Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Love to hate

Recently, my favorite listserve has been going on something of a bender. I missed the original post/question that sparked the fire, but the resultant damage is wide ranging, and it all has to do with literary vs. genre fiction or, perhaps more accurately, bestsellers being the shit-novels we love -- or, in this case, what we love to hate.

I'm certain you can think of at least one bestselling novel that you think is absolutely abysmally written. For me, I immediately think of ... well, that wouldn't be prudent to name. But needless to say, there are novels which I wouldn't put on my list of "shit novels I love to hate which are bestsellers" which other people proclaim need The Top Spot on said list.

And then somewhere along the line the conversation devolved into people arguing for the need for literary merit within the world of genre, and those arguing that pleasure reading needs no other merit than pleasure itself and ... holy cow, you know what? I stopped paying attention the first time the phrase "literary vs. genre" was thrown around.

When it comes to people debating "literary vs. genre," I will not tell anyone to get the hell over it because it took me a really freaking long time to get the hell over it.  Being a lover of fantasy and sci fi and romance who was actively engaged in an MFA and desperately trying to hide her genre-identity from the community like a gay teen in small town Texas, probably didn't help.

But let me say this: life has completely changed since I've gotten the hell over it.

It's like arriving in nirvana. I know that no matter what I do, someone is going to thumb their nose at me, probably because they're ignorant of the other side of "literary vs. genre." And I really don't give a fuck, a flying fuck, or a flying fuck shot out of a cannon.*

And, if I'm to follow my father's theory of life: If you're not pissing someone off, then you're not doing something right.

The whole debate isn't actually about writing (I say); it's about attitude. If your attitude is that writers have an audience that they need to appease, then you come from one mindset.  And if your attitude is that a writer has peers that should be appeased and impressed, then you come from another mindset.  Realize which you are, and accept that or change it -- either will do so long as your happy with the end results.

I no longer fume when I think of my MFA peers, nor do I brood when I think of how my genre work will be received by them.  Nor do I write "literary realism" and think about its merit vs its financial unsubstantiality. I do what I want because I want to do it. I've also come to realize that the biggest bestest literary markets will publish genre work if you coat it in chocolate, and the same goes for genre markets. If you mash the beets into chocolate cake, no one knows that they're eating vegetables for dessert.

And so I will once again not tell anyone to get the hell over it, I will merely recommend the health benefits, mental and physical, to letting it be and following what you love regardless of opinions. And that in not making your own opinion widely known on the "vs" debate (ahem, attempting to trump other opinions with your own), you save yourself a lot of stress and a lot of wear on your treads.

*Kelly Link story reference = 10 points for making reference, 100 points for identifying Kelly Link story to which "flying fuck shot out of a cannon" refers.  And another 10 points for choosing an author who is championed by both literary types and genre types without the other types actually knowing that she's being championed.  But I'm certain Link knows, and that she's quietly smiling and enjoying a glass of wine while everyone else runs up their blood pressure.
Image credit: Skley on flickr

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