What’s in a Name?

I was reading this interview with Diana Abu Jaber (which I got from Moorish Girl by the way), author of the lovely memoir The Language of Baklava, when I hit this part:

FS: In the Foreword to TLOB and recently in the panel “Memoirs: Family Matters”, your remark rather honestly about the fusion of memoir and fiction….Can you talk a little bit more about this – this fusion and how it influenced your new work?
DAJ: Oh yes, I’ve often wanted to called my new book a memvel, or a noivoir, because it really didn’t seem to fall along whatever the perceived lines are for writing within traditional genre lines.

Over at the LBC website there’s been an ongoing discussion across several posts about ‘serious’ literature vs. ‘non-serious’ literature. Genres like Scifi, Romance, and Mystery often get dismissed to quickly by folks, who don’t consider it good enough. It’s like candy, they say. This quote made me think about the labels use and how perhaps we are damaging some books. Case in point, I just finished Perdido Street Station, which I loved. It’s one of the most engrossing and well-ritten things I’ve read recently, since Divided Kingdom last month. PST is defintely Scifi, but I dare anyone to read it and call it candy. But to say it transcends the genre also seems to say that the genre lacks something. I haven’t worked this out in my head yet, but I suppose I do know one thing. There are well-written books and there are crappy books. Period. Dan Brown is no China Mieville. I can’t think of a solution to this problem though.

1 thought on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Perry Middlemiss

    There is no solution other than to drop the restrictions of genre labels. Just think of it as literature and remember Sturgeon’s Law: “Ninety per cent of everything is crap.”

    Is “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Le Guin sf or a novel of sexual politics or literature? Is “The Name of the Rose” by Eco a crime novel or treatise on dark age monastries or literature?

    If you like the sound of it, read it. And if you enjoyed reading it, forget the genre.

    Oh, by the way, I doubt whether that book by Dan Brown is even 10% “non-crap”.


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