China Miéville and Lit’ ri ‘cha

Ursula Le Guin has written and interesting review of China Miéville’s latest book in The Guardian.  I was amused by the section where she writes

“Some authors fill a novel with futuristic scenery and jargon and then strenuously, even stertorously, deny that it’s science fiction. No, no, they don’t write that nasty stuff, never touch it. They write literature. Though curiously familiar with the tropes and conventions of the despised genre, they so blithely ignore the meaning of terms, they reinvent the wheel with such cries of self-admiration, that their endeavours seem a doomed effort to prove that one can write a novel without learning how.”

(she isn’t referring to China, there, by the way).  More amusing, though, was the speed with which the comments on the article went straight to arguing about whether Miéville thinks he is a “literary” author or not.  The whole argument of literary versus genre strikes me as a bit odd.  I can understand differentiating for marketing purposes, but the way some others cling to a very fuzzy distinction strikes me as a bit desperate at times.

I like taxonomies as much as the next person and more than most, but they don’t always work.  More importantly, why bother?  If you need to figure out where to shelve it, I suppose, but otherwise, it’s just a filtering mechanism at best, and a really crude one.

~ by smwilliams on July 21, 2011.

2 Responses to “China Miéville and Lit’ ri ‘cha”

  1. I’m the first person whose hackles go up when people start talking about how much harder literary fiction is to write compared to genre fiction, so I suppose I should keep my mouth shut. It doesn’t matter to me though. If I ever managed to get published, they can shelve the books wherever they want.

  2. I guess another aspect to it is that it can drive publishers and agents crazy when authors bounce around between genres, just because of that pesky shelving thing (I think Dan Simmons had issues with this), to say nothing of “literary” vs. “genre” in general. I don’t know why readers feel they need to buy into it so enthusiastically, though (actually, I have an opinion about that, but it might seem mean).

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