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Genre Snobbery

In an interview with David Barr Kirtley, host of the podcast “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy,” David Mitchell opened up about a few subjects, including – but not limited to – Ursula K. Le Guin, Dungeons & Dragons, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and that very crystalline subject otherwise known as “the future.” As always, Mr. Mitchell has some insightful nuggets of barbecue sauce-laden wisdom to pass on, one of which has to do with the idea of literary genrefication.

I think it fair to say that we as people like to classify, organize, break down, label and basically separate anything and everything into smaller and smaller groups. We do it in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. It’s meant to help us understand and categorize larger units of information and make it more readily accessible, whether as bits of memory or as books at a library.

Yet David Mitchell takes exception to using labels in the literary world to strictly isolate one branch of writing from another. As the author of little-known works such as Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks puts it:

It’s convenient to have a science fiction and fantasy section, it’s convenient to have a mainstream literary fiction section, but these should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong…It’s a bizarre act of self-mutilation to say that ‘I don’t get on with science fiction and fantasy, therefore I’m never going to read any. What a shame. All those great books that you’re cutting yourself off from.

So true. Click here to read the full article on wired.com, entitled, “Genre Snobbery Is a ‘Bizarre Act of Self-Mutilation’.”


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