“If you’re like me and it’s only enjoyment you seek from books (no, I’m not kidding), you might assume Stephen King’s novels are right up your street. Millions seem to enjoy them. But “enjoyment” is just a label. To be shared, it has to be unpacked. Otherwise it remains a cliché, the sort of thing you’ll find filling Stephen King novels. —Stephen King on Desert Island from This Space
“When I was a teenager I read everything [by Stephen King] and he has profoundly shaped my literary sensiblity, for better or worse. But I haven’t read a thing by him for nigh on 15 years, I’ll wager. … What do you think about genre fiction as “work that eschews moral ambiguity, narrative experimentation, verbal nuance and depth of characterization for such “‘lowbrow’ ” considerations as story, suspense and obvious readability.” It’s not really a proper definition because it actually doesn’t say anything about – well, genre, which really ought to be shoehorned in somewhere. But never mind that. Even a proper definition of ‘genre fiction’ will tend to include ‘metafiction’ as a subvariety. — Metafiction from Conversational Reading
“As always in populist screeds such as this, the primary target of ire is the “canon-maker-wannabes” in universities. The professors have told an “official story of postwar American fiction [that] recoiled entirely from the Gold Medal writers.” They’ve withheld their markers of “respectable culture.” Putting aside the fact that writers who valorized “sensationalism and sleaze” probably were never looking for the approval of “respectable culture,” MB really ought to take a closer look at what academic critics are actually up to these days. Contemporary literature has been a substantial part of the literary ccurriculum for only about 30 years, and “scholars” of contemporary literature have long since abandoned a gatekeeping role, anyway. Breaking the canon–in this case before it was even clearly established–is much more popular than making it.” —The Content and Form of American Fiction-Writing from The Reading Experience
I’ve read lots of Stephen King’s book when I was travelling in South East Asia when I was in my mid twenties. At the time I was a huge Stephen King fan, I still think regularly of novels such as The Stand and It. It’s been a while since I’ve read Stephen King (apart from his treatise on the nature of horror Danse Macabre last summer. (which again, I liked)) So yes, I am a Stephen King fan, and Stephen King has become a defining figure in my canon. And as such I find it hard to respect people such as Harold Bloom who state that:
“[Stephen King] is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls. That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy.” – Harold Bloom, 1993.
Perhaps most interesting to Jahsonic readers is the original Michael Blowhard post to which the Reading Experience responds, because it perfectly illustrates the intimate link between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture we have termed nobrow:
“To illustrate, let me connect a few dots. French New Wave titans Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut both loved Gold Medal books, and both based films on novels by Gold Medal authors: Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou” was based on a novel by Lionel White; Truffaut based “Shoot the Piano Player” on a novel by David Goodis. By the way, did you realize that Godard based “Made in USA” on a novel by Donald Westlake? Hey, I see that Donald Westlake wrote a few books for Gold Medal himself.” —Michael Blowhard
One more reflection: This debate – between the merits of genre fiction vs. literary fiction – does not seem to take place in the realm of cinema. One seldom hears of comparisons of genre films vs. art films. There seems to be no issue of artistic hierarchy in cinema. How come?