Britain's first book blogger (November 2000). This Space is now a major motion picture, or something.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Genre fiction and literary prizes (again)

Lindesay Irvine of The Guardian's books blog admits it's an old chestnut but asks it again anyway. Why do genre novels never win the literary prizes?

While she recognises that there is a distinction between literary and genre, a convincing definition is not offered, hence the demoralising parade of ventriloquist dummies in the comment section:
I can remember feeling very cross that Barbara Vine's 'A dark-adapted eye', and others of hers as well, were never on any literary prize shortlists. I think this kind of book is often so enjoyable that the fact that it can also be brilliantly written passes people by.
What passes by this reader is that brilliant genre writing enables one to pass it by. It's a shame the supposed guardians of literary culture continue to set up the straw man of "beautiful/brilliant writing = literary" for the yokels to burn down.

If there's one reason why this blog exists, it is to challenge the assumptions of British culture about the 'literary'. Over two years and longer, I've posted blogs defining literary fiction, and observed that it tends to be only genre writers and their fans who are perplexed about their exclusion from the literary prizes (which, I must say, aren't terribly literary anyway). I've even asked an apparently taboo question: why aren't literary writers given genre awards? But it seems I'm having no impact and the dummies are winning the day. At least in that respect I'm following in the finest literary tradition.

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