That's Where the Party IsSeptember 1, 2010
Good morning! After this evening, I'm going OFFLINE. (I know -- what lurks out there in that wasteland? I have no idea. It's been a really long time, and I'm looking forward to it.) So if you need me, send up a flare or call one of my sisters, because I'll be camping, without even so much as a single bar of cell reception. (Attention burglars: We have a fantastic petsitter who isn't scared of anything, and our pit bull Clementine doesn't like intruders. That said, the tomatoes are finally getting ripe -- please don't enter the house (as stated, Clemmy won't appreciate it), but if you take a tomato or two, no one will mind.)
(Wait. On second thought, don't take the tomatoes. I've only had four.)
While I'm gone, I'm posting this great bit on genre vs. literary fiction. It's a battle I still fight within myself, because I'm trained in the literary tradition -- I feel like I know what it's supposed to look like, taste like. However, my tastes (and my writing style) run right to genre and plop down crosslegged, pulling out the knitting and staying a while. So when Jenny Crusie gabs with Jennifer Weiner about genre and Franzen's new book (which I don't think I'm going to read, but feel free to try to change my mind), I listen. (I LOVE Crusie's writing workshops. Oh, but had I attended something like that in grad school. Seriously. My mind would have BLOWN. She is good at craft.)
Excerpted from the excellent and much longer blog HERE:
Have you been following the controversy over the praise and attention lavished on Jonathan Franzen for his new novel, FREEDOM? Are you planning on reading the book? Do you think there’s a difference between the way women’s stories and men’s stories are perceived, and reviewed? Do you think things are getting better?
I’ve had my knife out for Franzen ever since he dissed Oprah viewers as Not His Kind, so no, I won’t be reading his book since he made it very clear he didn’t want me (“Hi, I’m from the Midwest, I’m female, and I wear a lot of knits!”). I haven’t read the reviews, but didn’t somebody call it the best book of the twenty-first century? Making the next ninety years irrelevant? That’s fanboy stuff—“BEST BOOK EVAH!”—so I’m not paying much attention, but it appears to be part and parcel of the whole Literary Group Think, something I got more than my share of doing an MFA in fiction. One of my profs said, “Jenny, you write so well. Have you ever thought about writing literature?” I said, “No,” because it was easier than explaining that literary fiction is just another genre, not God’s Library. The people who say, “I write for the canon” have forgotten or never knew that the canon doesn’t read. People read. Fiction is not beautiful writing although that’s wonderful; fiction is storytelling. It’s putting narrative on the page that moves and transforms people, and because there are many, many different kinds of people in the world, there are many, many different kinds of fiction. There’s nothing wrong with The Literary Group—they know what they like when they read it—until they start insisting that what they like is what everybody should like, and refusing to teach anything but literary fiction in creative writing programs and refusing to review anything but their definition of literary fiction in their publications. That’s a mistake: I think they’ve marginalized themselves and are becoming more and more irrelevant. Jon Stewart sells more books than a rave review in the NYT. Nora Roberts and Stephen King reach more people than Franzen ever will. There’s the real world full of a multitude of readers with a multiplicity of reading tastes, and it’s thriving and alive and interacting on the net, changing and growing and exciting because of its fluidity and passion, and then there’s the New York Times Book Review which is born ceaselessly back into the past by the literary version of the Tea Party who keep moaning that they want their America back, oblivious to the fact that their exclusive white, male America died with Gatsby. I’m much happier being part of the “All right then, I’ll go to hell” bunch. That’s where the party is.
* Rachael, back again. I agree with all of this, wholeheartedly. However, there's a subsection of writers she doesn't mention, and that's the one into which Cari Luna fits (along with others, I'm sure) -- Cari writes gorgeous literary fiction and still appreciates moderately-well-written genre fiction (into which category I hope I fit). Yep. (And then there are the readers who gobble up both literary and genre fiction -- me again -- and and and...)
Anyway. Food for thought. Offline soon, and have a good Labor Day Weekend!