Monday, February 12, 2007

Middlebrowness for middlebrowness's sake

Despite being a bookworm, I have serious problems with this post vaunting the merits of reading "literary fiction." Mostly, it's that it buys into the bogus and arbitrary category of literary fiction, which somehow encompasses spy thrillers, Atwood's don't-call-it-science-fiction, and Amy Tan* but which is somehow distinct (and, I sense, above) genre fiction such as chick lit.

Isn't the problem with chick lit that most of it's just plain awful? Badly-written chick lit, like badly-written westerns, romances, fantasies, or spy thrillers, is to be condemned. Good writing should be endorsed, but not by scooping it up from its genre ghetto and dubbing it "literary." How can someone flaunt her escapist tastes so bluntly and yet hitch her skirts so as not to be contaminated by dirty, nasty non-"literary" fiction?

And then there's the link to this study. Does anyone else think it's worthless since there's no controlling for gender? It makes me feel more balanced, as a antisocial and nerdy fiction reader, but what's the scientific value?


* I defy anyone who says that Amy Tan is not chick lit, albeit of a self-consciously ethnic variety. Ditto any of the recent books out of Britain about the Asian woman's immigrant experience.
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