Claire King


Posts Tagged ‘World Book Night’

Pens at Dawn

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by Claire - 16 Comments

...a highly civilized institution among barbarous people

“Have at you scurvy knave, with thy grandiose vocabulary!”

“You cad! You scoundrel! I shall put to death at once all those foul words with which you tarnish my literary delights.”

“Literary delights? I scoff at your arrogance, you mendacious varlet! Thy feet are stuck in the swamps of the past.”

“You are a turncoat and a bounder! The only true way is the way of paper, the way of the trade publisher! You cheapen the great literary tradition!”

“You cheapen yourself, Sir, with your ignorance.”

“My ink will be the death of you!”

“Oh, we shall see about that!”

Enough already! Enough of the in-fighting! Are we not all writers, united by this desire to write down stories that other people want to read?

I’m not opposed to reasoned debate, of course, but what is all this ‘Mine is better than yours’ that the literary community seem to have become embroiled in? I call out two big BORING bitch-fests:

1. Self-publishing/Indie Publishing versus Trade publishing.

Yes. These days there are different ways to go about getting your work out to your audience. Will one make you more money than the other? Who knows?Time will tell. In the meantime why not just take whichever route tickles your fancy and follow the example of Amanda Hocking – as someone who has recently been held up as the darling of indie authors because she has achieved phenomenal success, Amanda could easily have jumped on the ‘My dad’s army is bigger than your dad’s army’ bandwagon. Instead, in her post here, Amanda steps neatly out of the ‘which is better’ debate. Full credit to her.

2. Literary Fiction versus Genre Fiction

Do we really need to choose one or the other? Can we not have our Dickens with a side order of  Whipple? This topic was recently brought to light again, albeit inadvertently, by BBC2 programming for World Book Night. The programming seemed to be intentionally balanced – a programme about commercial genre fiction followed by one on the best new talent in literary fiction. So far so good. But it couldn’t be that simple.

Cue Sue Perkins interviewing Lee Child. Lee Child being very balanced and nice about everyone, until, inexplicably, he uttered words along the lines of ‘we genre writers could write literary fiction, but literary authors could not write genre fiction’ (my paraphrasing).*

Now, I’m mostly a Lit-Fic kinda gal, but I have read Lee Child and think he’s a cracking writer. But why? Why would he say that?

I have a suspicion that this is about clans. Here is an example of my childhood paradigm (long since broken, hence why I feel comfortable with using it as an example):

English people are better – they are good and clean, whilst French people smell of garlic, and poo into holes in the ground.

But within England – The North is good and hardworking, those living south of Nottingham are soft southern Jessies.

Within the North, of course, Yorkshire is good, Lancashire is bad.

But when we say Yorkshire is good, we mean the good, hardworking people of Sheffield, not the poncy posh lot in North Yorkshire: Bronte Country = rubbish, Full Monty Country = ace.

But within Sheffield, you know, there are the posh bits, and the decent bit. Oh and the scummy bits. Those of us in the middle, we’re the salt of the earth, us.

But not that estate over the road, that’s full of losers.

On our street,  actually, a lot of them are stuck up or ignorant. That’s why family’s important.

Except my brother, he’s crap.

And it’s the same with writing.  But can’t we rise above all that and as writers, turn our attention away from each other and towards, say, those people who think it’s a good idea to shut down our libraries?

I’m just saying.

* He also suggested that literary fiction tends to use big words where small ones would do. This caused my husband to write this blog post and associated big-word-ometer.