Monday, January 8, 2018

Do most books fit into literary genres?

Publishers think genres are a way of classifying fiction in order to target marketing of books to receptive audiences. Fine. What if a book or a collection of stories fits into more than one genre?

So-called literary experts say “genre fiction” (as opposed to literary fiction) is plot-driven. That bothers me. I thought the plot was pretty important in The Sun Also Rises, although perhaps not as much as the characters, and I’m pretty sure it’s an example of literary fiction. Oh well. Let’s not argue that point.

Let’s try to  classify The Good Old Days? The short stories in this collection occur in the past, ie. 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. I guess that means the stories are historical fiction. 

However, the stories are based on familiestheir thrilling escapes from war, their secrets which mystify current generation, and their romances. So, the some of the stories are plot-driven romances, mysteries, and thrillers. Other stories are character-driven and resemble literary fiction. 

But wait, these stories might be called memoirs (a form of nonfiction)—most of the stories are snapshots of real events and have the idiosyncratic tone of memoirsI interviewed dozens of people about their childhoods to get ideas, but I turned my notes into fiction as I added plots, developed characters, and changed details. 

By now, you’re bored with this literary discussion. Please note I was much briefer than most writers as they debated the differences between narrative memoirs and historical fiction. Gee, I hate trying to fit into a box defined by someone else.

Blurbs don’t really work for short story collections. So, I included the first page of one of the short stores.

I Still Want…
“I still want a hula hoop.” The chipmunks—Alvin, Simon, and Theodore—screeched slightly out of harmony on the Saturday morning cartoon show. There were lots of things I still wanted, too: the winter to end, Mom to get well, and anyone to talk to me.
When I was eight, neither of my parents spoke much to me. They avoided me, except at suppertime. Then Mom stared at the black cat clock, with its red eyes rolling back and forth and its tail swinging, while Dad and I silently ate supper. When I put down my fork, Mom sent me outside in warm weather and to my bedroom in winter. Dad seldom protested her decision. He only hung his head.
As soon as I exited the kitchen, Mom usually screamed or cried, often both, as Dad droned on about what the doctor said and how she should eat more, stop smoking, drink less, and get out more. I agreed with Mom. Dad’s litany was boring. Anyway, most nights after about an hour of hysterics, he went out to the garage to tinker on his carpentry projects.
For about fifteen minutes after his departure, Mom slammed doors in the kitchen before she shuffled to the bathroom. The next ten minutes were the most important of the evening to me. If I managed to open my bedroom door, slide down the hall to the kitchen, and sneak through the living room to the garage while she was in the shower, I was free…

Other stories in the collection include: Smell of Fear, The Bronx Revisited, I Look Like Papa, and Dirty Dave. All have bits of humor and make you think. You may recognize your relatives or neighbors in these stories.

To read the rest of the story: