I suppose most of what I read is literary fiction, but I do read genre books.
Nonetheless, I enjoy an afternoon spent with Bella and Edward, Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn, or with the Jane Eyre-ish witch, Ivy, in Galen Beckett’s marvelous The Magicians and Mrs. Quent.
But I was amused by what Howard Jacobson, winner of the Booker Prize for The Finkler Question in 2010, said in an interview with The Guardian about genre books.
I’m contemptuous of genre things… You go into a good bookshop like Foyles and see a kind of “vampire room”. I was sitting in the American Embassy a while back, trying to get a visa, and every woman in the room was reading the vampire series – you know, the one with the black cover and the bit of blood. Now people are reading soft porn! What happened to the fun of reading a good book? There are people who, when they say they prefer Henry James to Fifty Shades of Grey, they do actually mean that.”
After Borders closed, our B&N cut out a whole wall of literature and fiction to make room for the vampire room, i.e., teen fiction. Do you have a boyfriend who’s a werewolf? This is for you.
Fifty Shades, the trashy trilogy soon to be burned by a domestic abuse charity group in the UK, has been marketed to hapless women on its own special table, along with “If you liked 50 Shades, you might like this.” (I wonder: does anyone actually read them after buying them?)
The Twilight books may be to women what George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels are to men. A former student loved Martin’s A Game of Thrones and hated the Twilight books, as did the rest of my male students. I never managed to get through Game of Thrones, though.
II also like science fiction. I am scandalized to look over my book journal and find that I have read only four SF books this year: Clifford D. Simak’s Project Pope (about robots and religion), Pamela Sargent’s Venus of Dream (terraforming Venus), Doris Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor (cozy catastrophe), and Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars (post-apocalyptic fiction). And I’ve only blogged about two of them.
I guess if SF isn’t recommended by Jonathan Lethem and reissued by Library of America or NYRB, I don’t find out about it. It’s not widely reviewed.
By the way, Howard Jacobson is also curmudgeonly about literary fiction. “I hate the phrase ‘literary fiction.’ I write fiction. The others write crap.”
I think he’s being funny?