When Ursula Dissed Kazuo: 8 Bits of Book Gossip

The novel is always changing.  Has always, will always.  But here’s 8 links to posts about current stuff going on that points to a radical departure from lit as we know it.

1) Kazuo Ishiguro’s new book, The Buried Giant, sparked a debate about the breakdown of genre literature, and the consequences of blurring or obliterating genre lines.  In this interview in the NY Times, Ishiguro hoped readers would understand his intentions for having ogres and dragons in his book, and not chalk it up to fantasy.

2) This attitude pissed off the classic fantasy author Ursula LeGuin, who wrote a review in which she accused Kazuo of degrading fantasy, whether he wanted to call his book fantasy or not.

3) In classic author mode, Kazuo wrote this rebuff of Ursula’s attack, denying any snobbery against fantasy on his part.

4) Being an author who likes to mix and mutate fantasy and other genres, I never anticipated this genre play might insult a traditional genre writer.  But I suppose it’s all a matter of one’s attitude, mine coming from a place of love and influence.  For a nice perspective on the whole mess, here’s a detailed parse of the debate in flavorwire.

5) In an ironic punchline, a few days later, George R.R. Martin received an accolade, in thanks donated a first edition of The Hobbit to a university, and in his acceptance speech, celebrated that fantasy was finally getting its literary due.  Maybe yes, maybe no.

6) Meanwhile, on the other side of the book world, in literary fiction, novelists are saying they are bored and embarrassed by fiction, as evident in this New Yorker article about the new book by Rachel Cusk.  Finding a falseness in making things up, there is a new trend to blend heavy doses of autobiographical material into the novel.

7) One way of looking at this trend is as a reinvention of the diary, as discussed in this review of an old favorite author of mine, Zadie Smith, who I thought made up stuff just fine.  But she’s mixing her life into her fiction the way Picasso mixed newspaper clippings into his Paris canvases.

8) So to finish, how about a sweet name for this new trend?  Try this article about Autofiction, which discusses Karl Ove Knausgaard’s seven volume series that tracks his mid-life crisis.

It seems there must be a connection between the crumbling of and sensitivity to genre fiction, and the wholesale rejection of fiction.  We’re just not feeling satisfied with what we’ve got in hand anymore.  I for one have been suffering deeply with this dilemma lately. But you’ll have to subscribe to my email list to get a firsthand account, in my latest confession to loyal fans.



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