Genre prejudice

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Wed Jul 16 12:34:06 EDT 2003


>Other than a working definition of literary fiction as 'something boring 
>which most people can't understand that has no plot and is relevant to 
>about 50 literary snobs world-wide', which doesn't seem too valuable, I'm 
>kind of stuck.  Booker Prize winners 'should' qualify, right?  But the few 
>on the list that I've read are about as unlike the things I'd expect from 
>Wolverton's article as possible.  Similarly with other big, important 
>literary prizes.  And again, I'm not looking for a debate on the merits of 
>any of these prizes, just attempting to consider characteristics of novels 
>which one would assume are likely to be accepted by 'highbrow' literary 
>types as literary fiction.  Mind you, I'd imagine there was some muttering 
>when _Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha_ won.

This was one of the problems I had with the article. Wolverton appears to 
be saying all literary fiction fits his definition. But as Hallie points 
out, there are lots of novels which are acclaimed as literary which clearly 
do not fit his definition. I think the definition is very narrow. There are 
certainly books that fit it, but many more that don't.

>Sorry, Robyn, I'm not so clear on Margaret Atwood: do you mean that she's 
>harder to defend as not fitting with the broad theory (Wolverton's, 
>right?), or harder to keep within the category of literary fiction because 
>of her usual speculative fiction classification?  I've just finished my 
>first Atwood, and was really interested to hear before reading it, that a 
>(late) New Yorker editor thought she was wonderful.   The combination 
>seemed  more than a little unlikely in light of Wolverton's article.

Yes, sorry, I meant that a lot of Atwood's work did fit Wolverton's 
definition (no doubt this is the source of the praise from the New Yorker). 
The speculative works are perhaps less likely to do so, but I was thinking 
specifically of The Blind Assassin and some of the short stories when I 
made the comment. I haven't yet read the newest one, which is supposedly 
another speculative book.

Robyn 
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