Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Trouble with Genres

Genres are a sticky wicket. Do romantic elements in a more Literary work mean it's a Romance? Aren't all Drama movies comparable to Romances in one way or another? Seldom does a Drama not have Romance, but not all Literary fiction has Romance. Further, a memoir is not exclusively non-fiction, but more are based in reality than a Fantasy epic, for instance.

Collecting books for readers in the reserve stacks, 1964
This leads me to a conundrum of tags and links. Since I read mostly Romance (all sorts) and Fantasy (including Sci Fi, another can of worms, that) it makes sense to divvy them up for the discerning blog reader. However, while John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars feature's a romance between two cancer patients, it is not what I would call a Romance, such as Pride & Prejudice (by Jane Austen). I think the main difference between these is that Pride & Prejudice ends with the culmination of the couple being a, well, couple, while The Fault in Our Stars goes beyond that. John Green's Young Adult book has, I would argue, just as much or more literary value than Pride & Prejudice.

This leads me to the problem of Literature vs. Genre Fiction. We can argue that Literature is more philosophical, posing questions and sometimes answers to life, while Genre Fiction runs along less interesting tracks of the mind, stirring emotion rather than thought, built to entertain rather than to provoke. This, I would not agree, makes some consider Genre Fiction lesser than Literature. Further, Literature also costs more, as though 'loftier' ideas are costlier. I think it also encourages the idea that Genre Fiction is less thoughtful and Literature less passionate, though neither is the case, as many readers will tell you.

What to do then? Do I lump The Fault in Our Stars and Pride & Prejudice in with Slammed, all Romance? Do I designate one as 'Literary' and the others as Romance, respectively historical and contemporary? And what about Memoir, that fickle family member who is both Literary and Non-Fiction?

I think I'll stop labeling all my books Fiction, for one, and just point out the boring, non-fiction ones, haha, as they come along. There's always the Melvil Decimal System.

Also, Ceridwen has written an interesting review musing on this after reading Losing It by Cora Carmack, one of the drivers behind the New Adult trend. She asks, should we label the books by their target demographic? over on soapboxing.net. I will continue to do so, and while this may lead to some interesting conundrums - is Slammed really lumped in with PostApoc? - I'll keep poking around until something sticks.

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