Tuesday Hangovers

*Mentioning Twilight was a misstep, because it muddies the point he's trying to make in a way that pointing to The Hunger Games doesn't. Twilight demonstrates the ability of women and girls to fuel a major blockbuster, whereas The Hunger Games and Harry Potter don't break down so cleanly along gender lines and get more to the heart of people's hunger for good storytelling. (Yes, I know there are boys who've read Twilight**, but I don't think we'd argue they are the reason it's so huge.)

**In our long lost gaming group, one of the younger, single guys told us once that he loved Twilight. We all looked at him and ::boggled:: Then he explained that before it came along being a quiet guy who wears a lot of black didn't get him nearly as much attention from the ladies.

7 thoughts on “Tuesday Hangovers”

  1. I agree with you that Twilight was a bad example, and that Hunger Games and Harry Potter work better for his argument. The Golden Compass also had strong crossover readership.
    And I suppose the F/SF controversy stems from a “we’re *already* writing literary genre fiction, thank you very much” angle? I haven’t read any of the complaints, so I don’t know–but I can guess. I know some F/SF authors bristle when people say authors like Chabon and Gaiman are dragging their genre into the literary mainstream, but I don’t think Grossman’s saying that F/SF *wasn’t* literary to start with. It’s just that authors like Chabon and Gaiman are drawing new fans from the formerly prejudicial “literary fiction” readership.
    The shelving of authors like Vonnegut and Atwood in the fiction section, and not the F/SF section, has been a longstanding bone of contention in the F/SF community. Vonnegut argued–and Atwood still does–that they don’t write F/SF. Why? Obviously, so they would be taken more seriously by the literati. But perhaps now, if “genre” isn’t such a bad word anymore, authors won’t have to pretentiously segregate themselves to earn widespread literary acclaim outside their field.
    As you said, Gwenda, smile and be assimilated. 🙂

  2. Gwenda, can you point to some of the criticism of the Grossman article? I know that I hated the article because it was simplistic and wrong, not because the sentiment behind it was something I disagree with. The contemporary “literary” novel isn’t boring because it’s difficult, it’s difficult because it’s boring. Lit fic writers aren’t really using the modernist arsenal anymore. It’s been done. They’re just telling the same, boring, urban professional epiphany story (and yes, it’s a genre) over and over. These books are very easy to read, they’re just hard to finish because they’re so deathly dull.
    And his whole thing about Cormac McCarthy? Hello? Since when wasn’t western a genre? McCarthy’s whole career has been about literarifying genre; that’s why he’s both feted and popular. With THE ROAD he just switched genres.
    Grumble grumble … sorry to take this out on you, but I would have had to register to comment on the wsj article.

  3. That doesn’t seem to be the starting point for most of the hand-wringing I’m seeing, and frankly I think a lot of it comes from bringing up an at least semi-academic topic–the effect of modernism on the contemporary novel–in a format not suited to that discussion, an unfortunate headline and some muddying of the waters with the choice of not-quite-there examples; Meyer, as I pointed out, and McCarthy, as you did. I’m not convinced many of the examples are well-chosen for the argument being made, actually.
    I should add that I’m sympathetic to the overall thesis in a way some aren’t–Philip Pullman has said many similar things about modernism and the loss of the omniscient narrator and the exile of storytelling–which Grossman here calls plot–to the genres and children’s literature. And I agreed with them and quoted him heavily in my thesis on omniscient in YA, and I can’t remember anyone freaking out about it when he said it. I actually think a lot of the boringness you’re talking about _can_ be traced back to the impact of minimalism, which grew out of modernism here. You see these things happening a lot less in, say, Australia, which was less directly impacted by modernism. So much so that there’s very little written about it except to mention the lack of impact. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that YA writers from Australia use omniscient tons more than American ones do–though that’s starting to shift now, thankfully, as the omniscient comes back into literary fashion, not coincidentally I’d argue with the shift back to classical story shape that Grossman argues is happening. A lot of the frustration people have with the piece, of course, comes from the feeling that we all always knew genre could be literary and was and still is (and that there’s other stuff that qualifies as well–some of it even hard!).
    Anyway, I suggest Matt Cheney and Jeff VanderMeer’s negative responses as the most compelling that I’ve seen, and Alan–who commented above–for a more positive one. I just can’t get too upset over the piece; I’ve read more offensive bits of thinking and writing this week alone.
    (Um, and none of that above should be taken as a bashing of modernism, or an implication that it’s an easy period to sum up in one line. Clearly, it brought a lot of things to the novel too, and many of them are interestingly at odds with one another.)

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