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July 28, 2008

Quote for the Day

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Patrick Milliken -- who works at Scottsdale, Arizona's superb crime-fiction bookstore the Poisoned Pen -- graduated from college with a degree in literature. When he started working at the bookstore he knew very little about crime fiction. Since then ...

[I] have done my best to make up for lost time ... I remember a great quote from (blues great) Lightnin' Hopkins when he was asked if some of the guys in his band could read music. He said "Some of 'em do, but it don't hurt 'em none."

So many students of literature are spoon-fed the canon and never learn about the great stuff that exists out there on the margins. I was amazed by the sheer breadth and quality of crime fiction that's out there, and I think much of the best writing today is done in the genre.

That was my experience too. Fancy degrees in lit from fancy colleges ... Easy familiarity with the usual big-city debates and publications ... Unconsciously snobbish attitudes ...

Then -- just because I was curious about these categories of fiction that so many of my colleagues and friends sneered at without having tried -- I dared to crack open a few contempo genre novels. (Talk about forbidden literature!) Then a few more. Soon I was buttonholing friends and saying "There's amazing stuff being written and published in non-literary settings! Why aren't we being told about this? And why is our own class claiming that the only fiction worth taking note of is literary fiction? It's a lie!"

FWIW: The only thing in Patrick Milliken's quote that I'd dispute is his description of genre fiction as something "at the margins." In practical fact, it's literary fict that's at the margins. Why on earth is such a big deal made of it?

More here.

Finnish nonfiction author Juri Nummelin writes that American hardboiled fiction is "the best literature in the world." Half of me thinks, "Well, that's a reasonable and defensible position." The other half of me goes "Fuckin' A it is!!"



posted by Michael at July 28, 2008


Literary fiction classes seems to be especially popular with well-bred young ladies.
Could it be, I ask myself, that they are attracted for reasons of status rather than any appreciation?

Posted by: Fred Kite on July 29, 2008 2:55 AM

I like cowboy novels. Some great stuff being published there too.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on July 29, 2008 9:32 AM

Best crime fiction writer nobody every heard of: I nominate Tom Kakonis. Hard to find his stuff anywhere, used bookstores maybe. Only writer I can recall who made me check sure all my doors were locked before I retired to my slumbers. And he was side splitting funny. Amazing.

Posted by: John Homer on July 29, 2008 11:03 AM

Y'know, maybe that's why a state university can be a better option for your degree. (After all, unless you go to a brand name, most employers don't care where, just if you have one.)

In my freshman lit class, one quarter we studied the classics of western fiction - by that I mean cowboys and indians, not European-descent. That threw the door open for me that every genre has its classics.

Posted by: yahmdallah on July 29, 2008 11:16 AM

Fred Kite,

It may be "popular," but is it actually being read?

Posted by: beloml on July 29, 2008 12:17 PM

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