Sunday, October 27, 2013

Genre v. "Literary"

My wife mentioned to me this morning that someone did a study somewhere that proved people who read literary fiction were more empathetic than readers of genre fiction.

This study proves a number of things.

1. Researchers have completely run out of pressing matters about which to research.

2. There are people out there who believe that empathy is a testable thing, and that empathy reveals itself in fixed ways. They believe that empathy is simple, and a quick test reveals universal truths about people.

3. There are people out there who believe that literary fiction is not a genre itself. They believe that if a story has an enigmatic ending with a character who may or may not have grown and is meant to reveal complex human truths it somehow resists the rules that define what genre is. As though this is not a rule in and of itself.

4. There are people who believe that all genre books are the same.

5. There are people who believe that if a book is written for a particular group and that group isn’t who they think are the important people, then that book is less good. They believe that a book written specifically for women is less good than one that is not. They believe that a book written for a thirteen year old boy is less good than one that is not.

6. There are people who think that romance novels, while escapist, are not capable of teaching empathy. They believe this of horror, scifi, and mystery too along with a large group of other genres.

7. There are people who think that escapism is a bad thing and that literary fiction does not include elements of that.

Don’t get me wrong. I write literary fiction too, and the main focus of my career has been poetry although I’m trying to jump to crime now. These kinds of proclamations annoy me to no end. What kind of thing are those researchers trying to prove? What could their goal possibly be?

4 comments:

  1. This actually takes the pressure off that accompanies wanting to write a Pulitzer! You have given me permission, John, to relieve this stress and not be concerned with fitting into a specific genre mold. Phew!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Verrrrry interesting observations, and an excellent question at the end. Thanks for sharing that. : )
      Marja McGraw

      Delete
  2. I can answer that question... It's about maintaining hierarchies. All genre fiction is 'trash', and lit fic is 'serious writing, worthy of study'. I also write across genres, including literary. I feel your exasperation.

    ReplyDelete