Between The New Yorker's Arthur Krystal and Time's Lev Grossman, the discussion as to what comprises genre literature versus literature literature is hot this week. Everyone's looking for a rubric, and here's mine. The difference is pop.Read the whole thing. Readers with strongly held opinions on matters of genre (and that includes most of us here, doesn't it?) will likely find plenty to disagree with in Britt's piece. Yet I find his analysis of popular elements in literary and genre fiction interesting, to say the least. Do "big metaphors and crazy worlds in which a reader can lose themselves" prove "inviting and calming to a reader (or audience) in a way that kitchen sink drama isn't"? Well, they certainly do for me, although I bet folks who like to curl up with a copy of Dostoevsky might feel differently. Can we honestly say that, in literary fiction, "what happens in the story isn't as important as the emotional take away one gets from the story." Yeah, that one seems pretty spot-on. Give the article a read; it'll get your mind humming.
Pop is Fantasy. Pop is Science Fiction. And the future of literature is pop, because it always has been. ...
Being dull is the greatest crime any work of literature can commit. We may consider it a slog to get through Ulysses now, but Joyce was mixing it up with that novel in ways no one had ever thought about before. By employing the bizarre format he does, Joyce was implementing a pop choice, not unlike a science fiction or fantasy writer would do. To put it in pejorative terms: Joyce found a gimmick or an angle. Now, I would venture to guess at least half of the new generation of writers between 25 and 40 years old don't sit down and try to come up with a gimmick or angle. But the other half do. What's the crime in coming up with a high-concept before the story itself? What's wrong with wanting to not necessarily have something be character-based, but instead be concept-based?
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