What’s Your Genre, Bubba? “A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate” from the New Yorker

book-genre

 

Everybody (readers, writers, Amazon) thinks they know what genres are, but do they really–today?

[EXCERPT from this fascinating article]

It’s hard to talk in a clear-headed way about genre. Almost everyone can agree that, over the past few years, the rise of the young-adult genre has highlighted a big change in book culture. For reasons that aren’t fully explicable (Netflix? Tumblr? Kindles? Postmodernism?), it’s no longer taken for granted that important novels must be, in some sense, above, beyond, or “meta” about their genre. A process of genrefication is occurring.

That’s where the agreement ends, however. If anything, a divide has opened up. The old guard looks down on genre fiction with indifference; the new arrivals—the genrefiers—are eager to change the neighborhood, seeing in genre a revitalizing force. Partisans argue about the relative merits of “literary fiction” and “genre fiction.” (In 2012, Arthur Krystal, writing in this magazine, argued for literary fiction’s superiority; he fielded a pro-genre-fiction riposte from Lev Grossman, in Time.) And yet confusion reigns in this debate, which feels strangely vague and misformulated. It remains unclear exactly what the terms “literary fiction” and “genre fiction” mean. A book like “Station Eleven” is both a literary novel and a genre novel; the same goes for “Jane Eyre” and “Crime and Punishment.” How can two contrasting categories overlap so much? Genres themselves fall into genres: there are period genres (Victorian literature), subject genres (detective fiction), form genres (the short story), style genres (minimalism), market genres (“chick-lit”), mode genres (satire), and so on. How are different kinds of genres supposed to be compared? (“Literary fiction” and “genre fiction,” one senses, aren’t really comparable categories.) What is it, exactly, about genre that is unliterary—and what is it in “the literary” that resists genre? The debate goes round and round, magnetic and circular—a lovers’ quarrel among literati.

***

To a degree, the problem is that genre is inherently confusing and complex. But history confuses things, too. The distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction is neither contemporary nor ageless. It’s the product of modernism, and it bears the stamp of a unique time in literary history. ….

READ THE REST here A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate from the New Yorker

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger.
This entry was posted in Literature, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s