Friday, January 25, 2008

Best in What Way, Though?

Earlier this week A L Kennedy complained about publishers' discrimination against literary fiction, today Mark Lawson grumbles about snobbish literary prejudices against crime fiction (Joan Brady has won a settlement after claiming that fumes from a nearby cobbler's so affected her brain she was 'only' capable of writing a crime novel.)

But there's no discrepancy, really. The real trouble lies, as Lawson says, in a false dichotomy which can make either 'literary' or 'populist' a dirty word in the world of books. He has a solution: there are, after all, he says, good and bad books in both 'camps', and instead of condemning all crime books or thrillers through the prism of The Da Vinci Code or all literary fiction for those which are 'plotless and proseless', 'we should make our generalisations only from the best'.

Well, it sounds good in theory. But whose best are we talking about? There are plenty of people who'll tell you that The Da Vinci Code is brilliant. And there must be people who admire those 'plotless, proseless' novels he says he's encountered as a Booker judge.
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