“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Genre and Literary Fiction: Whither le Carré?

Adam Sisman’s JOHN LE CARRÉ: THE BIOGRAPHY gets off to a good start – in my book – with Sisman’s Introduction, when he says that the ‘condescending attitude taken by some towards le Carré is explained in part by the idea that ‘genre’ novels are innately inferior’:
“To me, the argument about whether a genre novelist can ever be ‘literary’ is a circular one. The very distinction is meaningless. Is Jane Austen a genre novelist? Is Nineteen Eighty-Four a genre novel? or A Tale of Two Cities? or Wolf Hall? or The Quiet American? All that one can usefully say is that there are good novelists and bad novelists. […]
“I suspect that his enormous success has prejudiced some critics against le Carré. If a writer is so popular, he must have lowered himself to the level of the masses. Quite apart from being manifestly untrue, this is no more than snobbery. We should delight in the fact that such a sophisticated and subtle writer has so many readers. A further problem for le Carré is that his books are often tense, exciting and even thrilling – qualities not often present in literary fiction, and ones that perhaps disqualify him from entertaining the pantheon.
“I see an analogy with Alfred Hitchcock, a filmmaker whose artistry was often overlooked in his lifetime because he made the mistake of being popular. The novels of le Carré blend art and entertainment, a mix to be relished by those who have the taste to enjoy it.” ~ Adam Sisman

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

To even pose the question these days often feels like giving the false dichotomy way too much credit. My mantra in this kind of discussion for years has been: Nothing escapes genre. Let's quit pretending otherwise, and get down to appreciating what's good, indeed.