Literature

I alluded earlier to a rambling post about the terror that is the word 'literature' and here it is. So if you want to sod off and get yourself a cup of tea, maybe a nice chocolate biscuit, I'll chunter away to myself here and you can probably come back to another post whinging on about my interloping cat problems instead.

Those of you daft enough to stay...

This whole thing stems from a review what I did get on Amazon.co.uk Now I know checking one's Amazon reviews is akin to playing Russian roulette with a howitzer, but I did it anyway. I was feeling masochistic that day. Anyway, the review is actually a good one: five shiny stars of shininess:

5.0 out of 5 starsBroken skin but not broken momentum, 23 May 2007
By D. M. Bennett (Aberdeen, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Stuart Macbride's latest DS Macrae novel continues the momentum of the previous two. This fast action thriller takes the reader on a tour of Aberdeen and introduces the reader to a side of the Granite City that few will have opened their eyes to see. The storyline although a little fantastic, not least as it features Aberdeen Football Club being in contention for the league, keeps the reader gripped but is unlikely to win any literature prizes. Yet another good work from MacBride which I would thoroughly recommend the other writers in this genre must be concerned that MacBrides momentum will break their market.


"Well done, that bearded sex-god," I hear you say. But take another look. A close one. See if you can spot the bit that makes this lovely 5-star job into a 5-star jobbie in the mind of the paranoid twit... Did you spot it?

...is unlikely to win any literature prizes...

Now I have to say that the reviewer is 100% correct. It isn't. And what's more, it's not meant to. When I started writing I said to myself that I wasn't in the business of writing literature. I wanted to write stories that were good stories and people would want to read. That was it -- end of story. No highfalutin' pretensions of 'telling people how it is', or spending three pages describing the pattern of falling snow, with beautifully crafted passages where bugger all happens.

Now you can probably tell from the previous paragraph that I have some preconceived prejudices against books that get described as 'literature'. Prejudice is an ugly thing. Not quite as ugly as our nearest neighbour, but ugly enough. I like a book to grip me by the hairy parts and sweep me along on an adventure of some variety. It doesn't always have to involve dead bodies, cannibalism, or bondage either -- I've enjoyed a wide range of books in my time, but I wouldn't tar any of them with the dubious label 'literature'. But it has to gave something going for it, doesn't it? Otherwise there wouldn't be all those prizes getting dolled out by men with goatees and cardigans.

Still, the point is, in my ignorance of the 'genre' called 'literature'* I never wanted to write what I wouldn't want to read. Fair enough.

So why does that line niggle at me?

...is unlikely to win any literature prizes...

I don't want to write literature, so how come being told that I'm not makes me feel somehow inadequate? As if Doris Day** had turned up wearing nothing but strawberry yoghurt and a smile, but nothing was happening in my below-the-belly-button-regions (if you know what I mean).

What is it about the word literature that does this? Maybe it's the unspoken implication that what I'm writing is unworthy in some way? Or that it isn't edifying enough? It isn't meant to be edifying, it's meant to be exciting / thrilling / occasionally funny / a good read.

Of course what worries me most is that I'll try to do something about my unlitteratureness and end up screwing up Book Number The Fifth (which now has a working title -- don't bother asking, you and I both know it'll have to change when the marketing department at HarperCollins get their grubby paws on it) trying to be all clever about stuff. And things...

* Note the use of ironic single quotes, marking me out as a twit and a tit.
** When she was in her Calamity Jane days, not now when she's allegedly become a slightly hermit-like wrinkly cat lady. In her heyday though: va-va-voom!

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