seriously . . .

There’s a good piece by Charles McGrath in today’s Times about genre fiction and quality. The call out quote – “Today’s novelists feel as if they have to choose either pedestal or plot.”

Referring to the Brady Affair, he says . . .

Thrillers by and large do much better than literary novels, and though the title “Bleedout” turns out to refer, disappointingly, to kosher butchery rather than human carnage, it has done pretty well, selling some 50,000 copies in Britain alone since it came out in 2005. An author seeking damages would do better, one would have thought, by claiming to have become so addled that she had decided to forsake a certain payday for the vain hope of literary success. In that case the Times headline might read: “Fumes Float Author’s Fantasy.”

And on the Banville doppelganger:

Both Ian Rankin, the British mystery writer, and Stephen King, the horror-meister, have complained about a double standard — a conspiracy, in effect — among critics and reviewers that tends to ghettoize genre writing and prevent its practitioners from being taken seriously.

But if there is a conspiracy it’s one that authors — highbrow authors, anyway — are sometimes complicit in, frequently adopting pseudonyms when they want to dabble in, say, crime writing. The most curious case recently is that of John Banville, the Booker Prize winner who has published two highly regarded mysteries under the name Benjamin Black but hasn’t taken any pains to keep his true identity a secret. For a Web site, he has even interviewed his alter ego. Perhaps not so surprising is that what makes the two Black novels, “Christine Falls” and “The Silver Swan,” so good — their atmospheric descriptive writing — is precisely Mr. Banville’s great strength, while Benjamin Black, whose third novel is currently being serialized in The New York Times Magazine, is still learning some of the ropes when it comes to plot and suspense.

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