Now this kind of writing is why Ms. Le Guin is a goddess of the SF pantheon: On Serious Literature. Have to admire that gimlet turn of phrase. Read on and laugh your ass off. I dare you not to.


About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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6 Responses to Skewered!

  1. Michael Uyyek says:

    Wow. That is… wow. Once again, Ms. LeGuin has shown us why she ranks among the best of contemporary writers, “serious” or not. When will the self-proclaimed literati finally come to understand the truth?

    Books shouldn’t necessarily challenge the bookstore to find the right shelf on which to file them. Just because a book fits neatly (or nearly so) into a genre category doesn’t marginalize it, but makes it more accessible to those the book is targeted towards — if you go to the store and see a plainly jacketed hardback book with a title like “Water Over Stones”, with vague, pretentious blurbs on the back that don’t really tell you what the book is about, only people who pride themselves in reading only “serious” fiction will buy it, at least until someone writes up a review with an actual synopsis that tells the rest of us whether or not it’s worth buying for ourselves,

    Sometimes, you WANT to read something specific. I’m not a western kind of guy, but if I’m in the mood for a good story about cowboys, damsels in distress, highway bandits and lawmen who brook no nonsense, it’s nice that such a thing exists for that moment when I want to reach for one. Same thing with soft sci-fi, sword-and-sorcery fantasy, noir, even historical-romance: they exist because the public wants to read a particular style of fiction, or fiction about a particular range of topics, or fiction set in a particular range of settings. And if you’re in the mood for something in-between or in its own category, there’s room for that on the shelves as well.

    Critics often make the distinction between popular fiction and literature, assuming that “literature” means a work of fiction that is meant to speak to the ages, and addresses universal human issues in a thought-provoking manner, with characterization and plotting that expand upon themes on multiple levels. What ends up happening is that only books that make the reader wonder exactly why he or she read it in the first place get considered as “serious literature,” because if you understood it and liked it because it was a good story with interesting characters, it obviously wasn’t deep enough, and must be demoted to the realm of soft fiction, filed next to the men’s magazines and the comic books.

    *pant*pant* Okay, stepping off the soapbox and slowly backing away…

  2. *applause*
    Nicely ranted, Mike. I heartily agree: many professional reviewers and critics of “literature” seem to feel that if the piece is accessible, has a distinct plot arc, setting, and conflict, it can’t possibly be worthy of more than the dimmest praise for craft. Certainly it is not, in their view, art, nor is it really something anyone should waste time on except as an occasional guilty pleasure to be consumed in the greatest secrecy and shamefacedly if you are caught–like having sex in the Oval Office. Unless, of course, they can somehow convince themselves that the piece transcends genre, then that’s OK. And we won’t discuss those literary greats who’ve had the bad taste to write in genres… like Dickens, Atwood, Poe, Oates, Huxley, du Maurier, Austen, and Carroll.

  3. Michael Ehart says:

    The opening line of Scarmouche “He was born with a gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad, and that was the sum of his patrimony.” defies any attempt to clsssify it as anything but art. Sadly for the lit snots, ol’ Raph Sabatini wore his genre proudly on his sleeve, bright yellow for the world to see.

    That lit studies sophomore argument “but is it art” is worn to the point of transparancy. Lets bury THAT old wheeze in a shallow grave, for the lit critic worms to gnaw on.

    (Was that enough metaphor?)

  4. It met my phor: snark; snipe; wit; and wefefence (be vewwy vewwy quiet–we’we huntin wabid weviewews.)

    I love Sabatini, who spoke three languages IIRC and chose to write pointed and political satire in English. (Is it art, yet? Stick a claw in it and see if it’s done.)

  5. Bart says:

    My not so ashamed confession…I adore genre fiction in many flavors. Even when I can see the creakingly obvious cavalry coming to save the day, well written-well read in my opinion.
    I read to enlighten, enjoy and sometimes to whileaway the not infrequent sleepless nite. The experience of reading does not have to be an endurance contest or a puzzle of what exactly the word means this time. I enjoyed Ms Le Guins piece as a fine example of literary satire and yes, laughed my ass off.

  6. Hurrah! Another one bites the bait. Hey, Bart, nice to see you! Where you been, bro?

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