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September 12th, 2012

Genre Writing and Junot Diaz

Trolling Facebook (terrible habit, I must break myself of it.  Tomorrow, or maybe next week), I found a link to an on-line interview with Junot Diaz, whose The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao  not only won a Pulitzer Prize, but was also the subject of a really cool essay in Interfictions Zero by Carlos Hernandez.  But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

What I wanted to talk about--or at least point out--is the following paragraph, which says what I've been thinking for quite some time now, and even saying, over dinner and in bars at cons.  But never this cogently, nor from the position of authority and, yes, privilege, of a Pulitzer Prize winner.  There's not a lot we citizens of Genreland can do about this that we're not already doing--writing interesting, well-crafted, thoughtful novels about important subjects (and magic and space).  But it's nice to know that we've got at least some powerful Literary allies willing to tell it like it is.

Here's the relevant paragraph.

I think it’s no accident that we’re celebrating genre writing by literary writers and not genre writing by genre writers. I think that one of the elements, one of the dimensions that is left out of this discussion endlessly, and to my great frustration, is the word privilege. No one would be reading these books at the level they’re reading them now, if they didn’t have the credentials, the imprimatur, of literary fiction. Which is to say if a genre-writing-Joe had produced both of those books they would be stuck in their genre moment. And I think that this is what’s incredibly important about this discussion … is that there is privilege, and that this privilege grants a serious reading to literary writers writing genre versus genre writers writing genre. I don’t think we’re giving them a serious reading, I don’t think they’re going to be reviewed in the New York Times, and there is a deep unfairness there. Somebody like Justin and somebody like Colson, they have an American passport and they can come back and forth from the third world of genre writing and no one asks them any questions, but the genre writers are stuck with a Dominican passport, and they can never get out.

He has some interesting things to say about feminism and clueless men and his latest novel, too.  Interesting guy.

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