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June 18, 2012

Le Guin on how to sidestep the boring genre vs literary fiction divide

All fiction is literature, all fiction belongs to genres. She is a treasure, I tell you. Le Guin’s Hypothesis | Book View Cafe Blog
Some things have to happen before there can be more intelligent discussion of what literature is. And some of them are in fact happening, at last. It’s good to see that Mr Krystal can laugh at Edmund Wilson, if only at a safe distance. English departments have largely given up trying to defend their ivied or ivory towers by shooting down every space ship that approaches. Critics are ever more clearly aware that a lot of literature is happening outside the sacred groves of modernist realism. But still the opposition of literature and genre is maintained; and as long as it is, false categorical value judgment will cling to it, with the false dichotomy of virtuous pleasure and guilty pleasure. To get out of this boring bind, I propose an hypothesis: Literature is the extant body of written art. All novels belong to it. The value judgment concealed in distinguishing one novel as literature and another as genre vanishes with the distinction. Every readable novel can give true pleasure. Every novel read by choice is read because it gives true pleasure. Literature consists of many genres, including mystery, science fiction, fantasy, naturalism, realism, magical realism, graphic, erotic, experimental, psychological, social, political, historical, bildungsroman, romance, western, army life, young adult, thriller, etc., etc…. and the proliferating cross-species and subgenres such as erotic Regency, noir police procedural, or historical thriller with zombies. Some of these categories are descriptive, some are maintained largely as marketing devices. Some are old, some new, some ephemeral. Genres exist, forms and types and kinds of fiction exist and need to be understood: but no genre is inherently, categorically superior or inferior. This makes the Puritan snobbery of “higher” and “lower” pleasures irrelevant, and very hard to defend.

June 15, 2012

Recommended Reading: Clockers by Richard Price #FridayReads

A long book, and in some regards the template for...

Children's books are still bound up in nineteenth century ideas of masculinity

We have one book, maybe, that acknowledges that men can be nurturers: Mr. Seahorse by Eric Carle, though the book has a bizarre subplot about camouflage as defense as well. As if to say that men can only nurture their children by taking on the form of the mother. Perhaps it's a suggestion to fathers to identify with the nurturing mother when they read books to their kids? Where are the stay-at-home dads in children’s books? - The Globe and Mail
While children’s books illuminate everything from gay parenting ( Heather Has Two Mommies) to blended, stepparent and other iterations of family life, they have been slow to reflect the generation of dads that take paternity leaves, actively co-parent, or choose to stay home with the kids – a sector that is growing. According to Statistics Canada, men now account for 12 per cent of stay-at-home parents, compared with 4 per cent in 1986. Yet in the majority of literature, moms are depicted as the nurturer and dads as the breadwinner/handyman. Read almost any picture book and it’s like you’re travelling back a half century. “In all my hours of reading [with the kids], I’ve never come across a book where the father is staying at home and the mother is working,” says Tim Kelloway, a Toronto stay-at-home dad to three children under 5. “If dad’s in the book, he’s always coming home from work or something like that.” Mike McPhaden, a Toronto screenwriter who shares custody of his eight-year-old son, would like to see more themes that reflect the kind of dad he wants to be. “Is daddy as loving a parent as a mom? Does daddy cook? Does daddy clean?” are the themes he looks for, he says. Mr. McPhaden is a fan of the board book Guess How Much I Love You, which depicts a loving conversation between a bunny and his son; the kind of book that can counteract stereotypes. “The dad in Diary of a Wimpy Kid is hyper-masculine and threatening to send him to a military academy. [That’s not] the kind of dad I am.”

June 12, 2012

"Here Lies Ray Bradbury, Who Loved Completely"

(amen to that, incidentally) What I like about this is...