“Fiction has become culturally irrelevant,” says Lee Seigel over at the New York Observer. I am sure he was weeping into an Hermes handkerchief as he typed. Culturally irrelevant? Really? Pretty sure the Twilight franchise is one of the only things keeping beleaguered Hollywood afloat. Pretty sure J.K. Rowling is one of only 14 women billionaires in the world that made her own fortune rather than inheriting it.
Oh, I forgot. Money is crass.
Except it’s also the yardstick by which our culture measures value.
You’re searching for the next Hemingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald? Honey, you are looking in the wrong place. There are so many things a newly written literary novel cannot have to be considered literary, there’s nothing left to talk about but the same old dusty crap. Experimentation is not encouraged, and you know it. You want to find Hemingway? Hemingway wrote boy’s adventure stories. In sparse, amazing prose, yes. Faulker? Faulkner wrote AS I LAY DYING, FOR CHRISSAKE. Whassup, narrating dead woman? Fitzgerald, that’s the best of all. Rich people behaving badly. Novels built on the stuff of tabloids. (You know what, you can keep him. I hate The Great Gatsby and I don’t care who knows it.)
It’s all genre. Genre is the place where writers are mischievous. It is the home of dissent, of experimentation, of Weird. But you literary fiction types are so stubborn in your pigheaded anti-mischief you refuse to acknowledge what would save you. For the love of God, take your honed sentences, your radiant imagery, your soul-shaking themes, and wrap them around a plot. But no. Apparently Narrative NonFiction is the Great White Hope. We’d rather go with nonfiction, than touch that smelly, cheap genre work that earns fistfuls of money and garners adoring fans. No, keep the bloodline pure! Nominate Narrative Nonfiction instead!
Here’s the problem, chief, what made “Iphigenia in Forest Hills” the talk of the town wasn’t that it was nonfiction. It was that it was a thriller about a woman accused of hiring a hit man to kill her husband.
You wondered over the fates of the characters. You wanted to know what happened next.
You’re blinkered, lit fic. You’re blinkered and your attitude alienates readers like me. I spend hundreds of dollars on books a year. I will talk about books to anyone who will seems remotely interested. But I don’t champion you, because you don’t care about me, the reader.
Genre Fiction is the Future, is the Now, and has been the Last Ten Years, At Least. Anyone who says otherwise is being willfully blind.