Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The lawyer of Genre

One can only agree with Amanda Craig in her defence of Romantic fiction that "the idea that all great literature must, by definition, escape genre is snobbish and wrong." I have no problem with that. (And I’m grateful that she names names along the way). After all, for some time now I’ve insisted that one of the great novels of recent times is Gert Hofmann’s Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl. In addition to being unique, it is also a love story; a Romantic novel!

One can’t easily disagree with the sentence that follows either: "Great literature plays with genre, extends it, inverts it and subverts it - but it cannot, ever, be wholly independent of it."

Unfortunately, ease is precisely what genre fiction is about. It might be futile to try to escape genre, but writers who struggle to do so are the only ones I want to read. Genre fiction is for people at home in the novel.

Craig reveals the anxiety lurking beneath the surface when she insists that Romantic fiction is “alive and kicking in the works of prize-winning authors such as Maggie O'Farrell, Joanne Harris and Sarah Waters”. Ah, prize-winning. That's what it's all about. And I thought this was about literature.


  1. I think you're very acute here. It's not what you do the first time ("Wuthering Heights") that makes a piece of work mere genre, but what you do the second time.

  2. Anonymous5:36 pm

    I will be reading Gert Hofmann’s Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl--a book that I read about and forgot but now remember.



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