Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Disturbing Trend

I just read a forum discussion on Crimespace regarding recent books people have read, and with the execption of one person mentioning Cormac McCarthy's The Road all of the books were in the mystery genre. Now there are some readers on Crimespace, but the majority of people there are writers. Isn't it a bit harmful to read nothing but crime fiction if you are also writing it yourself? Shouldn't writers branch out to every genre, including literary? There was no mention of writers like Hemingway, or Jennifer Weiner or Octavia Butler. Admittedly the majority of the books I read are crime, but I try to read outside of the genre. I feel like a freak because I listed Fitzgerald, Bowles and Bukowski.

Crime fiction writers continually bitch about the lack of respect literary folk give our genre, stating that if they read the best of what mystery has to offer, their opinions would change. But too often those in popular fiction genres snub literary fiction just as much (even snubbing other popular fiction genres as well). If the genres were ever to fix the divide, then it should start with us, not only as a tool to understanding literary fiction, but to aid our own writing too.

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

This may be true of some others too--I only listed the crime fiction I had read, thinking that was the main interest on crimespace. Good point though.
Let me add To Kill a Mockingbird and Pretty Birds by Scott Smith.

Steve Allan said...

This isn't the first time I've encountered a reverse disrespect or ignorance toward litfic among popfic writers. Yeah, there may be some who omitted non-crime books for the same reason you did, but I bet a majority don't read outside the genre.

But the worst people are the ones who write within a genre but won't read it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was so surprised to see you just read This Side of Paradise. I so loved that book. Almost as much as Gatsby. Hope it held up for you.

Steve Allan said...

Gatsby is far superior, but Paradise is much much better than Tender is the Night, which is a complete mess.

Lyman said...

Being a firm believer that Genre in general should be a concept lost to the dark ages, I find I get my best ideas from work outside the genre in which I'm writing. Just as I choose to write within any genre, I also realize the importance of all written work even outside the scope of short stories and novels. Plays hold a great deal of interest for me as they are prime examples of dialog. I would imagine that for crime writers a good deal of creative nonfiction can lend credence to your work.

You can't read any written work without being influenced by it. But... with that said, if you don't read your own genre, you're doomed to rehash familiar themes and stereotypes.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I get bored doing any one thing for too long, that's why my list is broader than crime, but to tell you the truth, I prefer genre fiction. And I don't see why I can't learn a whole bunch of techniques from it.

But snobbery is not a good thing either way.

I look down upon snobbery.

Steve Allan said...

Lyman, it's interesting that you bring up plays as great teachers of dialog because I started my "training as a writer" by reading a lot of screenplays, hence I have a better grasp of dialog than the average bear, and my prose tends to be pretty lean at times. But non-fiction does play a role in giving me ideas, and of course in research, but the best place for me is the stories my mom tells me from events in the DA's office. I still have to write something about the dildo assault story. Did I ever tell you about that?

"I look down upon snobbery" V. funny.