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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.173.165.221
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 11:30 am:   

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/12/genre-versus-literary-fiction-edward -docx

Article's writer talks a lot of tosh, but some nice replies lower down.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 11:45 am:   

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 11:48 am:   

I will eventually get round to reading the article properly, but the red mist of rage that descends as this arrogant, patronising catch-you-next-Thursday smugly dismisses any fiction that ends up on the genre shelf as substandard dreck keeps distracting me. And of course, he has to zero in on Brown and Larsson (although Larsson is nowhere near as bad, IMHO, as he makes out) and a cockish quote from Lee Child. It's like dismissing the horror genre by exclusive reference to James Herbert, Shaun Hutson and Guy N Smith. FFS. Wonder if he's read Machen, or the landlord, or any number of other good writers we could name? Oh, no, of course not- because they're genre writers and therefore devoid of literary merit. It must be brilliant to be able to conduct your life this way, by not letting anything as vulgar as factual accuracy get in the way of your prejudices.

Oh, and he objects to the 'cod feminism' as well. I've never been able to complete a Dan Brown novel because I find him unreadable, but why is Larsson's feminism 'cod'? I just took it to be the hallmark of someone raised in a social-democratic European country which for all its flaws has a more intelligent attitude to sexual politics than this fucked-up little archipelago.

This is a stupid, bigoted and insulting article.

Having got that off my chest, thank god for the saner replies. Which I know was the point of you posting this, Mick....
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 12:06 pm:   

The answer to the question posed by this thread is:
No.

Next question...
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 88.111.137.29
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 12:40 pm:   

The author of this article obviously wants to do something for the sales of his own book, when it comes out, soon. Transparent envy.

"Edward Docx's latest novel, The Devil's Garden, is published by Picador in April."
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 02:06 pm:   

If there's an unfortunate side-effect to fandom (and really, that's all this is: 'literary' fandom) then it's this need to denigrate areas beyond the confines of your chosen genre as somehow inferior. There seems to be a real desire to show that the object of their affections is somehow more worthy, and of greater consequence, than anything else. This isn't confined to literary genres, either. A quick sniff around the internet will show up thousands of flame wars between Mac and PC owners, or Playstation and Xbox owners (not that this is particularly new - I remember the Spectrum and Commodore wars of the 80s. Speccy for the win, incidentally )

Anyway, my point is that all this article appears to be is the author asserting the superiority of his own genre choice by using very specifically picked examples of overall 'genre fiction' (itself a reductive term). There's no real argument contained within his piece, just sneering - the literary equivalent of a sci-fi fan saying, "Oh, all that horror stuff's just giant crabs ripping people apart." Or a horror fan stating that all sci-fi is about robot princesses fighting an intergalactic war. Or even any of the above saying that all literary fiction is about middle-class professors wanking over their students. There's a kernel of truth in all of these statements, but at the same time each reveals a profound ignorance of the 'other' genre whilst at the same time ignoring the limitations of your own.

Which brings me to this nugget:

that even good genre (not Larsson or Brown) is by definition a constrained form of writing

Literary fiction is as constrained as any form of writing in that it is anchored to the here, the now, and the real. To suggest otherwise is idiotic at best and dishonest at its worst.

But then who can trust a man who has named himself after a Microsoft Document file.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 05:50 pm:   

A stupid article.

Are McDonalds and Taco Bell a match for fine French cuisine?... Um, well, I guess you could say, no. But who the fuck was ever making the comparison?!

Not saying that all genre work is "Taco Bell" and "McDonalds" mind - but that's how the parameters have been illogically set. "Is lesser fiction as good as better-than-lesser fiction?" is the begging-the-question premise underlying this.

... That being said, if Larsson's THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is anything like the Swedish film of that novel?... burn the novel, burn it burn it burn it everywhere you find it....
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Chris_morris (Chris_morris)
Username: Chris_morris

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 98.220.97.79
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 06:56 am:   

Docx neglects to mention that literary fiction has conventions, too, and that therefore, "a significant percentage of the thinking and imagining has been taken out of the exercise" and "lots of decisions are already made." (Although I don't believe that. Just because you've killed Miss Scarlet (or Roger Ackroyd or Bunny Lake or Roger Wade) doesn't necessarily mean the butler did it.)

The fact that he prefers one set of conventions over another does not mean that that set is superior. Conventions are signals to set reader expectations, and good novelists are experts at navigating those expectations. All novels need them, in other words, to succeed. Can you imagine a successful novel written without them, a novel in which every character, every situation, every setting, every twist and turn avoided all possible cliches and was wholly new, wholly original? After hundreds of thousands of novels have been written, how could such a feat even be possible? And who'd read it anyway?

Docx's quotations from Larssen seem bad, but he neglects to mention that he's quoting a translation. Also, it's easy to choose quotes to make even a good writer look bad. Check out BR Myers hatchet job on Jonathan Franzen, a Docx-approved writer, in a recent Atlantic Monthly. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/10/smaller-than-life/8212/2/).

I'm not exactly a fan of Lee Child, but I suspect he is right that he could write a literary novel and it would sell the customary 3000 copies. On the other hand, I have equal confidence that none of Docx's faves could pull off the same switcheroo. Amis, for instance, wrote NIGHT TRAIN, a decent mystery, but I don't recall it chasing Lee Child's books up the bestseller lists.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.93.21.68
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 08:50 am:   

I thought the original article was actually quite balanced if you read it attentively, and I'm dispirited by the number of comments that sought to pillory its author rather than respond to his observations. All that said, it's basically an old argument restated, and one that's unlikely ever to be resolved.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.225.41
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 09:30 am:   

I think a lot of this posturing and friction is about resources. One side - genre - has all the money; the other - literary - has all the reputation. People in both camps are half-happy with this arrangement, but will fight hard to prevent either side having both. Hence controversy over King's book award (money seeking reputation). Hence controversy over Martin Amis's million pound book deal (reputation seeking money).

In short, it's all about economic and existential insecurity. Or to put it less charitably, it's about ego.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.225.41
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 09:43 am:   

>>>I remember the Spectrum and Commodore wars of the 80s. Speccy for the win, incidentally

John, are you insane? Did you ever compare Impossible Mission on the two machines? '64 kicked ZX's ass! :-)

But seriously, that friction was about money and reputation, too. Millions of kids spending their Xmas budget on one machine or the other, and then fearsomely overruling cognitive dissonance by claiming their machine was the best.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 09:44 am:   

>>>One side - genre - has all the money.<<<

Tell that to my bank manager...
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 10:55 am:   

The separation of fiction into "literary" and "genre" simply didn't happen in some countries. That separation is mainly a British and American thing. On continental Europe, writers such as Calvino, Bulgakov, Lem, etc, were able to move effortlessly from realism to fantasy to SF and back again without anyone feeling shaken by the transition. It's a shame we have the separation here but what can we do about it?
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:05 am:   

Keep doing what we love doing, what we want to do, write what we want to write and to hell with anyone who doesn't like it.

If I'm utterly honest, I would prefer commercial success to critical acclaim (if it had to be one or the other) because if I was put here to do anything (which I know is an odd thing for an atheist to say) it was writing. Therefore my best chance of a happy and fulfilling life is to spend as much time as possible doing what I love. Since I don't want to live in a cardboard box and never be able to do anything that costs the slightest amount of money, that means making a living.

Chasing critical acclaim is as silly as chasing a money-making formula. The critics are merely people- some of whose opinions I respect, some of which I don't (although I won't deny a good review gives me a boost or that a bad one brings me down either- I wish I could be totally indifferent, but let's face it, if you're not getting anything else out of the game, people saying nice things about your work is pleasant.) Just because a writer's getting praised to the skies now doesn't mean they'll be remembered in a hundred years' time. And in any case, I won't be here to see it.

So- right now, at least- I would rather have the financial security and be able to ditch the day job, than the approval of a few pundits. That could change, especially if I get that level of material success- I'll be dissatisfied and have crave another kind of fulfillment. That is a totally natural progression and the way things are and indeed should be. Without anything to strive for, you stagnate.

Ideally I want wealth AND recognition in my lifetime, and the approval of posterity. I might get one, two or all of the above. I might get none. All that I know is that I will keep writing and that I will write only stories that I genuinely want to write, because life is too short for anything else.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.225.41
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:18 am:   

Rhys, presumably genrefication (have I just made that word up?) is positively correlated with the rise of marketing. What can we do about that? Not a lot, alas. Unless we start a revolution based on the slogan GET HORROR OUT OF THE GHETTO.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:27 am:   

Meh. Who cares about this stuff? Not me. Genre, mainstream...whatever. I just read whatever I want to read and hope to get a glimpse of side-boob along the way.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.93.21.68
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:28 am:   

"On continental Europe, writers such as Calvino, Bulgakov, Lem, etc, were able to move effortlessly from realism to fantasy to SF and back again without anyone feeling shaken by the transition."

Isn't that true of Kingsley Amis, say? And Peter Ackroyd? Nabokov? Hilary Mantel?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.29.225.41
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:35 am:   

Or Graham Greene and his thrillers? But then, didn't Greene originally "undersell" his thrillerly fiction by describing them as "entertainments"? Perhaps his ultimate dismissal of this division is something the rest of the business needs to achieve.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 02:08 pm:   

Angela Carter is another. But give literary critics any Gothic fantasy written after 1970 and they'll label it 'magic realism'.

Most readers stay within their comfort zone, wherever it exists, and avoid whatever makes them uncomfortable. Many readers feel a need to condemn crime or horror fiction as never being 'literary' because its content is not something they want to read about.

But likewise, many genre readers try to avoid anything that challenges them in terms of character psychology, politics or even complexity of ideas. Witness the violent reactions of the fen to 'New Wave' SF and, later, to 'slipstream'.

And too many enthusiasts of 'literary' genre material equate that term with a blanket anti-modernism. It always puts me on edge when an editor declares: "These are literary weird/crime/fantasy/SF stories, so you will not see any sex or bad language here." They're just digging a burrow for readers to hide in.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 03:31 pm:   

Think Chekhov (Anton, not the one off Star Trek) said it best when he was talking about theatre:

'I divide all plays that I see into two groups; those I like and those I don't like.'

Good advice that's worth following.
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.171.129.75
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:21 pm:   

John Banville writes crime fiction under the name of Benjamin Black. He's so dismissive of the Black books - and crime fiction in general - that I refuse to read them. If the guy who's writing them calls them trash, what are his readers gonna think?
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.171.129.75
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:34 pm:   

I also suspect the reason so many readers on this metaphorical (or perhaps actual) train the article writer was travelling aboard were reading Brown and Larsson because thier books are available for 3.79 from Asda. I don't think any of the books I've read this year, mainstream or genre, were available in supermarkets.
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.171.129.75
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:35 pm:   

Ach! I tell a lie: King's Under the Dome and le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor were both in the supermarket.
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.171.129.75
Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 - 11:38 pm:   

John Banville writes crime fiction under the name of Benjamin Black. He's so dismissive of the Black books - and crime fiction in general - that I refuse to read them. If the guy who's writing them calls them trash, what are his readers gonna think?
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 12:03 pm:   

Just read one of the comments under the original article that made me howl with laughter (among other things) :

'The premise of this piece makes me want to stay up all night inserting my Christmas tree into my urethra.'

Just wanted to share...
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 12:04 pm:   

One thing I've noticed recently is that older genre and pulp works are starting to appear as Penguin Modern Classics. Brian Aldiss' Hothouse is now a PMC, for example. This is a very positive development, I feel.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.106.220.19
Posted on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 12:11 pm:   

Yes, I agree with that, Rhys - the Lovecraft volumes of the other year were a step forward, I felt.
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Tom_alaerts (Tom_alaerts)
Username: Tom_alaerts

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.78.35.175
Posted on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 03:29 pm:   

I thought it was a pretty good article, in fact. Granted, I've not read Larsson but the article author makes a lot of interesting points.

This is a good snippet:

These are the reasons, too, why a bad thriller or detective novel or murder mystery will feel so much better than a bad literary novel why it might even thrive. Even in a bad genre book, you've still got the curiosity and the reassuring knowledge that the writer will eventually deliver against the conventions. Bad literary fiction, on the other hand, is mostly without such fallback positions and is therefore a whole lot worse.

Yet, the author glances over a number of genre books that overcome typical genre conventions, where the writing aspires for more than pure entertainment. When it comes to genre fiction and literary quality, in some cases you can have your cake and eat it too.
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Chris_morris (Chris_morris)
Username: Chris_morris

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 12.165.240.116
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 04:28 pm:   

Salon critic Laura Miller's take on Docx's article brings up some good points:

http://www.salon.com/books/stieg_larsson/index.html?story=/books/laura_miller/20 10/12/14/docx
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 04:44 pm:   

Yes, but Dan Brown's fiction isn't just laden with cliches. It's packed with sloppy and inaccurate lines like, "The moon squeezed through the window and danced on the carpet." "The late professor was dead." "The ceiling above him . . . " Etc. On almost every page.

My take on this is simple: when I buy a car, I may not know what the quality of the spark plugs is like, and may not even care. But in all honesty, when I pay my money, I'd expect the manufacturer to have put in some decent ones. It's a responsible thing to do.

The same goes for editing, surely. At the very least, Dan Brown's editors should clean these small 'spark pluggy' type things up. At the moment, they seem to say, "Oh, the readers won't notice, so why bother?" As in the case of spark plugs while buying a car, many readers never will notice, but the deal should surely involve a responsible attitude and a sense of decency on the part of the producer of such stuff.

Just an opinion.
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Chris_morris (Chris_morris)
Username: Chris_morris

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 12.165.240.116
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 04:56 pm:   

I suspect Brown's editors have their work cut out for them. The end result is no doubt miles better than the submitted product.

At any rate, Miller's point (Lewis's point) that many readers care only for plot and prefer a prose style that allows for accelerated reading, not for beauty (or even accuracy) remains a good one, I think. People like Brown because he's a fast read and his books are packed with story.

Think about music. People don't necessarily want to hear complex music beautifully played. (I recall a friend of mine who was so proud of his ability to play a complex chord sequence he added it to several of his compositions. The fact that the sequence was unappealing to the ear never entered his mind.) Bob Dylan can't play guitar like Andres Segovia, and he can't sing like Pavarotti, and yet he was voted the second greatest artist of the twentieth century (after Picasso).

No one's going to vote Dan Brown the greatest artist of any century, of course, but my point is that artist look at art in a much different way than consumers. A writer forced to think deeply about writing comes to rather different conclusions about fiction than someone who reads novels only to pass the time on the airplane.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:01 pm:   

I prefer a book that's a slow epic wallow and packed with character and incident, which explains why 'The Devils' is my read of 2010 - even though it's taken most of 2010 to read it!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:02 pm:   

>>>People like Brown because he's a fast read and his books are packed with story.

Which is why I've never been able to understand why such people don't just stick to films.

>>>Bob Dylan can't play guitar like Andres Segovia, and he can't sing like Pavarotti, and yet he was voted the second greatest artist of the twentieth century (after Picasso).

I'm not sure that's a good example. Dylan brought fair more to his field than singing and guitar playing. But I take your point about music. Noel Coward talked about the "terrible poignancy of cheap music". Andrew Lloyd Webber is a master of cheap music and look at his popularity.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:04 pm:   

Which is why I've never been able to understand why such people don't just stick to films.

Which agrees precisely with what I said on the "Is interest dead?" thread. Thanks, Gary.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:08 pm:   

Non-linear plagiarism on your part, I think. :-)
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:33 pm:   

Another thing about cliches: they have become so well-known and popular because, originally, they captured an experience so well. The bloom is simply off them now.

Perhaps it's worth adding that alternative descriptions can never be quite as good as the originals, even though they may be fresher by virtue of their unfamiliarity.

Here's a RCMB challenge >> rewrite the following cliches succinctly:

My legs turned to jelly.
My stomach was full of butterflies.
My heart sunk.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:41 pm:   

I'd say the first two are more specific, and so have no more real value, even as "code" - quick supply of situation so the story can progress. You'll always trip over them now, reading them. But the third is SO succinct and non-complex, it still can have value, as "code," in a story.
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 86.142.147.0
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:54 pm:   

I've always loved Nabokov's "My knees were like reflections of knees in rippling water".
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 05:57 pm:   

My legs were like little cheescake towers.

My belly fluttered like midgets giving a gentle round of applause.

My heart fell into my bollock-bag.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.180.209.113
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 09:36 pm:   

Succincter, you verbose bastard! Mind you, you've got the tasteful style off to a tee. :-)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 11:44 pm:   

My legs, jelly.

My stomach, fluttery.

Heart's a pit. (Yes! One letter less!)
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.202.203
Posted on Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 10:24 am:   

My legs fell to pieces
My stomach felt like falling snow
My heart dipped?

My feelings on feelings on Brown; 'Heaven forbid that stupid people should enjoy reading something'.
More than Brown, I'm scared of the charity shop old-book apocalypse.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 09:56 am:   

This thread has been long quiescent, but this news story from today seems to have relevance:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/5/20110330/tuk-le-carre-rejects-booker-prize-nomina-45d bed5.html

Good fiction is, by definition, literary fiction, irregardless of its genre.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.165.39.12
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 10:06 am:   

Good fiction is, by definition, literary fiction, irregardless of its genre.
============

Very true and should be all our watchwords.

I also love the word 'irregardless' which reminds me of the near synonyms: 'flammable' and 'inflammable'.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 11:03 am:   

Me too, Des.

Reread the original Docx article that sparked all this off, and I didn't find it as stupid or annoying as I did originally. Still, Docx's argument falls down with a resounding crash with his treatment of 'literature' and 'genre' as antonyms. He is defining his categories purely in terms of the narrative elements they use- so, by definition, 'literary fiction' becomes a genre in itself, defined by the elements it lacks. That's a limiting approach for writers of every kind.

A genre (in the sense Docx is defining it) gives you certain tools to do the job. The tools you pick are the ones you need- to tell certain stories, explore certain themes, you need a character who has the licence or vocation or both to investigate, to ask awkward questions, to probe beneath the surfaces. Hence, you need a detective. Sometimes you might need to show the past's influence/hold on the present- what better metaphor than a ghost, in that case? The best quality work in any genre occurs when the writer uses whatever tools (from whichever genre box or boxes) are needed to do the job, as opposed to making familiar stuff by rote.

To explore the themes she wanted to explore in 'The Handmaid's Tale' Margaret Atwood needed to set the story in a dystopian future- as did Orwell in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'. Are they science fiction or are they literary fiction? The short answer is that they are both. What Docx has done is to set up a false opposition here; that's the bit that made me see red.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 11:32 am:   

No.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.131.110.85
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 11:58 am:   

It sometimes seems to me that 'literature' strives for a bigger picture, or broader pallette than some 'genre'. A lot of genre can seem to have a sort of workmanlike DIY feel, like someone tinkering with odd new sheds, a sense of inventive 'It'll do'.
That said, a lot of what poses as 'literature' now doesn't even have the nuances or feelings of mysterious depth it used to have. It all feels sadly blunt, like lists of ingredients or instruction.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 01:29 pm:   

I always objected to the idea of 'slipstream' because the best genre fiction has always had literary qualities and has never taken its own subject-matter for granted.

Sadly, commercial genre fiction publishers have only four criteria of merit:

1. Familiarity of plot.
2. Cuteness of protagonist, with whom the reader must 'identify' at all times.
3. Total and unequivocal absence of any kind of ambiguity.
4. Mass.

For horror fiction, of course, there is a fifth special criterion which reflects the unique sensitivities of the readership:

5. Entrails.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 01:37 pm:   

I always objected to the idea of 'slipstream' because the best genre fiction has always had literary qualities and has never taken its own subject-matter for granted.

Sadly, nearly all commercial genre fiction publishers have only four criteria of merit:

1. Familiarity of plot.
2. Cuteness of protagonist, with whom the reader must 'identify' at all times.
3. Total and unequivocal absence of any kind of ambiguity.
4. Mass.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 01:39 pm:   

Sorry, I didn't realise I'd posted my first draft of that. I'd get my coat if I had one.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 01:41 pm:   

Thankfully, I can say that we're not one of those publishers. But, yes, there are certainly some cookie-cutter genre publishers out there.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 02:02 pm:   

Commercial specialist imprints are a bit different, because they can identify a more sophisticated readership and have a wider concept of the genre. The worst offenders are the major publishers 'slumming it' for fast profits and not caring what the books are actually like.

It's the same story in crime fiction. Black Lizard was a kitemark of awesomeness. The crime lists of the paperback giants are not.

(BTW one is not supposed to use 'kitemark' as a metaphor because it's a brand. Look at one's face: is one bothered?)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, April 03, 2011 - 08:38 pm:   

The problem of ambiguity is that it relies on trust. Because, claims of ambiguity can be the last refuge of sloppiness and total lack of planning. BLACK SWAN hasn't an ambiguous ending, perse - it doesn't know what the hell it is at the end, and so it pretends to be ambiguous. I long lost my trust in the film's ability by that point, to be sure. And repetition too, can breed ambiguity: there does come a point where one wonders if Aickman ever knows what it is he's doing in the telling of his story/plot - if HE knows, or if he's just petering out every time - sheer lack of my seeing him do it simply, clearly, and once (so far, haven't read the oeuvre), breeds this suspicion (though I'm mostly won over, into thinking he does: I do trust Aickman).
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Thomasb (Thomasb)
Username: Thomasb

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.25.141.120
Posted on Monday, April 04, 2011 - 02:52 am:   

My basic attitude is the same as Duke Ellington's about music:

There's two kinds of fiction in the world. Good fiction . . . and the other kind.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 213.106.77.123
Posted on Sunday, August 05, 2012 - 12:30 pm:   

Just had to resurrect this thread after the other day.

I was in Waterstone's, and found myself passing a set of shelves, when a title leapt out at me: The Devil's Garden, by the above-mentioned Edward Docx. (I'd glimpsed it before, with a very different cover, and meant to pick it up to see what this chap's writing is like.)

Then I noticed which section of the bookshop it was in.

Thrillers.

I will admit to howling with laughter.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, August 06, 2012 - 07:22 pm:   

I'd thought Docx was probably a Belgian name, but have just realised it's the last part of any document name in the most recent version of Microsoft Word. As Chekhov said, "I hate these clever people they're so stupid."
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 213.106.77.123
Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 - 12:41 pm:   

And three years on, Docx is still a fucking idiot who has learned nothing... sigh. I almost feel sorry for him. He's going to miss out on some great writing because of his prejudices.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/23/ocean-end-lane-gaiman-review
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.134.106.152
Posted on Sunday, June 23, 2013 - 05:20 pm:   

I don't want to read this review as it's apparently one giant spoiler wrapped in a nugget of bitterness that his work doesn't sell in these amounts.

Docx proved he was an idiot with the first article though. Not sure if it's good to hear that nothing's changed.

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