|Artist: Norman Rockwell
The old genre vs. literary fiction debate is like a zombie that doesn’t know it’s dead. Like most political debate these days, it amounts to little more than people taking pot shots at each other. And for someone like me on the sidelines, I find neither argument persuasive or even interesting.
Arthur Krystal in a recent New Yorker has once again tried to pump life into the ongoing discourse. To clarify what makes genre a lesser form of fiction, he says simply that it’s “commercial.” And he draws an analogy to Christmas. Genre is like getting presents from Santa, while Literary is more like going to church. Fun vs. worship.
The problem with this kind of either-or thinking is exactly that. The pleasures of the text do not exist chiefly on one side of that false dilemma or the other. And more to the point, I think, they are best measured under the skin, not somewhere outside it.
You may find me carousing on Saturday night and fervently pious on a Sunday morning, but I’m not going to give up one for the other. So enough with the arguments, OK?