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Reflections of a working writer and reader



This Difficulty-Phobic Culture

Alex Pheby argues for difficult books over at Vulpes Libris. He lists what he does and doesn’t mean by ‘difficulty’ and ‘accessibility,’ and goes on to tell us:

It’s not about genre either. I don’t have anything invested in a particular ‘type’ of fiction. To be honest I don’t even understand the supposed differences between most of the genres. Is 1984 science fiction? Aldous Huxley? HG Wells? Kurt Vonnegut? Why isn’t Philip K Dick literary fiction? Is Poe horror? What about The Turn of the Screw? Is The New York Trilogy detective fiction? Are Rose Tremain’s novels romance? Are those Iain M. Banks books where half of it is set in a medieval seeming castle and the other half in a self aware space craft fantasy or sci-fi? Hard or soft? Who knows? Who cares? The only people who have anything vested in genre are people who don’t like to be surprised and the book trade – both of whom can fend for themselves as far as I’m concerned.

5 Responses to “This Difficulty-Phobic Culture”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Let’s see, my first book is a darkly-comic, philosophical, quasi-religious, fantasy novel with science fiction, military, fly-fishing and romantic elements added just to make sure I cover all the bases. Oh, and it’s set in a north of England seaside resort and contains the words ‘loxodromic’ and ‘jactitating’. So what shelf would that go on then?

    jb says: Jim, this may be licking out the custard pan after it’s been through the dish-washer, but would a couple of vegan recipes on the cover have given it an identifiable market?

  2. Paul says:

    In the age of the individual the market requires new types of conformity, new consumer profiles.
    In an age of choice, with too much to choose from, the marketeers rush forward to choose for us; supplying to the lowest common denominator at every possible opportunity, hypeing the very ordinary, promising a new lifestyle or mindset with each new buy, packaging the bland in robes of celebrity.
    And we consume what they feed us as fast as we can, and left still hungry, demand more of the same, because that’s all that’s on offer.
    And the media winges about the sickness in society and doles out more and more mindlessness, because that’s what sells.
    There’s no harm in a bit of distraction, but when it’s all distraction what might we be missing?

  3. Paul says:

    “The Illusion of Choice” – Says it all really.

  4. Daniel Black says:

    From a slightly different vector, this is quite good news for today’s writing force. This teeming mediocrity makes it much easier to be seen as transcendent of genre than the days of yore, when men were men and publishers were…well, okay, I can’t really do anything with that. I’m just sayin’.

  5. writing a romance novel says:

    HA! You can say anything all you want! for me, the best books are those romance novels! I always enjoyed being twitterpated by books like these! I enjoy them so much that I also wanted to do a little writing a romance novel myself! Ah…it’s great to be always in love and inspired….