Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Little Literary Snobbery?

Novelist Joanthan Carroll reviewed Jose Saramago's new novel, The Double, in the October 10 Edition of Washington Post's Book World. In short, the novel is about a man who sees his perfect double on television and spends the rest of the novel trying to find out who this person is.

Carroll proceeds to take Saramago to task for writing a book that's basically an SF-style concept and not taking it seriously. He also cites the McSweeney's anthology Thrilling Tales, a book that features mainstream authors playing with action/adventure pulp format, as another blatant example of mainstream authors dabbling and not taking it seriously. Carroll's own books, for those who don't know, walk a fine line between mainstream, fantasy and S/F.

Although Carroll might be pushing his point a little much in this review, I understand what he's going for. Despite it being well written, I remember having the same reaction to Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay; I thought it was ok, but that it received way too much attention as a comic book novel. It read to me like he really researched the subject but that he lacked a passion for it. Like if I set a novel in pre-industrial Russia for the hell of it. My spite for Chabon, though, stems more from his recruitment into numerous comics-related projects now solely to give them some layer of legitimacy.

Despite Chabon, I don't think this trend is a bad thing. I'm for experimentation in any form, and having mainstream writers play with fantasy and SF elements can only help broaden the horizons of readers. Perhaps Carroll, who always insists just a little too much that he's not a genre writer, fears that too many people are starting to tread into his territory.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

Wow, I'm glad I found your blog, thanks for commenting on mine so that I could find yours. It looks like you and I are doing some similar stuff, actually.

Did you read the McSweeney's Thrilling Tales anthology? I actually liked it (overall) very much. I actually got roped in over the weekend to buy another McSweeney's anthology, but I haven't had a chance to break into it yet.

Hey you like Skinny Puppy and Neubauten and Bowie... right on!


Hebdomeros said...

Thanks for dropping in. I stumbled across your site via the next blog button. I'll definitely stop by from time to time. And yes, I'm an old rivet head!

I liked Thrilling Tales. It was a good read, and I don't think it was intended to be taken all that seriously. I don't think the original pulps were meant to be taken that seriously either. The only other McSweeney's anthology I've read so far is their short humor book that just came out, Created in Darkness. A lot were vignettes more than stories, but still a number of them were pretty clever. Besides, all the pieces are so short that if you don't like one, it's still over pretty quickly.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Yeah, I think I liked the fact that Thrilling Tales wasn't meant to be taken seriously. However, I think my favorite story in that anthology was Kelly Link's. That one was just plain wild. However, the rest were good clean fun, and sometimes it's so nice just to have fun with something.


Hebdomeros said...

I keep meaning to buy one of Kelly Link's books. Everything I read by her is really, really good.