Thursday, May 10, 2007

Who let all this riff raff into the room?

So reviews of the Yiddish Policeman's Union can be boiled down to "I guess the writing is good,'s a detective story." The most blatant and bizarre case I've yet seen is on Slate where Ruth Franklin claims "Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it."

Hmmm, right, serious literary writers have no truck with genre fiction. I suppose we'll have to overlook Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning The Road, which is a science fiction novel about the apocalypse. And shoot, I guess we have to lay aside Jim Crace's new one. Crace's, read exclusively by literary enthusiasts, newest book is, well, a science fiction novel about the end of the world. Does Margaret Atwood count as literary? That Oryx and Crake book smelled rather heavily of speculative fiction.

And, oh bother, what to make of John Banville? If Banville doesn't count as a writer of serious literature, then the Earth is bereft of writers of serious literature. Here, under a thin pseudonym, Banville has written a crime novel. And this isn't some lark or bet, or a joke on the rubes, Banville is planning to make it a series! Thanks to the pseudonym you might think Banville is embarrassed by his descent into the genres. If so, he probably wouldn't publish an essay on the Attraction of Crime Novels.

He closes his exploration of the subject with appropriate words for Ms. Franklin "And is it art? That is not for me to say. But if it is art, then it is so by accident. And anyway, what does it matter, art or otherwise? For oh, dear, what fun I am having."

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