The whole post is worth reading, but here’s a taste:
To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going to make use of all that the novelist — the great artist — gives you.
Virginia made a cameo here on the Jacke blog once before, when she visited Stonehenge. Glad to have you back, Virginia!
Let’s try a little K.T. Tunstall for our onward and upward. With the legendary Daryl Hall. Can’t we all just go hang out there, at Daryl’s house?
Any writer who heads out into the marketplace soon realizes that the marketplace is carved up into sections, organized by genre. Is your book science fiction? Fantasy? Steampunk? Women’s fiction? Literary fiction? Romance? Creative nonfiction? Biography? Historical fiction?
Roughly you can think of this as “Where would you look for this in the bookstore?”
This can be frustrating. Many authors of science fiction will claim, rightly, that their books have the same devotion to character and language that “literary fiction” does. And authors of literary fiction will say that their books have enough mystery, or romance, that they shouldn’t be lumped in with the highfalutin’. Most if not all authors believe that their books have at least a couple of these elements, and can appeal to readers accordingly.
Aha, you say. Bookstores are no longer physical spaces! We don’t need to choose one shelf on which to place a book. Online, every book can be in multiple categories!
But that’s not how it works. Online bookstores organize things into lists. Forums dedicated to books and reading focus on particular genres. Reviewers have preferences for genres they like to read. And most importantly, readers look for books in their genre (or avoid ones they don’t like). For an author, declaring a genre serves a purpose in a) getting readers to consider your book and b) setting their expectations for what they will find.
I don’t know if this will ever change. I’m just saying that it hasn’t yet.
All of this is a lengthy prelude to what I really want to say. Because there is a different way to think of this. There is hope, people! Continue reading →