CORRECTION: the load of cobblers, according to the author involved, was hauled by a writer at The Times (London) who invented the fumes-make-you-lowbrow idea. According to Joan Brady:
“That’s the pure invention of the Times. They have decided that this effete literary woman has become so stupid that she can no longer write boring literary fiction and writes poorly selling thrillers instead. My mental faculties haven’t deteriorated. And anyway, what an insult it would be to thriller writers to suggest that you need to be stupid to write them. It seems to me so irritating that you would denigrate a remarkable genre where much of the best writing is done. I’m a great admirer of writers like John Grisham and Scott Turow.”
Now, when we were last here…
There’s an excellent essay in The Guardian by Mark Lawson riffing on the peculiar case of a writer who won a largish settlement when she claimed fumes from a neighboring shoe factory caused her to write crime fiction instead of serious literature. (I’d already seen this News of the Weird at Sarah Wienman’s blog – apparently the injured party is writing a sequel to the book that was entered in evidence of her degraded ability to concentrate; ah dear, she’s a the glue again.) Lawson makes the case that the distinctions between genres are specious – which, to my mind, is a more convincing argument than “crime fiction is way better than snobby littrachure, and it’s more popular, too, nanner nanner nanner.”
So, in the course of a compensation dispute, we have medical and legal support for the traditional libel against crime writing: that it is done by authors whose brains aren’t fully working. Perhaps, in the way that the dim in showbusiness became known as airheads, leading crime and thriller writers should in future be designated fumeheads.
And yet this is a strange time for the claim to be made, because the boundaries between the two sides of fiction – which we can loosely call literary and populist, although all of the terminology used in these debates tends to be pejorative – is visibly breaking down. . . .
So the reason for the survival of these prejudices can only be that whenever populist fiction makes an attempt to drag itself through the doors of the academy, it’s held back by the dead, reeking weight of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code manacled to the ankles. But it makes no sense to discredit the best of a genre by invoking the worst: no television reviewer argues that Newsnight is rubbish simply because America’s Next Top Model stinks.
The comments that follow are great fun, too.