Genre & Literary

Using the ampersand there because I’m tired of seeing the “vs.” Too? I keep thinking I’m done with this discussion, this rabbit-hole, this time-suck. But then I stumble across something like this, and it rings true in a way I’d never considered:

That’s from American Grindhouse. And, that freedom Jonathan Kaplan’s talking about there, that’s exactly what I get the sense of, every time I’m reading PKD: that he’s ringing the bells he has to in order to do all this other stuff. Which, really, Elric Kane at Shockwaves podcast kind of said a few eps ago, talking George Romero:

I think ultimately the biggest gripe I have with this movie [It Comes at Night], is that I think [the director] is unwilling to do what directors like George Romero do so well, which is, on one hand, he has satire and something he’s trying to say, but Romero’s not scared of also delving deep into the exploitation of the genre itself—horror, and being campy, or tropey, things for an audience to latch on so they can actually be entertained while they’re getting to the idea of the piece.

People are always concerning themselves with differences and categories, with the root-cause of these embittered positions, these different camps, these different species of writers. I’m not so sure that’s the right way to look at it, though; I’m not so sure it’s an issue of speciation at all.

I prefer this way: let’s look at what each mode or angle of approach allows. It’s not about hating this or that, it’s not about resentment or jealousy—the old saw is that commercial writers want respect, literary writers want some actual checks to cash—it’s about . . . a lot less, finally: you saw this movie when you were six, not that movie; your fifth-grade English teacher slipped you this story, not that story. The butterfly effect.

When my uncle opened his book closet for me so many years ago, ushered me into this new and amazing world of reading, of characters and stories and other worlds, if he’d had Flannery O’Connor and Ernest Hemingway in there instead of Conan the Barbarian and Louis L’Amour [found comics on my own], then I’m probably not even watching American Grindhouse, I’m not even listening to Shockwaves. If my other uncle doesn’t tell me about Halloween when I’m six, if my best friend doesn’t re-enact Terminator for me since I couldn’t get to town myself to see it, if none of that, then I end up wired all different, I imagine.

I have to assume it ‘s not all that different for all the other writers out there. Only bad part about it all, I guess, is that the market pressures you into standing in the small circle of your first book, or your first big book, should you be so lucky. Ideally, story’s what’s valued, never mind how it’s dressed up. Which is why I so respect writers like Joe R. Lansdale, who just carved out their own space, did what they wanted to do and did it well enough that the readers went with them from shelf to shelf.

Anyway, mostly just wanted to share that clip up there, as I’d imagine not everybody’s into grindhouse stuff, might miss that. And, the lesson I take from that, and from what Kane says on Shockwaves? Never forget that you’re there to entertain first. Everything else is secondary. Smuggle in what you can, definitely, but never make your cake healthy enough that it loses its icing. The icing is what draws people across the room to your table, I mean. The icing’s where it’s at.

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