
10-30-2009, 05:00 PM
I just believe in giving of your best, whatever your genre.

CaroGirl
10-30-2009, 05:01 PM
I agree but I also think the opposite can be true as well- Literary writers tend to view genre writers as substandard IMO- I read literary writing but don't enjoy much of what I have read- not because it is difficult- I think I'm fairly intelligent, but because I simply did not enjoy it- I read and write for that matter for pleasure and entertainment. Some will argue that is the reason they read literature and I say wonderful!
I think that's true. A lot of readers of "literary" novels are snobbish about genre fiction (not me!). But I don't think they often recognize that the reverse is also true, as Nathan is saying here.

IMO, read and let read. Just because I don't enjoy category romance, for example, doesn't mean I should think badly of someone who does. A reader is a reader and you're all okay in my books! (books; get it? ;))

CaroGirl
10-30-2009, 05:03 PM
I have a question to add to this. Do you think it is possible to write great lit. in a genre? Did not Poe do this? (As an example.)
Yes!! I think it happens all the time. Oryx and Crake is a genre work by a "literary" writer and, whatever you think of her, that book was a phenomenal read. I loved it. It's a shame that a lot of readers won't pick it up simply because it was written by a snobby "literary" type.

I also consider Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro as a genre work. Also a wonderful novel.

Perks
10-30-2009, 05:05 PM
I agree. Tana French, right now, is writing very literary crime fiction. In The Woods and The Likeness are absolutely gorgeously written, but very grippy, plotty, with body counts.

ETA - And she's a bestseller. So, someone wants to read this stuff.

Saskatoonistan
10-30-2009, 05:10 PM
I agree but I also think the opposite can be true as well- Literary writers tend to view genre writers as substandard IMO- I read literary writing but don't enjoy much of what I have read- not because it is difficult- I think I'm fairly intelligent, but because I simply did not enjoy it- I read and write for that matter for pleasure and entertainment. Some will argue that is the reason they read literature and I say wonderful!
But give me a great detective or mystery any day. But don't think poorly of me because of that (not you CG:)

Just my little 'ol 2 cents:tongue

Indeed. The reverse is very much true.

icerose
10-30-2009, 05:28 PM
I just believe in giving of your best, whatever your genre.

I'm with you there. I always try to make the characters/writing/story/plot and so forth as best as I can possibly get it. Horror especially in movies gets bloodied a lot because there are so many misconceptions about what horror has to be, that characterization and story are often lost to blood and gore.

seun
10-30-2009, 05:30 PM
I like to read the comments on Amazon for books such as Dan Brown's new one. There are a hell of a lot of 5 star reviews along the lines of it's entertaining and that's what matters. Who cares if he's not a great writer when he can get people reading?*

The implication (to me, at least) is that good writing is a different issue to a good and entertaining story. It's as if a book has to be one and not the other.

I'll aim for both in my work.

*This isn't meant to start a Dan Brown debate. Just using The Brown as an example.

DeadlyAccurate
10-30-2009, 05:34 PM
I don't think this is true - or at least i'd hope not! I think its the literary 'critics' rather than writers that look down on genre writers (and vice versa).

Oh, it's definitely true. They pop up here from time to time to talk about how us genre writers are ruining the English language and how no one reads good writing any more (usually defined as their unpublished novels).

Stacia Kane
10-30-2009, 05:48 PM
I agree. Tana French, right now, is writing very literary crime fiction. In The Woods and The Likeness are absolutely gorgeously written, but very grippy, plotty, with body counts.

ETA - And she's a bestseller. So, someone wants to read this stuff.

I LOVE those books. Fantastic.

scarletpeaches
10-30-2009, 05:56 PM
GAH! That's another two to add to Mount TBR.

Stop suggesting books, people!

C.M.C.
10-30-2009, 06:11 PM
I'm a fan of anything that attempts to raise the quality of writing. The people who can be called 'reverse snobs' are even more annoying than the regular snobs. The regular snobs can at least point to the quality of the work they love and make insults and judgments based on the perceived intelligence of the writer or reader who enjoys that style. The reverse snobs have no argument to make, except for "the only thing that matters is the story", which simply isn't true. Every writer knows that how the story is told matters, though to what degree is debatable. Reverse snobs defend some of the trashiest writing because they refuse to admit that they are settling for something other than the best. It's a delusion.

Phaeal
10-30-2009, 06:12 PM
Of course you can write genre fiction that is also "literary." And it's no surprise that readers will go for it. The average reader isn't too "stupid" to read lit fic -- he just wants to feel sure it will entertain him with a ripping good story.

It's the supposed lack of ripping good stories that turns many people off lit fic. Just as it's the supposed lack of quality writing that turns many people off genre.

CaroGirl
10-30-2009, 06:18 PM
It's the supposed lack of ripping good stories that turns many people off lit fic. Just as it's the supposed lack of quality writing that turns many people off genre.
It's when those two things marry that we get the best babies. Give me a gripping story and quality writing and I'm a happy camper.

sheadakota
10-30-2009, 06:20 PM
Of course you can write genre fiction that is also "literary." And it's no surprise that readers will go for it. The average reader isn't too "stupid" to read lit fic -- he just wants to feel sure it will entertain him with a ripping good story.

It's the supposed lack of ripping good stories that turns many people off lit fic. Just as it's the supposed lack of quality writing that turns many people off genre.
Oh I agree- the two can live very happily together- the pity is some don't think genre writing can be literary- not me- I love beautiful writing that can tell a story- Michael Connelly, IMO writes beautifuly, what I would consider introspective and yes literary, he also writes detective novels. His narritive descriptions of LA is stunning and passionette.

KTC
10-30-2009, 06:20 PM
I hate it when people disparage literary writing.

john barnes on toast
10-30-2009, 06:25 PM
But I don't think they often recognize that the reverse is also true,



Really?

I've found the amount of ill-judged and ignorant prejudice directed at writers who dare to attempt anything more than 'boy kills baddie to win girl' is not only prevalent, but openly condoned.

aruna
10-30-2009, 06:53 PM
I was reading these posts of Nathan's just this morning, and was thinking of starting just such a thread!


I agree but I also think the opposite can be true as well- Literary writers tend to view genre writers as substandard IMO- I read literary writing but don't enjoy much of what I have read- not because it is difficult-

Just my little 'ol 2 cents:tongue

Actually, Nathan's post was in response to another blog-post which went th eother way around, and in the comments thread a lot of people piled on to the literary writers. It was pretty snobbish.

I made an alarming discovery recently. I have a soft spot for Dick Francis, a prolific author who writes crime novels set in the racing world. At various times in my life, over the past couple years, I've read some of his books on and off.

About two weeks ago I borrowed a pile of Dick Francis books from the library. In one of them, I found I "knew" in advance what was going to happen. Only about halfway through the book I realised that I had read it already - due to a very obvious event in the book. ABout a week later, it happened again, and this time I was prepared. I kept asking myself: do I recognise these characters@ Have I read this book before? I really wasn't sure, but again it turned out that yes, I HAD read it before.

The thing is-- with such light reading, you forget the book as soon as you close it. They are indeed memorable, but ultimately forgettable. Not much sticks. They leave no trace.

A good literary book, however, is unforgettable. Unique.
As for me, I hope to combine the two in my writing. I like to entertain, but if that was ALL I did I would just stop writing. I want to do so much more with my writing; but I like the "so much more" to be between the lines, not stuffed down people's throat.

Judg
10-30-2009, 07:10 PM
I am the worst of both worlds, I'm a snob on both sides. ;) I want good storytelling, psychological and moral depth, elegant prose, characters I care for... So cheap genre writing bores me with its formulas and its shallowness, cheap literary writing bores me with its artificial angst and pretentiousness. But give me some truly great writing and I will not care at all if it's literary or genre or even which genre. My favourite reads over the last few years have included science fiction, paranormal detective, literary, historical fantasy, a thriller or two, and women's fiction.

It doesn't have to be truly great for me to enjoy it, just like not every meal has to be a gourmet extravaganza. But I still expect a certain standard, no matter what. I'll tolerate a few failings if they're offset by some very strong elements elsewhere. It's funny how a second reading can tilt me one way or another. Recently I tried reading a somewhat flawed book a second time and found the flaws to be increasingly irritating. I gave up. Another had the opposite effect: the strengths captivated me so much more that the flaws receded into the background.

Having said all that, blind snobbery on either side is really, really irritating. When any work is rejected on the basis of a label, rather than its quality, that is just stupid.

Having said that... OK, OK, I'll quit.

Rarri
10-30-2009, 07:12 PM
I'm a fan of anything that attempts to raise the quality of writing. The people who can be called 'reverse snobs' are even more annoying than the regular snobs. The regular snobs can at least point to the quality of the work they love and make insults and judgments based on the perceived intelligence of the writer or reader who enjoys that style. The reverse snobs have no argument to make, except for "the only thing that matters is the story", which simply isn't true. Every writer knows that how the story is told matters, though to what degree is debatable. Reverse snobs defend some of the trashiest writing because they refuse to admit that they are settling for something other than the best. It's a delusion.

Why is it a delusion? I'm puzzled by this; why can't someone defend a 'trashy' book simply because it is a 'good story'? I think many are capable of realising that trash isn't literary fiction, but why does that make their defence of a story a delusion? Is it not reasonable that the reverse snobs' arguement may be that literary fiction isn't the be all and end all of fiction itself and as such, that sometimes story is more important than writing (or can compensate for 'bad' writing)?

Whether a reverse, regular or extraterrestrial snobs, they are all capable of considering and discussing the quality (or lack thereof) of a book; one is not somehow superior to the other.

The OP though, i agree with what's said in the blog. I guess is see it as balance; enjoy the mass appeal books, but make time for the literary fiction too.

Bubastes
10-30-2009, 07:18 PM
What Judg said. I write both genre and mainstream (with aspirations toward literary). I like reading pretty much anything as long as it's well-written.

C.M.C.
10-30-2009, 07:35 PM
Why is it a delusion? I'm puzzled by this; why can't someone defend a 'trashy' book simply because it is a 'good story'? I think many are capable of realising that trash isn't literary fiction, but why does that make their defence of a story a delusion? Is it not reasonable that the reverse snobs' arguement may be that literary fiction isn't the be all and end all of fiction itself and as such, that sometimes story is more important than writing (or can compensate for 'bad' writing)?


It has nothing to do with any particular book, but the belief that the snobs have that whichever style of writing they don't like is somehow inferior to the other. The literary snobs can at least point to the care and craft involved with that style of writing to give themselves a rationale (not that I'm saying it's necessarily right). The reverse snobs who worship pulp at the expense of literary writing can't point to anything tangible to make their defense. Their reasons feel weaker, when it essentially comes down to them saying "I don't like it, bah humbug." Both kinds of snobs are out of touch, but I find the reverse snobs to be more annoying, since they know that the work they are putting on a pedestal is more ordinary than special.

Jamesaritchie
10-30-2009, 07:52 PM
I read many literary novels, a bunch of mainstream novels, a ton of classic novels and all sorts of genre novels. I make no distinction, other than I tend to hate it when someone says I should like a novel simply because it "makes the reader think."

Story and character, plain old enjoyment, always come first for me, no matter what type of novel it is, and dense, difficult books are never good because they're dense and difficult, they're good despite being dense and difficult.

Judg
10-30-2009, 08:00 PM
I like books that make me think, but only if they make me enjoy the process. A very good novel will seduce me into thinking deeply about life, or society, or morality, or religion, or all of the above, and love every minute of it. Usually because the questions are wrapped up in a compelling story. Just like a trip to a particularly fine restaurant (yes, I like food analogies) it satisfies on many different levels at once, and that is what, in my mind, makes for a truly great book.

john barnes on toast
10-30-2009, 09:12 PM
I'm going to try and avoid the labels 'literary' or 'genre' because too often they're used as dirty words from people trying to enforce the notion that never the twain shall meet.

But there are, undeniably, distinctions that can be made in literature on the basis of sophistication. I demand a level of sophistication in the books I read, and, personally, can't read books that fall below a certain threshold of sophistication that I've come to expect.

It's little to do with language, and it's little to do with theme (if Junot Diaz's next book is about vampires I'll still read it). It's purely to do with being unwilling to turn large parts of my conscious mind off in order to tolerate a story I'm going to be immersed in for more than an hour or two. On the rare occasions I want a fix of banal or shallow culture I'll watch an action film. Life's too short to read dumb books, and the only way I'm going to read 'The (insert charismatic or controversial historical figure here)(and innovative word for mystery, puzzle, code or enigma here)' is if Philip Roth personally walks to my house (from his house) and gives it a unqualified recommendation written in his own hand.

ishtar'sgate
10-30-2009, 09:26 PM
It's the supposed lack of ripping good stories that turns many people off lit fic.
Not always just supposed. Some literary fiction is fantastic but other books are clearly written by authors with no real story to tell. IMO they're comparable to speakers who simply like to hear the sound of their own voice.

ChristineR
10-30-2009, 09:44 PM
Not always just supposed. Some literary fiction is fantastic but other books are clearly written by authors with no real story to tell. IMO they're comparable to speakers who simply like to hear the sound of their own voice.

Story is not everything, and there are some readers who are less interested in a story than in characters, setting, wordplay, or explosions. Also, I don't see weak stories as being particularly a literary fiction characteristic. It's certainly possible to have a weak or cliched story in genre fiction as well, and to make up for it by hobbits and dragons, or pirates and ninjas, or just explicit sex scenes.

ChristineR
10-30-2009, 09:49 PM
.

blacbird
10-30-2009, 11:23 PM
I have a question to add to this. Do you think it is possible to write great lit. in a genre?

The Ox-Bow Incident, Walter Van Tilburg Clark
Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, John LeCarré
The Ministry of Fear, Graham Greene
The City and the Stars, Arthur C. Clarke

caw

Lady Ice
10-30-2009, 11:31 PM
Reverse snobbery is far more annoying than snobbery. With snobbery, at least you're striving towards something; whereas with reverse snobbery, you're limiting yourself and celebrating your own ignorance.

Genre writing can be very good- but in its genre. Writer X might write brilliant horror- the horror fans will love him but they love the conventions of the horror genre- that's why they read it. Most people who aren't interested in the genre would probably be less fond of it, although they could probably judge whether it was a good example of the genre.

Literary writing is not bound by genre. You don't have to please the fans who need X, Y and Z to happen at some point, but you might. Therefore with more choice, it's interesting to see how the writer uses it.
There are some really dire literary novels- 'On Chesil Beach' for example. Generally this is because they have started to become genre: artistic flashbacks, vignettes, etc.

It's also hard when you've read a lot of classics to read more mainstream stuff because you inevitably compare the two. You're used to fine wine and then you get given a Coke.

Shadow_Ferret
10-30-2009, 11:33 PM
I hate it when people disparage literary writing.

I don't disparage it, nor do I idolize it. Its writing and personally I can't tell the difference between what is "literary" and what is "genre" as long as its an interesting and exciting story.

Bore me and you lost me, no matter what the style.

As far as my own writing, I write the best I can, of stories I enjoy reading. I don't deliberately seek to please the lowest common denominator or try to write a best seller. And if it doesn't please you, bleed off.

Toothpaste
10-30-2009, 11:38 PM
Genre writing can be very good- but in its genre.



Great genre writing breaks boundaries and is accessible beyond its genre. And Literary Fiction actually is its own genre. Which means great Literary Fiction also can break boundaries and be accessible beyond its genre.

There is plenty of Science Fiction out there that is considered literary, and is read by wide audiences: 1984 for example.

And there is plenty of Literary Fiction that can be read by more than just the literati.

It's about not judging based on categories. In either direction.

Judg
10-30-2009, 11:44 PM
I have a question to add to this. Do you think it is possible to write great lit. in a genre? Did not Poe do this? (As an example.)
Spin and Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
Smiley's People by John Le Carré
The Left Hand of Darkness and Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
Children of Men by P.D. James

Brindle Chase
10-31-2009, 12:01 AM
I very much agree with him. I also agree that it's just as snobbish to snub one's nose at successful/popular writing, just because it doesn't measure up to ones personal literary standard. Snobbery is Snobbery and Snobbery is a sign of mental damage, a character flaw (not a strength) ... IMHO ... anyone who has to tear down others, or another's art, for any reason... is pathetic (again... IMHO) ... You don't have to like something, but once you start tilting your nose in the air at something... you're a snob... plain and simple. =o)

I read for enjoyment... If I enjoy it... to me... it's good. I like Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (one of the books that comes up often on literary expert's top ten of all time lists)... but I also liked Jenny McCarthy's book on pregnancy (not what anyone would consider a masterpiece... but it cracked me up! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.)

john barnes on toast
10-31-2009, 01:43 AM
I very much agree with him. I also agree that it's just as snobbish to snub one's nose at successful/popular writing, just because it doesn't measure up to ones personal literary standard.

I think whether I agree with you or not is going to be determined by what you mean by 'snub one's nose'.


If you mean invest your energies in actively denigrating it and all who read it, then yes I agree. If you mean not reading it, then I disagree.

History has given me a fair idea of what books I will find to be crap. I'm not going to read that stuff however popular it is, and i completely refute the notion that by doing so I'm somehow not 'reading widely'. I do think this old adage of how a writer must 'read widely' has been appropriated as a convenient argument for justifying ones own taste (usually in crap). It's a complete bollocks argument, and not least because people don't need to justify anything they choose to read.

Phaeal
10-31-2009, 02:14 AM
Moby Dick (action/adventure)
Pride and Prejudice (romance)
The Odyssey (fantasy)
Beowulf (horror)

and so forth and so on...

gothicangel
10-31-2009, 02:21 AM
The Red Riding Trilogy (David Peace): gripping crime novels and beautifully written.

Lady Ice
10-31-2009, 02:22 AM
Great genre writing breaks boundaries and is accessible beyond its genre. And Literary Fiction actually is its own genre. Which means great Literary Fiction also can break boundaries and be accessible beyond its genre.

There is plenty of Science Fiction out there that is considered literary, and is read by wide audiences: 1984 for example.

And there is plenty of Literary Fiction that can be read by more than just the literati.

It's about not judging based on categories. In either direction.

George Orwell was not a science-fiction writer. He wrote a book, which some people label as Science Fiction. Genre writers write exclusively within their genre.

Brindle Chase
10-31-2009, 02:23 AM
I think whether I agree with you or not is going to be determined by what you mean by 'snub one's nose'.


If you mean invest your energies in actively denigrating it and all who read it, then yes I agree. If you mean not reading it, then I disagree.



The first. Those who go around snubbing something to feel superior in their own artistic preferences. There's alot of things I don't like, that others do... but I don't snoot my nose up at them or thier likes. I dont waste time bashing it. If I don't like it, its simple... I dont buy it/read it/ listen to it.. whatever the case might be. =o)

Shadow_Ferret
10-31-2009, 02:24 AM
Genre writers write exclusively within their genre.

That's generalizing.

blacbird
10-31-2009, 02:29 AM
Genre writers write exclusively within their genre.

Some do. Many do not. H.G. Wells essentially invented the modern SF genre; he wrote lots of realistic novels and nonfiction as well. Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Stephen King are other prominent examples.

Methinks you're setting up walls where none do, or need to, exist.

caw

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 02:30 AM
That's generalizing.No, it's genrelising. :D

sheadakota
10-31-2009, 03:48 AM
Story is not everything, and there are some readers who are less interested in a story than in characters, setting, wordplay, or explosions. Also, I don't see weak stories as being particularly a literary fiction characteristic. It's certainly possible to have a weak or cliched story in genre fiction as well, and to make up for it by hobbits and dragons, or pirates and ninjas, or just explicit sex scenes.
Wow- really? not being snarky here- honest question- I am quite eclectic in my reading liking pretty much a little of everything, but the one thing they all had in common was a great story-

Why would you read anything if not for the story- the trip- the expierence of being transported to another place and time- again no snarkism- What books have you read that didn't have a story in it? I would like to check it out and see what it is like- honest-

Ken
10-31-2009, 04:24 AM
... poetry is a clear cut example of literary writing, I'd say. No plot, no characterization, yet it leaves one with a satified feel so long as one delves into it, sufficiently, and really examines the stanzas. It takes work to get at what's being got at, and I think that is what N.B. is refering to in his blog post. Short stories that are published in mags like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly are a good example of literary writing, too, I'd say. With novels, I'd be more pressed to say. Personally I'd include ones by Faulkner and Joyce, just because they're so incomprehensible at times. But that may just be me. // For myself, I enjoy both literary and genre productions, though for different reasons.

ChristineR
10-31-2009, 04:52 AM
Wow- really? not being snarky here- honest question- I am quite eclectic in my reading liking pretty much a little of everything, but the one thing they all had in common was a great story-

Why would you read anything if not for the story- the trip- the expierence of being transported to another place and time- again no snarkism- What books have you read that didn't have a story in it? I would like to check it out and see what it is like- honest-

Very few books have no story, although I'll probably think of one eventually. Many have weak stories. I don't know why you would equate "being transported to another place and time" with having a good story. They are different entities. You could have a superb reproduction of a historical period, or a well-crafted fantasy place without having much story at all.

backslashbaby
10-31-2009, 05:01 AM
Eyes of a Blue Dog by Marquez might be a good example of not much story in your story. I love it, btw.

http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/bluedog.html

sheadakota
10-31-2009, 05:10 AM
Thanks! I will check it out BSB and Chrisitine- I think I understand what you mean- it guess it might depend on what you consider 'story' maybe- very interesting discussion- be better over a glass of wine, but hey this ain't bad either!

backslashbaby
10-31-2009, 05:13 AM
I have a glass of wine right here :D And cheese!

sheadakota
10-31-2009, 05:20 AM
aww- I want to go to your house! But I have to work tomorrow- so night all, catch you on the flip side- save some wine and cheese for me baby!

backslashbaby
10-31-2009, 05:29 AM
Will do :D Night!

Priene
10-31-2009, 05:42 AM
Another one to look at is Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. It has only a skeleton plot, little in the way of characters, no resolution or progression or character growth. It's also mesmerising, and one of my favourite novels.

blacbird
10-31-2009, 07:37 AM
Another one to look at is Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. It has only a skeleton plot, little in the way of characters, no resolution or progression or character growth. It's also mesmerising, and one of my favourite novels.

I find Calvino unreadable, and I've tried numerous times. Oddly, I adore Garcia Marquez, who many compare to Calvino.

Maybe that says more about me than either of them. Probably I'll give Calvino another shot.

caw

Toothpaste
10-31-2009, 08:02 AM
George Orwell was not a science-fiction writer. He wrote a book, which some people label as Science Fiction. Genre writers write exclusively within their genre.

This is simply not true. Here's an excellent article you should read which addresses exactly that old prejudice: Why Science Fiction Authors Just Can't Win. (http://sffmedia.com/books/science-fiction-books/417-why-science-fiction-authors-just-cant-win.html) You are espousing the age old argument that if it's literature then it can't be genre, that if a writer who writes other kinds of fiction writes genre, well in that case, well then that's not really genre fiction either. Thus the literati remove any books that have been deemed literature from the genre category. This creates a lovely little pocket of genre fiction where the great works from that genre have been taken away, placed in a different category, and all that remains is pulp. "Ha!" they then say, "You see! It is all pulp!" (not that there's anything wrong with pulp)

Now granted there are some writers who stick to their preferred genre (just as there are some literary writers who stick with writing literary), but this is by no means a universal truth and conclusions like those are ones that begin the whole snobbery thing, reverse or not.

ETA: btw 1/3 of Orwell's novels fall into the genre category btw. Or are talking animals considered realism these days?

Delhomeboy
10-31-2009, 08:22 AM
ETA: btw 1/3 of Orwell's novels fall into the genre category btw. Or are talking animals considered realism these days?

It's not realism, it's allegory (http://101reasonstostopwriting.com/2008/04/23/reason-17-its-allegorical/)! :D

And just to add a point here...I think great writing should only be good enough to transport people into another world, with, as someone mentioned. If you can do more than that, great. If you can do less, you may need to work on your writing some.

And I DO believe story trumps all...maybe not in the down and gritty, day to day year to year of our lives, but in the overall scheme of things. It's the STORY that really survives, not the writing. I've never, ever, ever, read the Aeneid, (although I plan on it one day), but EVERYONE seemingly is aware of the story of the Trojan Horse. I've never read Moby Dick, but I know the story. I've HAVE read, say A Christmas Carol, but I'd say most people haven't and most of THEM, still, probably know the story.

Now, obviously, good writing is the key to making a story last this long...if you're a bad writer, odds are good that your stories aren't going to make it into the consciousness of human beings. But, in my experience, in the end the story wins.

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 08:24 AM
The Trojan Horse doesn't appear in The Iliad.

Delhomeboy
10-31-2009, 08:30 AM
The Trojan Horse doesn't appear in The Iliad.

The Aeneid. Apologies.

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 08:33 AM
Try again. :D

(Sorry...:ROFL:)

Delhomeboy
10-31-2009, 08:36 AM
Try again. :D

(Sorry...:ROFL:)

:Huh:

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 08:36 AM
The Odyssey. :D

(I sincerely hope I'm right about that, 'cause if not, you earn the right to kick me in the face).

Delhomeboy
10-31-2009, 08:42 AM
The Odyssey. :D

(I sincerely hope I'm right about that, 'cause if not, you earn the right to kick me in the face).

Book 2, The Aeneid:

By destiny compell'd, and in despair,
The Greeks (http://old.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/vor?type=phrase&alts=0&group=typecat&lookup=Greeks&collection=Perseus:collection:Greco-Roman) grew weary of the tedious war,
And by Minerva's aid a fabric rear'd,
Which like a steed of monstrous height appear'd:
The sides were plank'd with pine; they feign'd it made
For their return, and this the vow they paid.
Thus they pretend, but in the hollow side
Selected numbers of their soldiers hide:
With inward arms the dire machine they load,
And iron bowels stuff the dark abode.

Laocoon, follow'd by a num'rous crowd,Ran from the fort, and cried, from far, aloud:‘O wretched countrymen! What fury reigns?What more than madness has possess'd your brains?Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?And are Ulysses' arts no better known?This hollow fabric either must inclose,Within its blind recess, our secret foes;Or 't is an engine rais'd above the town,T' o'erlook the walls, and then to batter down.Somewhat is sure design' d, by fraud or force:Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.’

But it IS mentioned in the Odyssey. :D:D:D

willietheshakes
10-31-2009, 08:43 AM
The Odyssey. :D

(I sincerely hope I'm right about that, 'cause if not, you earn the right to kick me in the face).

Would a spanking be all right, rather than a kick in the face?

It was, in fact, The Aeneid.

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 08:44 AM
Oh bollocks. I'll take it like a man, then.

Er...

Delhomeboy
10-31-2009, 08:49 AM
Oh bollocks. I'll take it like a man, then.

Er...
:e2brows:

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 08:50 AM
Oh the shame!

Still, I'm willing to take my punishment. :D

thethinker42
10-31-2009, 09:04 AM
Oh the shame!

Still, I'm willing to take my punishment. :D

Looks like I picked just the right time to join this thread. :D

willietheshakes
10-31-2009, 09:22 AM
Oh the shame!

Still, I'm willing to take my punishment. :D

(opens new browser window)

(brings up www.travelocity.ca)

Priene
10-31-2009, 01:14 PM
Scarlet wins it. It is mentioned (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_Horse) first in the Odyssey


What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, where in all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate!
But come now,change thy theme, and sing of the building of the horse of wood, which Epeius made with Athena's help, the horse which once Odysseus led up into the citadel as a thing of guile, when he had filled it with the men who sacked Ilion

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 04:41 PM
FUCK YEAH!

I RULE! :D

*ahem*

Carry on. I knew I was right all along of course.

WittyandorIronic
10-31-2009, 05:18 PM
So. I had several choice responses to several posters comments neatly typed up and ready for reply,... but what is the point? If you have a preference for one over the other, awesome. My preference is for genre fiction. I find the stories enjoyable, the characters enjoyable, and the writing great. On the rare occasion I buy a book and it does not meet those standards, I stop reading it and never purchase that author again. I do not go out of my way to avoid any type of book, but I can't say I have ever been enticed to buy a book on the basis of anything other than a story. YMMV.

icerose
10-31-2009, 06:03 PM
George Orwell was not a science-fiction writer. He wrote a book, which some people label as Science Fiction. Genre writers write exclusively within their genre.

As pointed out quite a few of what he wrote was in fact sci-fi.

Also I write in specific genres. I by no means stick to a genre and I am a genre writer by definition. I know very few authors that stick to a single genre.

willietheshakes
10-31-2009, 07:31 PM
There's an interesting line in Peter Straub's introduction to the Library Of America's American Fantastic Tales Vol 2: Younger writers who had grown up reading people who were already pushing at the borders of genre were able to take the next, and to me breathtaking, step of creating fiction that acted as though those borders had never existed in the first place.

That pretty much sums up my approach to my work.

willietheshakes
10-31-2009, 07:32 PM
Scarlet wins it. It is mentioned (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_Horse) first in the Odyssey

Does that mean she spanks me, then?

Phaeal
10-31-2009, 09:05 PM
There's an interesting line in Peter Straub's introduction to the Library Of America's American Fantastic Tales Vol 2: Younger writers who had grown up reading people who were already pushing at the borders of genre were able to take the next, and to me breathtaking, step of creating fiction that acted as though those borders had never existed in the first place.

That pretty much sums up my approach to my work.

Ah, this will be a great day, indeed.

Now go get that spanking.

willietheshakes
10-31-2009, 09:08 PM
Ah, this will be a great day, indeed.

It's here.

Look at Michael Chabon. Hell, look at me -- BIW is hugely fantastical, and it was received without a batted eye. Moreso TWMFOW.

It doesn't occur to me to rein it in, or to control my imagination, or put it into a convenient box -- they're stories. People can call them what they like, but they're stories, and people read them.


Now go get that spanking.

:)

Trick OR treat?

Lady Ice
11-01-2009, 07:24 PM
As pointed out quite a few of what he wrote was in fact sci-fi.

Also I write in specific genres. I by no means stick to a genre and I am a genre writer by definition. I know very few authors that stick to a single genre.

'Animal Farm' isn't sci-fi, it's an allegory. I don't think any of the travel ones are sci-fi. Granted I'm not that familiar with Orwell's work but I don't think anyone would describe him as a science-fiction writer. If I had to put him in a genre...I'd probably say political.

Genre writers can be as good, or better, than non-genre or 'literary' writers, but they are to an extent restrained by their genre. If you're a genre writer, you write using at least some of the conventions of your genre. If I wanted to read a romance genre novel, I'd expect exotic locations, pretty people, forbidden love,etc-escapism. Most fans of genres want those conventions, it's what attracts them to the genre. If I wanted insight into the poverty of a third-world country, I wouldn't read romance.

I'd say that a lot of critics aren't really genre readers so all they can really say on genre books is whether they're a good example of the genre or not and whether the story was interesting. Stories are not the be-all and end-all of books. There's stories in film, theatre, even some music.

icerose
11-01-2009, 07:59 PM
Yes, there are certain conventions to genres. Romance for example expects 1. a love story and 2. a happy ending. But within that there's a vast amount of play and there are hybrids. Such as paranormal romance, adventure romance, fantasy romance, thriller romance and so on and so forth. If it doesn't follow certain restrictions then it couldn't exactly be called that specific genre, but outside of some extremely broad constrictions you have pretty free reign over what occurs in your book as long as it's good. It's when you become too obscure with those confines that your book can then be difficult to place or if you mix in too many elements and it becomes a space western, romance, fantasy, with a mystery to solve and a monster stalking them, and her face just got ripped off! That it just becomes a mess.

ETA: Orwell's 1984 is classified right up there with Time Machine in prominent sci-fi. It was about a future totalitarian state and had many futuristic inventions and such. Most books written in the future are considered science fiction.

Oh an animal farm wasn't a sci-fi, never said it was, it also wasn't the only book he ever wrote.

Toothpaste
11-01-2009, 09:02 PM
Look, I'm not an idiot, I know Animal Farm is allegory. But my point was more how we so narrowly define genres and when you look at some books they could be classified as many different things, not just one.

Lady Ice I'm not sure where you are getting your definitions from, nor why you insist that anyone who writes in a certain genre needs to fall within very tight parameters. Fact is that aside from category romance, where the publisher lays out exactly what has to happen where, where it has to be set, and who the characters need to be, any genre allows for exploration and breaking the rules.

Shadow_Ferret
11-01-2009, 09:05 PM
I won't be pigeonholed!

Lady Ice
11-01-2009, 10:54 PM
Look, I'm not an idiot, I know Animal Farm is allegory. But my point was more how we so narrowly define genres and when you look at some books they could be classified as many different things, not just one.

Lady Ice I'm not sure where you are getting your definitions from, nor why you insist that anyone who writes in a certain genre needs to fall within very tight parameters. Fact is that aside from category romance, where the publisher lays out exactly what has to happen where, where it has to be set, and who the characters need to be, any genre allows for exploration and breaking the rules.

Maybe we have different perceptions of genre writers. I think of genre writers as people who only write in one genre and whose books may be addictive to readers of that genre but not of much interest to people who aren't fans of the genre- story and genre is all.

Books can be classed in lots of different genres, I agree- some of them even contradictory. But some can only be classified into one genre. People read Dan Brown because they like that sort of story.

CaroGirl
11-01-2009, 11:00 PM
I won't be pigeonholed!
Will you be ferret-holed?

timewaster
11-01-2009, 11:40 PM
Really?

I've found the amount of ill-judged and ignorant prejudice directed at writers who dare to attempt anything more than 'boy kills baddie to win girl' is not only prevalent, but openly condoned.

Perhaps, but often 'literary' is a term used to excuse pretention and self indulgence. In my experience the desire to write something 'great' is rarely married with the ability. Those who aspire to such literary heights often undervalue the basics of story telling, pacing, characterisation and linguistic precision.
I love good writing but it is found as often in genre fiction as in that deemed ' literary'.
IMHO literary ambition is not a sufficient, or even a necessary condition, for producing good work.

The Lonely One
11-02-2009, 12:11 AM
Those who aspire to such literary heights often undervalue the basics of story telling, pacing, characterisation and linguistic precision.


But isn't this the sort of scarlet letter literary writers are doomed to wear, because this is the general perception people have? That literary fiction throws story and everything else but their own greatness to the wind because they want more introspection and language art? The writers I read are brilliant storytellers, and fall into the literary genre. I don't think the hammer/nail plot genre writers claim their lot in life and the aspiration of language literary writers boast are necessarily divorced concepts.

And I know there's snobbery on both sides, certainly. But why? Why would there be any more of a divide between literary/genre as there would be, say, sci-fi and mystery writers? I don't see a reason to hate on the literary aspirations of writers any more than to hate on "story beats all." You don't have to agree but good writing comes in different shapes and sizes, and stories are 'good' often for different reasons.

There's room for everyone on the bookshelf, me thinks.

To quote the article: There's a middle ground.

Judg
11-02-2009, 02:14 AM
There's room for everyone on the bookshelf, me thinks.
QFT

And I can feel free to enjoy books from more than one shelf.

timewaster
11-02-2009, 03:58 AM
[QUOTE=The Lonely One;4213922]But isn't this the sort of scarlet letter literary writers are doomed to wear, because this is the general perception people have? That literary fiction throws story and everything else but their own greatness to the wind because they want more introspection and language art? The writers I read are brilliant storytellers, and fall into the literary genre. I don't think the hammer/nail plot genre writers claim their lot in life and the aspiration of language literary writers boast are necessarily divorced concepts.

I wasn't actually thinking of published fiction which generally meets minimum standards.
However, I come across the notion that literary fiction is intriniscally more worthy than other kinds of fiction quite often. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Genre writers can write well too and I don't really see that there
is a hierarchy of literary forms.

HelloKiddo
11-02-2009, 04:34 AM
I love good writing but it is found as often in genre fiction as in that deemed ' literary'.


However, I come across the notion that literary fiction is intriniscally more worthy than other kinds of fiction quite often. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

I think the point is that while literary fiction is not necessarily better than genre fiction, and while everybody agrees that genre fiction can be very high quality as well, the point is that literary fiction usually has a higher quality of writing than genre fiction. Not always, but most people feel that it usually does.

To state the quality of writing in genre fiction is just as good, on average, as the quality of writing in literary fiction is the type of statement I think many people disagree with.

Shadow_Ferret
11-02-2009, 04:40 AM
Maybe we have different perceptions of genre writers. I think of genre writers as people who only write in one genre and whose books may be addictive to readers of that genre but not of much interest to people who aren't fans of the genre- story and genre is all.

Books can be classed in lots of different genres, I agree- some of them even contradictory. But some can only be classified into one genre. People read Dan Brown because they like that sort of story.

I'm a genre writer. I write fantasy, Sci-Fi, mystery, thriller, alternate history, literary.... all of those are genres.

I take offense to any generalization you've made.

Mr Flibble
11-02-2009, 04:52 AM
To state the quality of writing in genre fiction is just as good, on average, as the quality of writing in literary fiction, is the type of statement I think many people disagree with.

That's a bit of a sweeping statement, she said understatingly.

Because it all depends on your definition of 'good'

Is 'good' a compelling character? A gripping plot? A way with words that makes your heart sing with lyricism? A new way to look at an old subject? Philosophy in fiction form? An exploration of the human condition?

All that can be found within genre ( admittedly not with every genre writer but the same can be said for literary writers)

Literary is just another genre. Literary writers are genre writers. They just have different tropes and conventions from other genres. That is all.

ishtar'sgate
11-02-2009, 05:07 AM
I know very few authors that stick to a single genre.
Sometimes it doesn't matter what the author thinks, it's what booksellers think. I thought my novel was historical. I've seen it shelved as historical, young adult and chic lit.

HelloKiddo
11-02-2009, 05:11 AM
Because it all depends on your definition of 'good'

Is 'good' a compelling character? A gripping plot? A way with words that makes your heart sing with lyricism? A new way to look at an old subject? Philosophy in fiction form? An exploration of the human condition?

Noted. But the point is not for each person to define what a good book means to them. The point is that many literary critics feel the writing in literary novels is of a higher quality than the writing in genre novels.

Mr Flibble
11-02-2009, 05:13 AM
Noted. But the point is not for each person to define what a good book means to them. The point is that many literary critics feel the writing in literary novels is of a higher quality than the writing in genre novels.

And what literary critics think is the be all and end all of life as we know it? What readers think is more important. Because literary critics are, occasionally, snobs. If they are, who cares what they think?

It's just another genre. That's all.

HelloKiddo
11-02-2009, 05:17 AM
And what literary critics think is the be all and end all of life as we know it? What readers think is more important.

That's what Nathan's blog post was about. It was about the idea that the opinions of "experts" are no more valuable than those of everybody else.

ChristineR
11-02-2009, 05:22 AM
Quality is a poorly defined term. For a book to be a quality thriller, it has to have thrilling elements. For a book to be a quality romance, it has to have romantic qualities. I'm not even sure what quality writing--meaning only the words--would be. The qualities we look for in childrens' books, or YA books, are different from the qualities we look for in academic papers, or adult fiction books. Some people simply don't like to read what others consider to be brilliant prose. They might find it too wordy, or the vocabulary might be too much for them.

So is that what we're talking about when we say literary fiction has high quality writing? Because that appeals to me, but I'm a well-educated, well-read, native born American who pays a lot of attention to the words. But I am not the only sort of reader out there.

Mr Flibble
11-02-2009, 05:25 AM
That's what Nathan's blog post was about. It was about the idea that the opinions of "experts" are no more valuable than those of everybody else.


Well that's a) correct, well done Nath lol and b) fairly obvious. A critique - from anyone - is just an opinion - albeit from a reviewer 2who's someone who reads maybe more than a lot of people.

If you read reviews often, you soon find who gels with your own views and listen to them. And also who you disagree with. Most people can soon figure that out on their own.

I've had a review where it said 'too many subplots' where as most of my feedback has been 'love the complexity'

It's just one person. And if that one person thinks literary is better than genre well....I know who not to listen to don't I? Okay - it's disappointing for a writer who gets panned because of it, but I'll bet there will be a few people who'll say 'he hated it - I bet I'll like it!'

I've picked up a few good books that way myself...

Delhomeboy
11-02-2009, 06:52 AM
Genres are an illusion. And so is death.

HelloKiddo
11-02-2009, 07:34 AM
Well that's a) correct, well done Nath lol

Sorry, I should have been more clear. Nathan's post was about the idea that one opinion is just as valuable as another, but the way I read it he didn't necessarily agree with that.

Quotes from his post:


there is definitely something that is lost in the over-celebration of mass appeal and the lowest common denominator and the dismissal of experts


And the current culture that treats everyone as an expert shouldn't be taken too far: Not everyone is an expert.


and b) fairly obvious


Not it isn't "obvious" that one opinion is just as valuable as another in every case. And completely dismissing the idea that literary critics might have something to offer than any random reader might not is (I think) exactly what Nathan as referring to as reverse snobbery, the title of the post.

timewaster
11-02-2009, 12:02 PM
I think the point is that while literary fiction is not necessarily better than genre fiction, and while everybody agrees that genre fiction can be very high quality as well, the point is that literary fiction usually has a higher quality of writing than genre fiction. Not always, but most people feel that it usually does.


I agree it is what many people believe but I don't think it is true. It is why I was confused by the argument upthread that literary fiction is disregarded.
IME the intention to write lit fic is seen as a higher order ambition than simply to deliver a really effective novel and that makes no sense to me.
Good writing is to me always linked to function - it should do something and a particular styleof writing should not be automatically privileged above any other. Style for me should follow function and writing that does nothing but showcase itself is often, by my lights, worse than that which serves the overall novel. Truly stunning writing is the exception to this but I don't see that very often.

To state the quality of writing in genre fiction is just as good, on average, as the quality of writing in literary fiction is the type of statement I think many people disagree with.

Yes, but I am not interested in saying something I hope will be popular but with expressing something that I believe to be true.

Ruv Draba
11-02-2009, 01:32 PM
Genre fiction can be smart and well-written, but can sell if it's not. Literary fiction can be entertaining but can also sell if it's not.

Quality can mean different things to different people: entertainment, elegance, conciseness, insight, the delight of the cadence and words themselves. But quality isn't arbitrary. Fiction must at minimum meet its primary purpose. I think that we generally accept that the primary purpose of genre fiction is to entertain with characters, mood and situations; the primary purpose of literary fiction is to delight with ideas, insights and expression. Of course there's overlap. But just as there's a tonne of genre fiction that doesn't much delight, there's a lot of literary fiction that doesn't much entertain.

For my money, the best fiction, whatever we call it, does both.

john barnes on toast
11-02-2009, 04:37 PM
Perhaps, but often 'literary' is a term used to excuse pretention and self indulgence. In my experience the desire to write something 'great' is rarely married with the ability. Those who aspire to such literary heights often undervalue the basics of story telling, pacing, characterisation and linguistic precision.

What you're talking about here is bad writing. Plain and simple. The author's intent—literary aspiration, or unapologetic entertainment—is largely irrelevant if the finished product is bad.

There is no inherent correlation between a writer's literary aspiration and their talent.





I love good writing but it is found as often in genre fiction as in that deemed ' literary'.
IMHO literary ambition is not a sufficient, or even a necessary condition, for producing good work.

This is were we may differ. My favourite books, the books I believe to be great, are unified by a common thread, but it's nothing to do with labels such as literary or genre, it's to do with ambition.

Great books are born from an aspiration to greatness. There is no inherent reason that that kind of aspiration cannot be found within writing we consider 'genre', but in my experience it is less frequent than within books that fall outside of those conventions.

Mr Flibble
11-02-2009, 06:00 PM
Not it isn't "obvious" that one opinion is just as valuable as another in every case. And completely dismissing the idea that literary critics might have something to offer than any random reader might not is (I think) exactly what Nathan as referring to as reverse snobbery, the title of the post.

I wasn't dismissing literary critics at all and I was talking about reviewers opinions mainly ( although obviously, I like readers opinions too - provided I know they like the same stuff as me). I was just saying that their review is as helpful ( or not) as another person's review. It all depends on whether you like the sort of books the reviewer likes - whether you gel with their opinion.

Once you've found a critic that seems in tune with what you like in a book, then their opinion becomes more valuable to you. But not necessarily to anyone else. For instance there is a particular critic in one of the papers over here who is a bit snobby about genre - but when he says a non genre book is good, I listen, because nine times out of ten I agree with him.

If some one random came up to me and said 'Wow, you have to read this book it's awesome!' I wouldn't take his word for it, But if one of my mates said it - I'd probably give it a whirl, because we like similar things.

timewaster
11-02-2009, 07:37 PM
What you're talking about here is bad writing. Plain and simple. The author's intent—literary aspiration, or unapologetic entertainment—is largely irrelevant if the finished product is bad.

There is no inherent correlation between a writer's literary aspiration and their talent.





This is were we may differ. My favourite books, the books I believe to be great, are unified by a common thread, but it's nothing to do with labels such as literary or genre, it's to do with ambition.

Great books are born from an aspiration to greatness. There is no inherent reason that that kind of aspiration cannot be found within writing we consider 'genre', but in my experience it is less frequent than within books that fall outside of those conventions.

I don't know what the aspirations of my favourite writers might have been - though Jane Austen made no great claims for herself - all I know is that with the students I see there is not always a correlation between ambition and talent and setting out to write a good solid book might produce better work than setting out to write a great one.

The Lonely One
11-02-2009, 08:02 PM
Genre writers can write well too and I don't really see that there
is a hierarchy of literary forms.

I totally agree.

john barnes on toast
11-02-2009, 08:12 PM
I don't know what the aspirations of my favourite writers might have been - though Jane Austen made no great claims for herself - all I know is that with the students I see there is not always a correlation between ambition and talent and setting out to write a good solid book might produce better work than setting out to write a great one.


Apologies if we're getting a bit complicated here.

I totally agree that there's not always a correlation between ambition and talent. There's no real reason there would be.

And in the absence of real talent, then there's probably a case for saying that aiming for mediocrity is a 'better' policy. I wont read the result, but I wont read anything by an author I don't believe to have talent, whether they're over-reaching themselves or ticking along inside their comfort zone.


My real point is that greatness comes about when those real talents do strive to break out of the conventions (be they genre conventions or otherwise).

Consequently I have no truck with the prevailing notion that ambition in writing is something to be sniped at. Yes those same ambitions can be the thing that inflicts indulgent crap upon the word, but by the same token, one truly great piece of literature enriches the world more than a libraries worth of solid genre products.


We should encourage an environment where writers feel they can strive for greatness, even if most will fail.

MGraybosch
11-02-2009, 08:21 PM
And what literary critics think is the be all and end all of life as we know it? What readers think is more important. Because literary critics are, occasionally, snobs. If they are, who cares what they think?

Exactly. Give the audience their money's worth, and let the critics say whatever the hell they have to to earn their salaries.

CaroGirl
11-02-2009, 08:28 PM
one truly great piece of literature enriches the world more than a libraries worth of solid genre products.

We should encourage an environment where writers feel they can strive for greatness, even if most will fail.
But the point is, some of those great pieces of literature can also be classified as genre. The dystopian novel, for example, often viewed as sci-fi because of its often futuristic setting, like The Handmaid's Tale, 1984, A Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, Oryx and Crake, Never Let Me Go, and so on, are, without doubt, pieces of that great literature you want to see enriching the world. So, where do you draw the line between genre and literature? Sometimes you can't because you have both in the same package. And there's nothing wrong with that. If you delight in trashing genre, you might just be trashing the very literature that is, by its nature, also genre.

I wholehearedly agree with that last sentence.

Judg
11-02-2009, 08:35 PM
So, where do you draw the line between genre and literature? Sometimes you can't because you have both in the same package. And there's nothing wrong with that.
There's something very right with that. ;)

Priene
11-02-2009, 08:41 PM
Incidentally, who are the AW members who are constantly trashing genre fiction? They don't seem much in evidence.

CaroGirl
11-02-2009, 08:52 PM
Incidentally, who are the AW members who are constantly trashing genre fiction? They don't seem much in evidence.
More AWers write genre fiction than literary fiction. And in that number, the balance is tipped in the direction of sci-fi/fantasy writers (unless they're simply the most vocal, but I think there are, in fact, more of them).

Of the minority of writers here who write, or aspire to write, literary fiction, some of those trash genre writing (not the writers, I hope, but the writing). The length of this thread seems to indicate there are people in both camps, and in the respectful middle (how boring, but here I am).

Mr Flibble
11-02-2009, 09:08 PM
More AWers write genre fiction than literary fiction. And in that number, the balance is tipped in the direction of sci-fi/fantasy writers (unless they're simply the most vocal, but I think there are, in fact, more of them).




Nah, I reckon we're just gobbier.

I know I am :D

john barnes on toast
11-02-2009, 09:13 PM
But the point is, some of those great pieces of literature can also be classified as genre.

I'm not disputing that at all.





So, where do you draw the line between genre and literature?



I try not to.

The distinction I was drawing was between works I consider to be great. And works that I don't. To all intents and purpose, where I draw my personal line for that is irrelevant to the point of the argument.


If you delight in trashing genre,



I don't. And if I have (which I don't believe to be the case) then it wasn't my intent.

CaroGirl
11-02-2009, 09:18 PM
I try not to.

The distinction I was drawing was between works I consider to be great. And works that I don't. To all intents and purpose, where I draw my personal line for that is irrelevant to the point of the argument.

I don't. And if I have (which I don't believe to be the case) then it wasn't my intent.
Oops. Sorry about that! I quoted you because of what you said, but I wasn't directing any of my "you"s at you specifically. I didn't mean to suggest you trash genre fiction. Replace each "you" with a "one" instead, k? :)

john barnes on toast
11-02-2009, 09:21 PM
Oops. Sorry about that! I quoted you because of what you said, but I wasn't directing any of my "you"s at you specifically. I didn't mean to suggest you trash genre fiction. Replace each "you" with a "one" instead, k? :)

that's cool. I was kind of doing the same thing in reverse: clearing myself of the accusation even though I wasn't sure it was directed at me personally.

DeadlyAccurate
11-02-2009, 11:04 PM
Incidentally, who are the AW members who are constantly trashing genre fiction? They don't seem much in evidence.

The writers who stick around aren't likely to be the kind who trash genre fiction. Most of the time when it happens, the writer is a new member who dives in headfirst and usually trashes a specific genre (speculative and romance are the most common). The threads can go on for pages and pages.

CheshireCat
11-03-2009, 01:24 AM
Noted. But the point is not for each person to define what a good book means to them. The point is that many literary critics feel the writing in literary novels is of a higher quality than the writing in genre novels.

Yes, but many (many) "literary" critics don't even read genre fiction, or read so little they can hardly have formed an educated opinion of the best and worst of genre fiction -- so naturally they feel that literary fiction, which they do read a great deal of, is of a higher quality.

I personally have a higher opinion of the judgment of a critic who reads -- and reviews -- broadly across all genres rather than those who pen glowing reviews of literary fiction and nothing else.


And in the absence of real talent, then there's probably a case for saying that aiming for mediocrity is a 'better' policy. I wont read the result, but I wont read anything by an author I don't believe to have talent, whether they're over-reaching themselves or ticking along inside their comfort zone.

Aiming for mediocrity?

See, here's the thing. Unless you know the author personally, you have absolutely no way of knowing just how high the author was aiming. You may assume that because this or that author "knocked out" yet another of the same kind of book as his/her last one there was no ambition to produce a "better" book. But you don't know.

You just assume. And you know what they say about assuming things.

Same thing goes for your opinion that an author was "over-reaching" in some way. All you see is the result. The result which may well be that author's absolute best work -- or work that landed somewhere lower on the scale due to innumerable factors you know absolutely nothing about, none of them having anything to do with ambition or talent. Such as ... The author's spouse died while the book was being written. The author moved house. The author was assigned a new editor, and the working relationship was rocky. The author was assigned a new editor with writing ambitions. *shudders* The author had a bout with the H1N1 flu of the time. And so on.

You don't know. You certainly form your own opinion, but you don't know, unless you're close to the author, what influences were brought to bear on that author and the work he/she produced.

IMO :D people who state with authority that any author was or was not aspiring to great work, or mediocre work, or attempting to push the boundaries of genre, or work comfortably within the confines, or anything of the sort has zero credibility unless that person is the author.

Because nobody else knows what was in the author's mind and heart while he/she was writing.


My real point is that greatness comes about when those real talents do strive to break out of the conventions (be they genre conventions or otherwise).

See my point above. All you see is the result, and though you -- and others -- may be convinced the author was striving to hit some level they never aimed for in previous work, you have no way of knowing your view is true. The author may simply have been following the dictates of plot or character, and ventured beyond "the conventions" because that's where he or she was led by the work. There may well have been no forethought involved, no planning, no conscious attempt to push past any perceived boundaries.

For all you know, the strongest influence on that author at the time may have been a deadline or a mortgage.


Consequently I have no truck with the prevailing notion that ambition in writing is something to be sniped at. Yes those same ambitions can be the thing that inflicts indulgent crap upon the word, but by the same token, one truly great piece of literature enriches the world more than a libraries worth of solid genre products.

I'm an ambitious writer. My ambitions may well not fit within your definition of ambition, but it certainly exists. I aspire to write the best possible book I can, every time out of the gate. I also aspire to other things neither you nor any reader of my work is likely to be aware of, because I don't announce publicly what those aspirations are or have been.

As for the idea that "one truly great piece of literature" enriches the world more than libaries filled with solid genre novels, you're certainly entitled to your opinion there. But I would remind you that much if not all of what we now consider "classic" literature was the genre fiction of its day -- much of it not considered "solid" at all.

But you know that. We all know that. And yet we continue to debate this as if we can decide for future generations what they will consider to be great literature.

All each of us has is our own opinion. And despite what high value we may place on our own judgment, the bald truth is that when it comes to the aspirations of the author, we're no better informed than a person who hasn't even read the book.


We should encourage an environment where writers feel they can strive for greatness, even if most will fail.

I wasn't aware that writers were being discouraged from striving to produce their best work. But, then, I believe it's totally pretentious and absurd for any writer to declare that he or she is "striving for greatness" in their work.

Because I believe "greatness" isn't a definition, it's a decision made by history when there can be a clearer perspective of everything creative that was produced during a given period.

Our descendants determine who among our peers are/were Great Writers.

And that will be their opinion.

;)

SPMiller
11-03-2009, 02:20 AM
I wonder what all this "striving for greatness" business is about. It may be linked to the concept of the "great American novel", which is itself illdefined and culturecentric. But since we can't seem to come up with a good definition for greatness, we're doomed to repeat this debate forever to no useful end.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 02:33 AM
to put it another way: I wont read shit.

SPMiller
11-03-2009, 02:33 AM
Good for you. Neither do I.

How 'bout them Yanks?

Judg
11-03-2009, 02:41 AM
My real point is that greatness comes about when those real talents do strive to break out of the conventions (be they genre conventions or otherwise).
This sounds really good and part of me wants to agree with it. And then I remember Johann Sebastian Bach. Unlike most of the great composers, he is not known for blazing new trails. He is known as the crowning glory of the baroque composers, the one who did it better than everybody else, to the point that music pretty well had to move on to something else. He didn't break out of the conventions, he just lifted them higher than they had ever been before. Something to meditate on.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 02:42 AM
Good for you. Neither do I.

How 'bout them Yanks?


Yankees?

KTC
11-03-2009, 02:43 AM
Incidentally, who are the AW members who are constantly trashing genre fiction? They don't seem much in evidence.

I trash it ALL the time. At home. In retaliation of my wife's trashing of Literary works. We actually insult the hell out of each other on the way home from the library every time we go. I call her stupid and she calls me pretentious. Then we pull into the Tim Hortons and grab coffees.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 02:44 AM
This sounds really good and part of me wants to agree with it. And then I remember Johann Sebastian Bach. Unlike most of the great composers, he is not known for blazing new trails. He is known as the crowning glory of the baroque composers, the one who did it better than everybody else, to the point that music pretty well had to move on to something else. He didn't break out of the conventions, he just lifted them higher than they had ever been before. Something to meditate on.

maybe 'elevate' would have been better word choice on my part then.

jennontheisland
11-03-2009, 02:57 AM
I trash it ALL the time. At home. In retaliation of my wife's trashing of Literary works. We actually insult the hell out of each other on the way home from the library every time we go. I call her stupid and she calls me pretentious. Then we pull into the Tim Hortons and grab coffees.
Dude, you were on the CBC. You gotta admit she may have a point. :tongue

*buys you a double double*

CaroGirl
11-03-2009, 03:17 AM
I trash it ALL the time. At home. In retaliation of my wife's trashing of Literary works. We actually insult the hell out of each other on the way home from the library every time we go. I call her stupid and she calls me pretentious. Then we pull into the Tim Hortons and grab coffees.
Pretentious git.

Here's a Boston Cream to go with your coffee.

KTC
11-03-2009, 03:34 AM
Pretentious git.

Here's a Boston Cream to go with your coffee.

Why, how did you know. That's exactly what I get. And she gets the spiced pumpkin of late. Gawd! Genre readers!(-;

timewaster
11-03-2009, 03:41 AM
.


My real point is that greatness comes about when those real talents do strive to break out of the conventions (be they genre conventions or otherwise).

I don't know about that.



We should encourage an environment where writers feel they can strive for greatness, even if most will fail.[/QUOTE]

I don't know what that environment would be. Every age produces great writers often without any partiuclar encouragement. I don't know that I hold much with striving for greatness actually - it seems like a nonsensical aim.

Judg
11-03-2009, 05:17 AM
I'm just striving to do the best I can. I'll let others worry about the greatness part. I honestly think I have a very long way to go to deserve that kind of label, myself, so if anybody tells me I produce an enjoyable read that made them think, I'll consider myself fulfilled.

MGraybosch
11-03-2009, 05:22 AM
I'm just striving to do the best I can. I'll let others worry about the greatness part.

I don't even care about "greatness". I knew from the start that I wasn't likely to get a Nobel Prize for Starbreaker, and I'm not going to waste time hoping for a Hugo or a Nebula, either. I'll settle for getting it published, and for people to read it and think when they're done that they got their money's worth.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 11:54 AM
but I find the reverse snobs to be more annoying, since they know that the work they are putting on a pedestal is more ordinary than special.[/QUOTE]

I think you've missed the point. 1. People who rate non literary fiction are often looking for langugae and style that serves the story. That is perfectly valid. Most writers termed 'great' are very disciplined and exclude that which doesn't enhance the book.
Genre fiction can and often does include subtext and speculation on the meaning of life, it just doesn't tend to crudely announce the fact.
In addition any book which is highly regarded tends to be deemed non genre even when it is clearly a genre book eg Margaret Attwood, Hilary Mantel etc This shifting of terminology muddies the waters and makes the views of the lit fic brigade true by shifting definitions.
2. People who rate non literary fiction tend to see 'literary fiction' as another genre in which not all proponents succeed in producing anything of particular worth. There is some confusion here between books that have literary merit and those that conform to the tropes of lit fic. I don't have much time for the latter if they are not also the former and often they aren't.

Priene
11-03-2009, 01:31 PM
I must be a member of what you call the lit fic brigade. You've got a whole legion of literary straw men marching against the genres.

On the one hand, we don't rate or read genre fiction.

On the other hand we do, and when we find an author we like, we co-opt them in LitFic. And then we somehow force everyone else to reclassify them as well.


People who rate non literary fiction tend to see 'literary fiction' as another genre in which not all proponents succeed in producing anything of particular worth.

If you're implying that LitFic readers will automatically assume that a book has worth just because it's been labelled literary, then you're way wrong.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 02:15 PM
.

I don't know what that environment would be. Every age produces great writers often without any partiuclar encouragement. I don't know that I hold much with striving for greatness actually - it seems like a nonsensical aim.


Perhaps I wasn't clear.

I'm not saying that a strive for greatness should be the only thing a writer aims for, and anything less is immoral.

There's nothing at all wrong in giving people honest, comfortable, entertainment (and that's not intended to sound derogatory, if it does).

What I'm railing against is a prevailing kind of 'soft' prejudice against those writers who do strive to elevate the novel to something greater than that.

It's rightly considered bad form for writers with more literary leanings to pour scorn on forms of writing they consider to be of 'lesser' worth. Yet the reverse seems more tolerated—almost promoted.
Maxims like 'story trumps all' seemed to have been appropriated by the militantly anti-literary fraternity as proof positive that anything beyond functional storytelling is akin to verbal masturbation.

I think this is wrong. And unhealthy. Brilliant, ambitious and original writing should be celebrated.

Priene
11-03-2009, 02:23 PM
It's rightly considered bad form for writers with more literary leanings to pour scorn on forms of writing they consider to be of 'lesser' worth. Yet the reverse seems more tolerated—almost promoted.

I wouldn't say promoted, but otherwise this is certainly true at AW. Lit fic gets brickbatted with monotonous regularity. Insults going the other way are a rarity (though I don't read the genre boards, so maybe it's all going down over there.)

timewaster
11-03-2009, 03:18 PM
Perhaps, but I do come up against the hierarchy of literature prejudice quite often as both writer and teacher. Do I have a chip on my shoulder about it? Maybe a very small one. Some people really do think that work in the 'literary ' genre is automtically better than that which attempts to tell a story. I have rarely ( actualy never) come across reverse literary snobbery in real life.

Ken
11-03-2009, 03:34 PM
... they both have their merits, and flaws, and really can't be compared to one another with the aim of saying which is better. They aim at achieving different goals. So while it may be true that literary fiction fails to do this or that in contrast to genre fiction, or vice versa, that's neither here nor there. Indeed, it's rather silly: like disparaging baseball because the players fail to score any field goals or holes in one during the games.

KTC
11-03-2009, 03:35 PM
Perhaps, but I do come up against the hierarchy of literature prejudice quite often as both writer and teacher. Do I have a chip on my shoulder about it? Maybe a very small one. Some people really do think that work in the 'literary ' genre is automtically better than that which attempts to tell a story. I have rarely ( actualy never) come across reverse literary snobbery in real life.

So, are you saying that literary does not attempt to tell a story? That sounds a bit like an insult to me.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 04:10 PM
So, are you saying that literary does not attempt to tell a story? That sounds a bit like an insult to me.

I would say that in the lit fic genre the focus is upon the style of writing and not primarily upon the story telling. Story telling is usually seen as an inferior art form - something rather cheap and obvious. Story tellers belong on the shelves of airports and the prize lists are for the purveyors of subtler, less obvious pleasures: the celebration of language, an experiment with form, the use of the narrative as a vehicle for exploration of the human condition. That is the commonest type of lit snobbery and the one to which I object. As I said I don't come across its obverse very often.

KTC
11-03-2009, 04:17 PM
I would say that in the lit fic genre the focus is upon the style of writing and not primarily upon the story telling. Story telling is usually seen as an inferior art form - something rather cheap and obvious. Story tellers belong on the shelves of airports and the prize lists are for the purveyors of subtler, less obvious pleasures: the celebration of language, an experiment with form, the use of the narrative as a vehicle for exploration of the human condition. That is the commonest type of lit snobbery and the one to which I object. As I said I don't come across its obverse very often.

Um. I write literary fiction. Story is everything. Maybe you should try reading some. You have to hold off on the insults if you want to demand more respect for your own writing. I mean, seriously. That's for shits, buddy.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 04:34 PM
Some people really do think that work in the 'literary ' genre is automtically better than that which attempts to tell a story.

I'm afraid that this is an example of the kind of 'soft' prejudice I was speaking.

I'm not sure whether you intended to, but this comes of as a thinly veiled passive aggressive dig. Stating that anything 'literary' by definition has no story is an insult to the people who write it.

Nobody would be allowed (or particularly want) to write as statement questioning why 'genre writers think they're better than those who try to write with intelligence.'

That would be utter bollocks, but I'm afraid, by the same token it's no worse than the one you just made.

ChristineR
11-03-2009, 05:15 PM
Perhaps, but I do come up against the hierarchy of literature prejudice quite often as both writer and teacher. Do I have a chip on my shoulder about it? Maybe a very small one. Some people really do think that work in the 'literary ' genre is automtically better than that which attempts to tell a story. I have rarely ( actualy never) come across reverse literary snobbery in real life.

I have found the opposite to be true. There's far more reverse snobbery than snobbery going the other direction.

If you find that literary writers are consistently defensive in your presence, please try re-reading some of the posts you've made on this thread.

Ken
11-03-2009, 05:23 PM
... though it may be valid to state that in many literary works the story isn't what's most important. The story can be a great one and as engaging as those in the best genre works, but it still isn't necessarily the main thing that holds the work together and makes it resonate. Or at least there are other aspects in the novel of near or equal importance.

CaroGirl
11-03-2009, 05:23 PM
As I said I don't come across its obverse very often.
If that's the case, I think your genre bias is what's keeping you in the dark. Either you converse only with genre readers and writers about genre work, or you don't recognize the reverse snobbery against literary novels when you hear it because you agree with it.

Also, saying literary novels don't tell a story tells me you don't read a lot of literary novels.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 05:46 PM
... they both have their merits, and flaws, and really can't be compared to one another with the aim of saying which is better. They aim at achieving different goals. So while it may be true that literary fiction fails to do this or that in contrast to genre fiction, or vice versa, that's neither here nor there. Indeed, it's rather silly: like disparaging baseball because the players fail to score any field goals or holes in one during the games.


this is right, and why i really don't like discussing things in terms of 'genre' as opposed 'literary'.

It's the old comparing apples and oranges syndrome, and any debate that purports to determine whether one is inherently better than the other is largely pointless and unedifying.

We don't do this with music. We don't debate whether jazz is better than country.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 06:27 PM
If that's the case, I think your genre bias is what's keeping you in the dark. Either you converse only with genre readers and writers about genre work, or you don't recognize the reverse snobbery against literary novels when you hear it because you agree with it.

Also, saying literary novels don't tell a story tells me you don't read a lot of literary novels.

I read fairy widely- I just don't think that story is primarily what literary writing is about. It isn't generally how it is evaluated.
I have only come across this anti literary view on line, in real life the usual hierarchies are maintained. I teach creative writing at a local uni, read UK broadsheets and the TLS and have to say that I haven't detected much change to the view that genre writing is still not quite the thing.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 07:01 PM
Um. I write literary fiction. Story is everything. Maybe you should try reading some. You have to hold off on the insults if you want to demand more respect for your own writing. I mean, seriously. That's for shits, buddy.

I'm sorry you thought I was being insulting - I wasn't. You are unusual in thinking story is everything and writing lit fic. As for respect for my own writing - I am the lowest of the low - I write YA fantasy - so I gave up expecting any respect long ago. I am quite used to being barely considered a writer at all by many lit writers. It is why I was slightly surprised by the idea that there is much snobbery running the other way. Not on my planet.

scarletpeaches
11-03-2009, 07:03 PM
I'm sorry you thought I was being insulting - I wasn't. You are unusual in thinking story is everything and writing lit fic. As for respect for my own writing - I am the lowest of the low - I write YA fantasy - so I gave up expecting any respect long ago. I am quite used to being barely considered a writer at all by many lit writers. It is why I was slightly surprised by the idea that there is much snobbery running the other way. Not on my planet.That's why you don't get any.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 07:13 PM
I'm sorry you thought I was being insulting - I wasn't. You are unusual in thinking story is everything and writing lit fic.


you're slightly changing your tune here.

what you said was that literary fiction has no story.

This is not only a cheap shot, but its nonsense.

KTC
11-03-2009, 07:35 PM
I'm sorry you thought I was being insulting - I wasn't. You are unusual in thinking story is everything and writing lit fic. As for respect for my own writing - I am the lowest of the low - I write YA fantasy - so I gave up expecting any respect long ago. I am quite used to being barely considered a writer at all by many lit writers. It is why I was slightly surprised by the idea that there is much snobbery running the other way. Not on my planet.

I write lit...but I respect all genres. I've edited fantasy and sci-fi. I could NOT write it. I'm often in awe of the writing and the story. I would never badmouth a genre. I said up thread that my wife and I tease each other about what we read...but that is just in jest. Every genre has its own difficulties. To belittle a genre is just silly. It sounds like you're belittling your own genre...by putting some preconceived biases against it forward.

For what it's worth, your post did carry an insult with it. You stated literary fiction does not care about story. You even say it here...saying that I'm unusual in thinking that literary fiction thinks that story is everything. I'm sure you will have every literary fiction writer disagreeing with you. That's why we write. To tell a story.

I don't see the snobbery toward genre fiction. I see it as being the most read/most written/most talked about fiction there is. I was in my own little bubble as a writer and as a reader before I came to AW. I had no idea sci-fi and fantasy were so huge. Now I know they're huge both here at AW and in the world at large. When I was just reading what I loved, I had blinders on. But I didn't insult the genres. I've since read quite a few different genres...I think spreading yourself throughout the genre spectrum makes you a better writer.

The Lonely One
11-03-2009, 07:37 PM
I would say that in the lit fic genre the focus is upon the style of writing and not primarily upon the story telling. Story telling is usually seen as an inferior art form - something rather cheap and obvious. Story tellers belong on the shelves of airports and the prize lists are for the purveyors of subtler, less obvious pleasures: the celebration of language, an experiment with form, the use of the narrative as a vehicle for exploration of the human condition. That is the commonest type of lit snobbery and the one to which I object. As I said I don't come across its obverse very often.

Maybe I'm reading the wrong literary writers, but this just doesn't seem accurate. Which authors, specifically are you referring to?

I know several literary writers, in fact most of those I read, who have no care for "experimentation of form" or using flowery language or whatnot.

They're telling stories, which also happen to touch on the human condition. Which all stories do. Every, single, one. I don't care if you're J.K. Rowling.

I think this viewpoint is misguided, unless perhaps I'm misguided.

I will list for example Robert Butler's "A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain."

These stories are focused on story. The language is not toss-away, but you're not reading it going, "wow, what amazing sentences!" You're immersed in beautiful stories about Vietnamese-Americans. It's brilliant storytelling, not just brilliant writing.

Brilliant writing on its own doesn't really go far. If there's nothing sustainable in the writing then it is not noteworthy.

I think literary authors aught to stop throwing stones at the actual writing of genre authors, and genre authors aught to stop these misconceptions of literary writers. The best way to do that, I think, is to read widely on your side and across the fence. We should go deep. I think sticking on the shallow surface doesn't do anyone any good.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 07:40 PM
you're slightly changing your tune here.

what you said was that literary fiction has no story.

This is not only a cheap shot, but its nonsense.

I said it wasn't the main point - I still think it isn't the main point of most of the stuff published in that sub genre - lit fic is about the writing, the language and the kind of stories tend to be more internal or relatively slight or a concerned with post modernist notions or are more experimental in form. As a lover of story I tend to read more genre - and because I am studying it, quite a lot of YA. Perhaps we are talking about different types of books who knows, but the claim that lit fic is not primarily about story is really not very radical.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 07:53 PM
I said it wasn't the main point -

no you didn't.

in the post that myself and others are taking issue with, you directly opposed literary fiction to that which tells a story. You made the assertion (albeit in a backhanded way) that the two things were mutually incompatible.

You've changed your stance subsequently, but your inability to acknowledge or retract what you did say, just enforces my suspicions it was a cheap shot that you hoped would pass under the radar.

KTC
11-03-2009, 07:59 PM
Perhaps, but I do come up against the hierarchy of literature prejudice quite often as both writer and teacher. Do I have a chip on my shoulder about it? Maybe a very small one. Some people really do think that work in the 'literary ' genre is automtically better than that which attempts to tell a story. I have rarely ( actualy never) come across reverse literary snobbery in real life.

I already hilited it in another reply...but if you don't know what you said, I've hilited it again here. You compared literary to 'that which attempts to tell a story'. This clearly says that literary does not attempt to tell a story. A preposterous notion.

HelloKiddo
11-03-2009, 08:06 PM
1. People who rate non literary fiction are often looking for langugae and style that serves the story.

What? Since when is that not the case for reviewers of literary fiction? If anything it's the case to an even larger extent with literary fiction. I don't understand what you're getting at with this comment.


Genre fiction can and often does include subtext and speculation on the meaning of life, it just doesn't tend to crudely announce the fact.

And there you have it. That was an unmistakable slap in the face to literary writers. Just...wow.

The Lonely One
11-03-2009, 08:06 PM
Liza Wieland, another literary writer, wrote a really brilliant book in recent years called "A Watch of Nightingales." I wouldn't call the plot arc relatively slight, nor would I say the movement of plot is primarily internal.

I'm sure there are examples to counterbalance mine, but it just shows there is as wide a swath of literary writers as there is any other kind.

V. Greene
11-03-2009, 08:11 PM
... the claim that lit fic is not primarily about story is really not very radical.


Maybe not at every college, but at the one where I took a few writing courses, that's exactly what the teacher said: it's not about plot, it's about character development and internal changes for the character facing a moment of crisis. How exactly that differed from plot was never clear. Coupled with "Write what you know," this fuzzy definition led to two short stories per student which contained a certain dismal similarity of angst, young characters with no life experience to speak of, and attempts to write beautifully which tended to violate real-world experience. For instance on that last, one story set mood by carefully describing reflections that wouldn't have happened. Reality of feeling was emphasized at cost to reality as it's normally defined.

Of course, the senior capstone seminar attempted to break all these preconceived notions. The assigned readings were Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, The Road, and various and sundry other interesting things including Bobbie Ann Mason. I don't know if there was a sea change in the department, or in writing instruction in general, in the intervening years, as I didn't go through the program neatly. However, it seemed a strange mode of teaching to establish a prejudice and then try to dispose of it at the end of the course. Perhaps it was just a dodge to keep the majors from constantly turning in thousand-page space operas or something.

As far as I'm concerned, the best books out right now are the genre-benders. Well-written, lots of character development, a bit of romance, a bit of something a bit unlikely just to make it interesting... Connie Willis's Doomsday Book for instance. That earlier writing teacher would dismiss it as genre fiction entirely for the time travel, as he dismissed my stories for containing a fairy (one of Shakespeare's) and a bit of not-yet-invented technology. He did appreciate them as "What counts as genre writing?" discussion starters, though. He would say that it's not that genre fiction can't be good, just that it can't be literary. I suspect he's not the only writing teacher out there saying exactly that, and it doesn't resolve the genre boundary lines or patch up the snobbery in either direction.

There's a lot of "literary fiction" out there that was written straight out of classes like his, and it's not making literary fiction any friends. The only thing worse than "I've read this before" halfway through a book from a prolific author is "I've read this before" on a work where the ink isn't dry on the first print run. Maybe it's a side effect of deciding that for academic viability a creative-writing department must teach "literary fiction" rather than such a vague thing as "good writing." Personally, I learned more from the feedback earned and given on fanfictions than I did in the first official class cited above.

FWIW, my two stories originating in that class, one fantasy and one sci-fi, get rejected by editors for not having enough story. I won't argue they're literary, but they were certainly crafted to fit what someone was calling a "literary" model. Time to do some radical rewriting on those, or bury them and stick with the actually publishable stuff.

Toothpaste
11-03-2009, 08:14 PM
I don't see the snobbery toward genre fiction. I see it as being the most read/most written/most talked about fiction there is. .

FWIW, there is. It isn't something we are just making up. Yes it is very popular, but you know the most popular genre out there? Romance. And you know the most derided? Romance. Popularity does not equal respect (hence books like Twilight - millions of fans, scathing reviews by the literary community).

Genre fiction has always and continues to be not respected in "true" literary circles. This is why Margaret Atwood is so adamant that she has never written a work of Science Fiction. She doesn't want to lose her standing within the literary community. Did you read the article I linked to? It pretty much sums up the attitude towards Science Fiction at any rate.

When you write a kind of literature where you constantly have to defend why you write it, you can get a bit sensitive. Forget being a YA author. You try being an MG author. And forget about writing MG, just try getting respect as a PB author. At least when I finally tell people my books are over 300 pages I get, "Oh so you mean like a real book."

Fact is we judge. What happens is the derided then get pissed off and start judging those who have in the past kept them out of the ivory tower (I know someone who did her masters and was constantly put down for using any genre literature as something to focus on).

Now. I actually agree with Nathan. We now live in a world where being smarter than average is "elitist". The ultimate insult to Obama was to call him such. We live in a world where anyone can be an expert, but the real experts are put down for being a know it all. Using big words is seen as being pretentious, enjoying things like opera and art museums is being a snob. Etc etc. In some black communities, people who want higher education or enjoy such things I mentioned above are mocked for behaving "white".

But just because there is reverse snobbery doesn't negate the other snobbery. We can go back and forth about what we like, and what we've experienced, but both exist.

Can we just agree that genre fiction can be literary, and literary can be entertaining and have plot (and btw, come on, literary fiction does have story, but the story is often what a character goes through emotionally - it isn't usually akin to the Dan Brown plotting. That is another thing for which genre is usually derided, for focusing more on what happens superficially than what is happening internally - you can't then turn around and get mad at someone in genre for using the literati's own words against them - be they true or not)?

CaroGirl
11-03-2009, 08:22 PM
Perhaps the most arcane literary fiction is more divorced from story than its genre counterparts. And perhaps the most pulpy genre fiction is so superficial it might blow away in a light breeze. Somehow these ends of the spectrum still get published, still receive awards (literary) and make the best-seller lists (genre). Most novels, however, fall between the extremes, and touch each other enough that drawing blurry lines between them is a futile exercise.

I enjoy reading what I feel is good work. Most of it happens to be literary, but I can still enjoy reading "the best" the other genres have to offer. It's obviously a matter of personal taste.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 08:45 PM
Now. I actually agree with Nathan. We now live in a world where being smarter than average is "elitist". The ultimate insult to Obama was to call him such. We live in a world where anyone can be an expert, but the real experts are put down for being a know it all. Using big words is seen as being pretentious, enjoying things like opera and art museums is being a snob. Etc etc. In some black communities, people who want higher education or enjoy such things I mentioned above are mocked for behaving "white".



I agreed with all of your post, but wanted to highlight this in particular.

The thing I really feel compelled to make some kind of stand (however insignificant) against is this homogenisation of culture, where the largest demographic is the only one that should be aimed for.

In so much of UK (and I'm sure US) society there has become a mindset indoctrinated in large swathes of the people that any attempt to better themselves, to become educated, sophisticated, cultured is an almost shameful act.
It's a fucking tragedy.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 08:46 PM
Yes it was rather and I apologise for that.
I do think that lit fic is more tolerant of material that does not stictly serve the story than some genre writing. I am a YA fantasy writer and I cannot digress at all from the story because my focus has to be very tight. You don't have to be so tight in lit fic ,indeed if you don't want to explore language why would you write lit fic? As for the 'crude' dig well that probably wasn't justified, I am too used to defending genre fiction fairly robustly against those who really don't see the point of it.

john barnes on toast
11-03-2009, 08:55 PM
Yes it was rather and I apologise for that.



Fair enough. I think we can move on from that point.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 08:58 PM
no you didn't.

in the post that myself and others are taking issue with, you directly opposed literary fiction to that which tells a story. You made the assertion (albeit in a backhanded way) that the two things were mutually incompatible.

You've changed your stance subsequently, but your inability to acknowledge or retract what you did say, just enforces my suspicions it was a cheap shot that you hoped would pass under the radar.

I do see a difference between those stories which are story led and those which are language led, yes. I don't think they are necessarily incompatible but there is a difference in value assigned to them and in general it is the literary which is held in the highest esteem. Lit fic is not primarily about story and genre writing is, lit fic is primarily about language and genre writing isn't. However I stand by the view that some of the best genre writing uses language as well as its literary counterparts but does not receive recognition for it. It is also true that some lit fic is strong on story.
It is fine with me if you choose to define lit fiction differently but from where I stand the distinction in publishing terms is quite clear. The slighty blurry area occurs when a known lit writer chooses to write in a genre form - they almost always deny they are writing genre because of the stigma associated with it.Generally this irritates genre writers because it suggests that any genre book which is well written can't be genre. I, on the hand, am not saying that any literary book which has a story isn't literary, merely that having a story isn't a prerequisite for being 'literary'.

The Lonely One
11-03-2009, 08:59 PM
indeed if you don't want to explore language why would you write lit fic?

That's a fair question, I think. To me, I don't divorce "language" from "story." At least in my writing. At every step of the way, if I'm using new language, I'm thinking of how this new language affects a reader's image in their head, what they're thinking of my characters or my narrator, how it alters one's perception of the story itself. I've never written pretty language in fiction just to hear myself talk. I think someone who does that is just a bad writer, period, period.

CaroGirl
11-03-2009, 09:10 PM
I am a YA fantasy writer and I cannot digress at all from the story because my focus has to be very tight. You don't have to be so tight in lit fic ,indeed if you don't want to explore language why would you write lit fic? As for the 'crude' dig well that probably wasn't justified, I am too used to defending genre fiction fairly robustly against those who really don't see the point of it.
You seem to hold up the fact you write YA fantasy as some kind of excuse for not writing "literary" novels. Again, I don't think you can make that strong a distinction in some cases. Genre and literary aren't mutually exclusive, even in your realm of writing. Of course, there's no doubt some work is for children or young people, and sometimes that becomes part of the genre, but why can't your genre cross boundaries into literary? What is Lois Lowry's work, like The Giver, or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time? If those "genre" novels don't cross into the literary realm, what does? And why shouldn't a YA fantasy writer have aspirations as high as those writers? They don't have to, of course, but they certainly can.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 09:16 PM
I don't think it is remotely shameful to become cultured educated etc, but I do think it is unhelpful to be grandiose and pretentious about it. I love opera, but I wouldn't suggest anyone who didn't was a tone deaf moron. 'High' culture carries its own baggage and in the UK is muddied by other issues.It is also inclined to confuse form with content so that for example TV was for a long while seen to be necessarily inferior to cinema which was necessarily inferior to stage drama. I don't think that is true and you have to evaluate each in its own terms.

As a writer however I would happily hit the largest demographic if I could because I am trying to make a living out of it. I want to do what I do as well as I can within the limitation imposed by my sub genre.The limitations are what makes it interesting actually. I don't want it to be other than it is.

There are such things as truly great pop songs and bad operas, brilliant crime novels and truly crap lit novels. Hierarchies of values fail to recognise excellence wherever it turns up, which is why I am very sensitive to elitist claims, and the kind of attitude which declares some things to be 'art' and the rest commerce. Life (and art) is more complicated than that.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 09:35 PM
I want to write the best YA I can. I rather dislike the term 'literary' as you may perhaps have gathered for the baggage that it brings. I just want to do what I do well. I love a 'Wrinkle in Time' ( but didn't think much of the sequels) I don't see that book as literary it was just a good book. I don't want to write a 'literary novel' because the term is usually used to apply to a subset of work that I am genuinely not interested in writing. What I am doing is not watered down lit fic for under eighteens it is a different thing with different constraints.
I love writing YA Fantasy. I don't do it because I can't do anything 'better' I do it because it necessitates that I write a certain way. My aspiration is to write fast paced, vividly written fiction with strong characters, and exciting plots which address themes and concerns which are of interest to my target age group. I want each novel to be a coherent whole with language, structure, plot all working together and with not an unecessary word or scene throughout. That is enough of an aspiration for me - I don't really care whether anyone regards it as 'literary' or not.

Priene
11-03-2009, 09:44 PM
I love writing YA Fantasy.

Fine.


I don't do it because I can't do anything 'better' I do it because it necessitates that I write a certain way.

Fine.


My aspiration is to write fast paced, vividly written fiction with strong characters, and exciting plots which address themes and concerns which are of interest to my target age group.

Fine.


I want each novel to be a coherent whole with language, structure, plot all working together and with not an unecessary word or scene throughout.

Fine.


That is enough of an aspiration for me - I don't really care whether anyone regards it as 'literary' or not.

Fine.

But you appear extremely defensive about people who do write lit fic. Mostly, we're just getting on polishing our prose and not wasting our time disparaging genre fiction.

Toothpaste
11-03-2009, 09:50 PM
Mostly, we're just getting on polishing our prose and not wasting our time disparaging genre fiction.

Untrue. You wouldn't be having such a visceral response from genre writers if they hadn't been disparaged so much in the past and present. It is quite likely that no one on this site thinks ill of genre writers. But that doesn't mean that genre writers don't have to put up with a lot of BS on a regular basis.

So let us not claim superiority when it comes to the blame game. Just as I think we should all accept all genres as having good and bad within it, and not judging others, I also believe we should understand that the current situation is fraught with prejudice on both sides.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 09:51 PM
But you appear extremely defensive about people who do write lit fic. Mostly, we're just getting on polishing our prose and not wasting our time disparaging genre fiction.[/QUOTE]

That has not been my experience in my life outside this group which is why the idea the lit fic sees itself under attack was something as a surprise.

ishtar'sgate
11-03-2009, 09:53 PM
I've never written pretty language in fiction just to hear myself talk. I think someone who does that is just a bad writer, period, period.
And that's what I've seen more of in literary fiction than genre fiction. There can be a kind of pretentious arrogance in literary fiction that I've yet to find in genre fiction. It may be there but I haven't read it.
Unfortunately, and I'm in the wrong here, I've tended to paint all literary fiction with the same brush yet literary fiction has a beauty all its own. When pretention is removed and all you see is the novel and not the hand writing it, that's a perfect reading experience.

willietheshakes
11-03-2009, 09:59 PM
That has not been my experience in my life outside this group which is why the idea the lit fic sees itself under attack was something as a surprise.

I was at WorldCon this summer -- never have a I been in a place where the very notion of literary fiction was SO reviled. The WORST insult you could lob at a writer or their work there was to refer to them as "literary".

KTC
11-03-2009, 09:59 PM
Did you ever hear the one about the snake who started to eat his own tail? His head was the hardest part to swallow.


Let's go write...however we choose to do so.

I have nothing against good writing. Nothing.

timewaster
11-03-2009, 10:00 PM
I already hilited it in another reply...but if you don't know what you said, I've hilited it again here. You compared literary to 'that which attempts to tell a story'. This clearly says that literary does not attempt to tell a story. A preposterous notion.

I had to read that twice. I get it now hilited = high lighted. Not obvious to a Brit.

KTC
11-03-2009, 10:01 PM
I had to read that twice. I get it now hilited = high lighted. Not obvious to a Brit.

my marker is a Hi-Liter.

CaroGirl
11-03-2009, 10:14 PM
I was at WorldCon this summer -- never have a I been in a place where the very notion of literary fiction was SO reviled. The WORST insult you could lob at a writer or their work there was to refer to them as "literary".
To me, that's as ridiculous as Margaret Atwood having a bloody conniption every time someone calls Oryx and Crake "science fiction."

willietheshakes
11-03-2009, 10:30 PM
To me, that's as ridiculous as Margaret Atwood having a bloody conniption every time someone calls Oryx and Crake "science fiction."

Well, and look at the hullaballoo when Stephen King won the National Book Award -- the decision was savaged from both sides (and King added to it with his acceptance speech).

I think, in many cases, it comes from a sense of inadequacy on both sides. Literary fiction is seen -- for good or ill -- as more "respectable" (largely overlooking the fact that the canon is filled with the genre writing and popular novels of their day), so a segment of genre writers feel that they're not up to snuff in some way, which creates defensiveness and lashing out.

At the same time, though, I think a lot of those "respectable" literary writers feel inadequate looking at the sales and recognition of the genre writers. Don Delillo, for example, would be unrecognizable to 95% of the reading public in a police line-up, whereas King and Grisham have trouble going out on the street without drawing a crowd. And that inadequacy causes its own defensiveness, lashing out, charges of pandering, that sort of thing.

Note the caveats -- "a segment of", "lots of". A lot writers, I know, don't give a shit -- they just want to be read.

And some of us ignore genre issues and expectations altogether.

The Lonely One
11-03-2009, 10:39 PM
If you guys and gals want to see a variety of very different writers, visit the Literary SYW forum. C'mon, we're not all trying to flourish our way out of a paper bag. Like someone else said upstream, our business is writing. Let the critics figure out what's good ("critics" read: sarcasm).

willietheshakes
11-03-2009, 10:44 PM
Let the critics figure out what's good ("critics" read: sarcasm).

I'm not going to make a big deal out of it, because (a) there's some little validity to it and (b) that's a whole nother thread, but the blanket lambasting of "critics" is really starting to piss me off.

HelloKiddo
11-03-2009, 11:57 PM
It's understood that some people here are defensive because they feel that we live in a culture that looks down on genre writers. That might be true of a certain segment of the population, but don't get in your head the idea that literary writers aren't subject to abuse too. We all feel the prejudices that are aimed at us more than we feel those aimed at others. Just because it seems that way from where we stand doesn't mean it is that way.

When I wrote my first story it was about a young woman who kills herself, and when I was discussing it elsewhere on the internet (not here) somebody said something like "Oooh, a story about a girl who kills herself. Deep. You're really deep."

Gee, thanks.

I hear that kind of crap about literary writers all the time; they get made fun of because their their books are "boring" and "trying too hard to be deep and philosophical." It's offensive. It's every bit as offensive as being told your book is stupid just because it's genre fiction.

I think Toothpaste is right. We should remember that both literary and genre books have their strengths and weaknesses, both have something to offer. I didn't hear anybody on this thread putting down genre writers, and attacking literary writers because of an imaginary slight is just looking for trouble.

KTC
11-04-2009, 12:19 AM
I look forward to reading critic reviews of books. I don't write them and it STILL pisses me off when people belittle critics carte blanche.

SPMiller
11-04-2009, 03:55 AM
Well, KTC, critics have said some pretty fucking inflammatory things. For example, try this review of Oryx and Crake (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/books/present-at-the-re-creation.html) by Birkerts. First paragraph follows:


I AM going to stick my neck out and just say it: science fiction will never be Literature with a capital ''L,'' and this is because it inevitably proceeds from premise rather than character. It sacrifices moral and psychological nuance in favor of more conceptual matters, and elevates scenario over sensibility. Some will ask, of course, whether there still is such a thing as ''Literature with a capital 'L.' '' I proceed on the faith that there is. Are there exceptions to my categorical pronouncement? Probably, but I don't think enough of them to overturn it.There is no way to read this except as a broad denouncement of science fiction as a genre. He even goes so far as to dismiss any possible exceptions to his denouncement. No writer would respond well to this sort of treatment from the establishment, because contrary to some claims I've read, most writers really do long for acceptance. We're social creatures.

And if you'd like more real-world examples, I can oblige.

willietheshakes
11-04-2009, 03:58 AM
Well, KTC, critics have said some pretty fucking inflammatory things. For example, try this review of Oryx and Crake (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/books/present-at-the-re-creation.html) by Birkerts. First paragraph follows:


I AM going to stick my neck out and just say it: science fiction will never be Literature with a capital ''L,'' and this is because it inevitably proceeds from premise rather than character. It sacrifices moral and psychological nuance in favor of more conceptual matters, and elevates scenario over sensibility. Some will ask, of course, whether there still is such a thing as ''Literature with a capital 'L.' '' I proceed on the faith that there is. Are there exceptions to my categorical pronouncement? Probably, but I don't think enough of them to overturn it.There is no way to read this except as a broad denouncement of science fiction as a genre.

If you'd like more examples from real-world reviewers, I can oblige.

Did you miss the "carte blanche" in KTC's post, and the "blanket" in mine?

Nobody's arguing that there aren't some critics who are twats. But I like to think there are some good ones, who approach each work on its own terms and evaluates each on its own merits.

What do I know, though.

SPMiller
11-04-2009, 04:00 AM
Did you miss the "carte blanche" in KTC's post, and the "blanket" in mine?

Nobody's arguing that there aren't some critics who are twats. But I like to think there are some good ones, who approach each work on its own terms and evaluates each on its own merits.

What do I know, though.Your argument seems to be that this issue isn't systemic and is instead supposedly the result of a few bad apples. I don't agree.

willietheshakes
11-04-2009, 04:04 AM
Your argument seems to be that this issue isn't systemic and is instead supposedly the result of a few bad apples. I don't agree.

No, my argument is that you're making sweeping generalizations and tarring ALL critics with the same brush.

MGraybosch
11-04-2009, 04:05 AM
There is no way to read this except as a broad denouncement of science fiction as a genre.

I read it as, "This guy, Birkirts, has the trunk of a fully-grown California redwood jammed up his ass".

ChristineR
11-04-2009, 04:19 AM
Well, KTC, critics have said some pretty fucking inflammatory things. For example, try this review of Oryx and Crake (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/books/present-at-the-re-creation.html) by Birkerts. First paragraph follows:

I AM going to stick my neck out and just say it: science fiction will never be Literature with a capital ''L,'' and this is because it inevitably proceeds from premise rather than character. It sacrifices moral and psychological nuance in favor of more conceptual matters, and elevates scenario over sensibility. Some will ask, of course, whether there still is such a thing as ''Literature with a capital 'L.' '' I proceed on the faith that there is. Are there exceptions to my categorical pronouncement? Probably, but I don't think enough of them to overturn it.There is no way to read this except as a broad denouncement of science fiction as a genre. He even goes so far as to dismiss any possible exceptions to his denouncement. No writer would respond well to this sort of treatment from the establishment, because contrary to some claims I've read, most writers really do long for acceptance. We're social creatures.

And if you'd like more real-world examples, I can oblige.

That was a terrible review--I don't mean that he didn't like the book, I mean it was terribly written. Two-thirds of it was summarizing (ruining) the plot, while he seems to have missed a huge point, which is that the narrator is wildly unreliable, sick, and drunk, and that on many important points, he appears to be outright wrong.

As far as moral and psychological nuance being at the service of conceptual matters, and scenario vs. sensibility, that's a problem that is found in "real life" tales as well.

SPMiller
11-04-2009, 04:56 AM
No, my argument is that you're making sweeping generalizations and tarring ALL critics with the same brush.You have clearly confused me for someone else. I never used the word all. I merely posit the existence of a culture of discrimination, which as we have seen elsewhere doesn't require the complicity of every person in a population.


That was a terrible review--I don't mean that he didn't like the book, I mean it was terribly written.The quality of the review (or lack thereof) is, IMO, beside the point. The man is a critic, and he wrote what I posted. That's all.

willietheshakes
11-04-2009, 05:19 AM
You have clearly confused me for someone else. I never used the word all. I merely posit the existence of a culture of discrimination, which as we have seen elsewhere doesn't require the complicity of every person in a population.

I understand the desire to have it both ways, but your inveigling against "critics" (not "some" critics. Not some "misinformed or prejudiced" critics, just critics in general), isn't much different from Birkerts' "categorical pronouncement"s about the genre -- "Are there exceptions to my categorical pronouncement? Probably, but I don't think enough of them to overturn it."

If you're comfortable arguing against a mindset by adopting that mindset yourself, okay. That's fine by me.

SPMiller
11-04-2009, 05:29 AM
No.

The Lonely One
11-04-2009, 07:11 AM
Okay, jesus, the actual point of my most recent post was totally glossed over, which pisses ME off. I was trying to promote the fine literary writers at AW, and how there is such a wide variety of styles (language/subjects/etc.). It's representative of how writers in any genre vary, so stereotyping them is basically ridiculous and a waste of writing time/energy.

My little snidery about critics referred to those critics which end up making us discuss this literary/genre bullshit over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Who gives a shit about the distinction of genre, seriously? Why don't we, I don't know, write? There's snobbery all over the writing community, clearly. So let's just move on. I don't hate all critics, or genre writers. I don't even know any besides you people. I just think this distinction between which is better--which is, I take it back, a reader's job--is plain stupid.

If some people read literary, and some read genre, hooray! We all still have jobs.

blacbird
11-04-2009, 10:49 AM
If some people read literary, and some read genre, hooray!

And many people here read both, and multiple genres of genre novels, to boot.

caw

Exir
11-04-2009, 11:26 AM
And I don't even care if it is genre or literary or whatever. Good story = me happy. Bad story = me unhappy.

aruna
11-04-2009, 12:07 PM
I get rejected by some agents/publishers for not being commercial enough, by others for not being literary enough. For the same book. What's a girl to do?

KTC
11-04-2009, 02:16 PM
Well, KTC, critics have said some pretty fucking inflammatory things. For example, try this review of Oryx and Crake (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/18/books/present-at-the-re-creation.html) by Birkerts. First paragraph follows:

I AM going to stick my neck out and just say it: science fiction will never be Literature with a capital ''L,'' and this is because it inevitably proceeds from premise rather than character. It sacrifices moral and psychological nuance in favor of more conceptual matters, and elevates scenario over sensibility. Some will ask, of course, whether there still is such a thing as ''Literature with a capital 'L.' '' I proceed on the faith that there is. Are there exceptions to my categorical pronouncement? Probably, but I don't think enough of them to overturn it.There is no way to read this except as a broad denouncement of science fiction as a genre. He even goes so far as to dismiss any possible exceptions to his denouncement. No writer would respond well to this sort of treatment from the establishment, because contrary to some claims I've read, most writers really do long for acceptance. We're social creatures.

And if you'd like more real-world examples, I can oblige.

Well, SPMiller, you can't lump every critic into the same group. A broad sweeping brushstroke is always a dumb thing. It makes for shitty art. Like I said, I enjoy reading the critics takes on new releases. But you do your thing, man...however narrow-minded that thing is.

Lady Ice
11-04-2009, 10:59 PM
:) I'd love to have a job as a film/theatre/literary critic. Critic hate is natural- us writers are delicate creatures ;) If you pour your heart into something and then someone belittles it, of course you're going to be angry.

The easiest attack of a critic is that they are a bitter failed writer, which may be true. But think of X Factor- does Simon Cowell sing? No. Does he know what he's talking about? Most definitely. Critics can see the flaws in your work where you can't.

As for the sci-fi review, I understand what he's saying- that by definition sci-fi is more concerned with technology/other worlds/premise than with character or political/moral/whatever insight- but that is by definition. Criticising a genre is fine but criticising every work that might be put in that genre- unfair seeing as even if your novel contains just a little bit of sci-fi, off it goes into the sci-fi section for fans to pour over and everyone else to avoid.

Delhomeboy
11-05-2009, 01:54 AM
I get rejected by some agents/publishers for not being commercial enough, by others for not being literary enough. For the same book. What's a girl to do?

Hell, I'm still not even sure what commercial fiction IS.