07 August 2008

Livre le difference

I'm going to respectfully differ from Ray Girvan's view of the contemporary literary novel (Reader's Block). Respectfully because I do, genuinely respect his views on just about everything; but differ nevertheless because, while much (if not Sturgeon's 90%) is not to my taste (I stop short of "crap", though I'd concede that it does exist) ... I have no difficulty finding more wonderful examples of than I can ever manage to read.

We're all different. Ray's view is just as valid as mine ... just different. My partner and I agree most of the time (probably better than 95%) on what is great and what is crap in the contemporary novel line, but sometimes we differ very markedly ... Stephen Hall's The Raw Shark Texts, for example, was an area of disagreement. Writing this so soon after commenting on my differences with Rachelle Aaronson over Eleanor Antin (Putting the boot in), I think I'd better get around pretty soon to a more detailed think on the subject.

I do wholeheartedly concur with Ray's observation that there is an artificial, marketing driven concentration on some types of author. I also agree equally wholeheartedly with his approval of Sachar's Holes.

  • Louis Sachar, Holes. 2007, London: Bloomsbury. 0747589990. (Originally 1998, U.S: Frances Foster; also 2000, London: Bloomsbury, 2000)


Poor Pothecary said...

my differences with Rachelle Aaronson over Eleanor Antin

Do tell! I admit there are some areas of performance art that fill me with deep antipathy - especially people who stand in the street as Living Statues doing things to faze passers-by. Clare gives them money: I'd get my dog to pee on them if I kept one. Performers of "breaching experiments" without some damn good academic reason also need a good thump.

Felix Grant said...

[chuckle] Do I hear echoes of the one time Babbage persona showing through, Ray? :+)

Poor Pothecary said...

Yes, those street musicians too... I've tried walking behind those Living Statue types and saying to Clare, "How do they produce that smoke?" and similar, but I guess they're used to that kind of gambit.

I may have overstated the novel thing a bit. I was primarily thinking of "mainstream literary" (obvious reservation about genre). Skimming the shelves in the shop, there are just so many novels about middle-class people working out conventional angsts and conflict situations: a bookful of faffing-about until the family secret is revealed, or main character is reconciled with a parent as the latter is dying, or someone comes to a funeral or returns to their home town and it opens the wounds of the past, or ... That kind of thing.

Felix Lovelace Grant said...

I do agree with you about the many novels which trundle that furrow - and I'm equally irritated by the fact that most TV characters seem to live in expensively minimalist upper middle class habitats and have high incomes.

Our difference is really over the number of good novels there are ... in the vast outflow of modern publishing I find, as I said, as many as I can read - it may be a fraction of one per cent, but that's still a large number of good novels. No, take that back ... it's still a large number of novels which hist the spot for me, which is a very different thing. (As I'm trying to frame a piece on taste and good/bad art, I need to be careful what I say!)

I hadn't thought of the herds of imitation stone figures as conceptual artists, but I have to confess that I can't say they're not (if that makes sense) ... so I'll o,d off on that one, too, for now!

Poor Pothecary said...

BTW, I just identified an example of the kind of novel I can't stand: Iris Murdoch's The Good Apprentice. From the blurb: "Young Edward Baltram's prank of giving his friend Mark Wilsden a drug-infused sandwich" ... he falls out of a window ... "and his stepbrother Stuart's decision to forsake a promising academic career for social work bring consternation to their parents and elders".

Re genre classifications: a deal of it is forced on us by publishers. Clare had a chat recently with a friend, a published novelist, who mentioned the immense selection pressure on authors to produce work within marketable slots such as Romance, Crime, or Family Saga.

Felix Grant said...

Two immediate reactions to that "forced on us by publishers".

First (and closest to my heart): we are the ones who accept the publishers' labels; not forced on us at all, but accepted by us when it need not be?

Second (and more diffuse): presumably publishers only fore authors to write within genres because they at least believe that it maximises sales ... which can only mean that book buyers seek such genres?