Boring books

According to Martin Amis, awards only go to boring books.

You know, he’s on to something here. I can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed a book that won a Major Literary Award. Of course, I’m excluding things like the Hugos and Edgars and such here…I’m talking about the Man Booker, the Orange, and the Guardian Prize* among others.

Now, I freely admit that I’m not a “literary fiction” type. I just don’t get it. There is enough depressing in this world – enough depressing news to read, scenarios to hear of – that I don’t feel the need to seek out depression and melancholia in my fiction. I’m not even that big a fan of dystopias, for that reason. But I particularly do not want to read pages upon pages of whinging about existentialist crises and swanning around the verandah in the service of Art and Truth in the eyes of the failed-poet-cum-novelist that seems to dominate most literary prize shortlists.

I’d rather read something entertaining.

Which is not to say something without a message, or fabulous literary devices, or gorgeous imagery and language. A book can have all of these things, and still have an engaging plot and fascinating characters. In fact, it should have all of these things. I simply cannot fathom the idea these days that literature should have to be a slog, just as Amis cannot.

What’s wrong with having a little fun once in awhile? What’s wrong with having a plot?

I swear, this is another thing creating the Genre Ghetto – the concept that Literature Of Merit must be painful to read. As Amis points out, Dickens et al had exciting plots and interesting characters. They didn’t just mope and moue and pout for 700 pages and never bloody do anything.

So let’s break the trend, eh? Let’s read whatever entertains us, and talk about the merits of literature – no matter its genre – that winds its fingers into our minds and souls and refuses to let go.

*Which is another story – I can’t say I’m pleased to hear about the entry fees for the Guardian, which are sure to keep small publishers away. Funding is important and prizes are important, but keeping your capital so that you can publish more books is even more important.

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  • Patti

    Testify!

    Although I’m rather fond of dystopian lit and films. ; )

  • Patti

    Testify!

    Although I’m rather fond of dystopian lit and films. ; )

  • Jason

    “And these are the novels which win prizes, because the committee thinks, ‘Well it’s not at all enjoyable, and it isn’t funny, therefore it must be very serious.’ ”

    Yeah, this. I think there’s a definite conviction among The Literati that Great Literature should be as much of an effort to read as to write, that the whole process should wring everyone dry, because that’s how you know it’s not just entertaining fluff. It’s not medicine if it doesn’t taste horrible, I suppose.

    I think the horrible side effect of this is the way it impacts the canon of education. Children in schools are presented with Great Works that just aren’t relevant to their experiences, don’t entertain, and they develop the firm conviction that reading is a painful duty instead of a pleasure. That lasts on into life, and we wonder why we have so few avid readers.

  • Jason

    “And these are the novels which win prizes, because the committee thinks, ‘Well it’s not at all enjoyable, and it isn’t funny, therefore it must be very serious.’ ”

    Yeah, this. I think there’s a definite conviction among The Literati that Great Literature should be as much of an effort to read as to write, that the whole process should wring everyone dry, because that’s how you know it’s not just entertaining fluff. It’s not medicine if it doesn’t taste horrible, I suppose.

    I think the horrible side effect of this is the way it impacts the canon of education. Children in schools are presented with Great Works that just aren’t relevant to their experiences, don’t entertain, and they develop the firm conviction that reading is a painful duty instead of a pleasure. That lasts on into life, and we wonder why we have so few avid readers.

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    Dystopia and postapocalyptic has its place, certainly! There’s just other stuff out there too…!

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    Precisely – if you make reading as painful and dry as possible, and you analyse everything to death instead of simply letting it be FUN sometimes, you create generations of people who loathe reading…

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    Dystopia and postapocalyptic has its place, certainly! There’s just other stuff out there too…!

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    Precisely – if you make reading as painful and dry as possible, and you analyse everything to death instead of simply letting it be FUN sometimes, you create generations of people who loathe reading…

  • http://eleccentric.wordpress.com/ Ana

    I agree.

    Boring, hard to read, uninspiring and dull. Did I mention boring?

    Seems like all the “new” stuff is about vampires, no matter what the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some vamps, but I think I am ready for some new horror: redcaps or witches or pissed off soccer moms.

  • http://eleccentric.wordpress.com/ Ana

    I agree.

    Boring, hard to read, uninspiring and dull. Did I mention boring?

    Seems like all the “new” stuff is about vampires, no matter what the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some vamps, but I think I am ready for some new horror: redcaps or witches or pissed off soccer moms.

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    I would love to see some new monsters out there. Classic evil fae things like redcaps, or some ancient monsters, or…yeah. Something really wicked this way coming, you know?

    Get on it, people!

    (oh god, pissed-off soccer mom. HEAVEN HELP US)

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    I would love to see some new monsters out there. Classic evil fae things like redcaps, or some ancient monsters, or…yeah. Something really wicked this way coming, you know?

    Get on it, people!

    (oh god, pissed-off soccer mom. HEAVEN HELP US)