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Showing posts tagged: literary click to see more stuff tagged with literary
Aug 9 2011 1:00pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Rutu Modan’s Jamilti

Genre in the Mainstream: Rutu Modan’s JamiltiThough I’m sure I’d have to fight pretty hard to prove graphic novels as a medium are part of the literary mainstream, I’d argue that folks like Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, and more recently Adrian Tomine, are closer to the mainstream than a hardcore science fiction or fantasy writer. Indeed, at the point at which all these guys have been featured in The New Yorker, I’d say their literary pedigree is fairly well established. But what about narrative in serious graphic novels which dabbles in the fantastic while still remaining outside of genre conventions? One of my favorites is the collection by Rutu Modan called Jamilti

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Jul 25 2011 12:00pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Pierre Boulle’s La Planète des singes

Despite being a cult classic of science fiction films, the text upon which Planet of the Apes is based is actually a fairly serious (if not satirical) mainstream novel by French writer Pierre Boulle. Prior to the 1963 publication of La Planète des singes, Boulle was already an author of serious note having written Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï (Bridge over the River Kwai.) That book was of course adapted into the famous David Lean film, which won an Oscar for best-adapted screenplay in 1957. (The award was accepted by Boulle owing to the fact that the screenwriters were blacklisted for being communists. Speaking no English he uttered one word; “merci.”) In any case, Boulle was certainly not considered a science fiction writer, and the original Apes novel seems to have been initially marketed as a political satire. So is the novel science fiction or social allegory? The answer seems to be both.

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Jul 12 2011 1:41pm

Genre in the Mainstream: The Secret History of Science Fiction

The Secret History of Science FictionIf there are two guys who are interested in the discussion of how SF lit relates to mainstream lit, those guys are James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel. In 2009, they published The Secret History of Science Fiction, which essentially took the exact same premise of this column and applied it to their editorial and curatorial process. Instead of convincing you with a series of essays, (like Genre in the Mainstream) Kelly and Kessel pushed their thesis forward by laying out a bunch of stories from various authors in order to demonstrate cross pollination between genres has been happening for ages. Along the way, they included some great mediations on genre from the various authors. If you missed this volume in ’09, here are some highlights.

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Jul 5 2011 1:30pm

Genre in the Mainstream: The Shape Shifting Prose of Etgar Keret

The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar KeretIf you’ve listened to Etgar Keret on This American Life or heard him read one of his stories, the first thing you’ll notice, despite his heavy Israeli accent, is his sense of humor. Keret’s is the kind of voice that sounds like he’s constantly getting ready to deliver a punch line and the majority of his stories are much the same. I’ve seen Keret read a number of times in person, and the first time, I didn’t have a clear idea of what he looked like. I kept scanning the small room of confident looking guys with smart fitting jackets. Instead, a mad scientist of a man arrived with copies of his own books sticking out of his coat pockets. The story he read that day was called “Fatso” which is about a woman who shapeshifts into a ridiculously disgusting beer-guzzling man when the clock strikes midnight.

Keret’s fantastical musing doesn’t end there. Here’s why SF readers will probably love him.

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Jun 28 2011 12:43pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Does SFF Marginalize Characters?

As with nearly every summer, a batch of blockbusters are here to burn some explosions into our brains while denying us the possibility of getting to know the people surrounded by said explosions. From Green Lantern to Transformers the most visible aspects of genre fiction have the flattest characters imaginable and rely heavily on plotting and worldbuilding to get by.

But this tendency isn’t just limited to mainstream films or television. All of these scripts (for the most part) have to be written down first, which means this deficiency must come from somewhere. In thinking about a lot of science fiction writing, it seems characters are not treated quite the same way as they might be in mainstream literature.

But is this true, or is it just generalization? Do even the stalwart print titles of genre fiction treat its characters as second-class citizens in favor of “big ideas?”

[Is SF concept-driven to a fault?]

Jun 21 2011 12:44pm

Genre in the Mainstream: The Literary Merits of Potter

The literary merits of Harry PotterTen years ago, literary critic Harold Bloom wrote an essay in The Wall Street Journal called “Can 35 Million Book Buyers Be Wrong?” in which he outlined his dislike for Harry Potter. Calling elements of the prose “heavy on cliché” and asserting that the status as a New York Times bestseller was emblematic of a “dumbing down” of the culture; Bloom’s essay (now notoriously difficult to find online) was seen as a savage assault on the beloved series. He later followed it up in a Newsweek article in 2007 titled “Harry Potter and the Money Making Machine.”

Now four years after the conclusion of the seven-part novel series, and just a month a way from the final installment of the cinematic adaptations, how ought Potter be regarded on its literary merits? Did Bloom have any legitimate points? Or does Potter endure despite its supposed literary failings?

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Jun 14 2011 1:05pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard BrautiganEvery Tuesday on we take a look at books and authors from mainstream literary fiction that contain aspects of science fiction, fantasy, horror and other genre elements. We’re not necessarily claiming these books or authors for the genre camps, but asserting if you like science fiction, fantasy et al., you’ll likely find these books appealing too!

Overall, Genre in the Mainstream hopes to be part of the ongoing discussion about serious literature and how it interacts with artistically sound genre fiction.

Today Richard Brautigan, famously known as the “last of the beats” gives us a completely realized fantasy world in his one-of-a-kind novel; In Watermelon Sugar.

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Jun 7 2011 1:56pm

Genre in the Mainstream: The (Depressing) Science Fiction Novels That Cross Over

Genre in the Mainstream is our weekly column that explores mainstream literary novels that have elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror and as such are appealing to readers of all genres. So far we’ve highlighted some up-to-the-minute literary stars of contemporary fiction, as well as classics from the past couple decades, even all the way back to Mark Twain!

This week we’re shaking up Genre in the Mainstream a bit and taking a look at the phenomenon of uber-famous science fiction novels that seem to have permanently crossed-over into mainstream literature. Books like George Orwell’s 1984, or Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, are seemingly on every single required reading list for high school students and college students. And they’re undeniably science fiction.

But in terms of their crossover into the literary canon, are these books of a certain type? Is a science fiction novel that reads as “mainstream literature” always a dark and depressing one?

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May 24 2011 1:00pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganHappy Book Expo of America Week! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for our weekly literary crossover series, Genre in the Mainstream. Every week we take one book or author from the mainstream of literary fiction and take a look at ways they cross over into the genres of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. We’re not saying these writers are necessarily part of these genres, but chances are if you like those kinds of books, you’ll like these, too!

This week, it’s the recent Pulitzer Prize winner, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.

[Read more. Spoilers]

May 10 2011 1:24pm

Genre in the Mainstream: José Saramago’s Blindness

Blindness by Jose SaramagoWelcome to Genre in the Mainstream! This regular blog series highlights mainstream authors who employ genre elements in books that are generally classified as literary fiction. While we’re not claiming these writers for the science fiction and fantasy camps, we think if you like those genres you’ll probably like these writers and books, too.

This week, we enter a world in which no one has proper names, punctuation marks are rare, and every single character but one loses their sight in José Saramago’s novel Blindness.

[Saramago’s big “What If?”]

May 3 2011 11:50am

Genre in the Mainstream: Richard Powers

Richard PowersLast week, I talked about how the Arthur C. Clarke Award nomination for Generosity confirmed Richard Powers as a science fiction writer. Now, as promised, I want to discuss some ways in which that was obvious all along, if you were looking at his novels from the right angle.

Of course, there’s Galatea 2.2, the 1995 novel about a writer named Richard Powers who spends his year as a “humanist-in-residence” at an Illinois university’s advanced research center “teaching” a computer-based neural network the classics of literature in order to create an artificial intelligence that can “demonstrate acceptable reading comprehension” by writing literary criticism indistinguishable from the human-generated kind. But that seems a little too easy, don’t you think?

Instead, let’s start with the winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction: The Echo Maker.

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Apr 26 2011 3:19pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark TwainWelcome to Genre in the Mainstream, a weekly column in which we jump out of our science fiction and fantasy rocketship and parachute into the bizzaro world of literary fiction. Sometimes what we find in this alternate reading dimension are books and authors that just might appeal to readers of science fiction and fantasy. We’re not claiming these books science fiction or fantasy necessarily, but we do think there’s a good chance readers will like them! This week, we discover how the most efficient form of time travel might not be a phone box or a Delorean, but rather a good-old fashion bump on the head in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

[The Boss takes over]

Apr 19 2011 1:18pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Jim Shepard’s Human Monsters


Welcome to Genre in the Mainstream, a regular blog series highlighting authors lurking in the shadows of literary fiction who just might have some fantasy, horror, or science fiction elements in their writing. We’re not saying these writers necessarily belong in those camps, but we do think they’re blurring some lines and that readers of the fantastical genres might enjoy them.

This week we take a look at the various monsters and humans occupying the stories of the celebrated writer Jim Shepard.

[Humans, and creatures and Godzilla, oh my!]

Apr 5 2011 1:19pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music

Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan LethemWelcome to Genre in the Mainstream! This weekly series highlights one writer at a time who is widely considered to belong in the genre of mainstream literature but whose work frequently blends in other genres. While I’m not claiming these authors for the science fiction, fantasy, or horror camps, chances are if you like those genres, then you’ll like these books, too!

This week I go after the lost novel of the most famous contemporary genre- bender of them all; Jonathan Lethem’s first book; Gun, with Occasional Music.

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Sep 6 2010 12:33pm

Super Sad and Not-So-Secretly a Science Fiction Novel: A Review of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story

Over in the bizzaro world of literary fiction, Gary Shteyngart is kind of a big deal. With praises from academic circles and The New Yorker, the idea of him secretly being a science fiction author doesn’t spring to mind. So, did this guy really just write one of the best Science Fiction books of the year? You better believe it. And I think he was channeling Alfred Bester the whole time.

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