I must protest against Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl.
From today, NPR’s Morning Edition: “Because while these stories do have a touch of the fantastical, in Maureen McHugh’s hands, you start with these ordinary situations and when the fantastical occurs, you’re so comfortable with the world that she’s created that you don’t question it as being strange as unsettling.”
Um, isn’t this the point of all good books? That, irrespective of genre, the reader believes in the world created, whether it be Ian Rankin’s highly detailed Edinburgh or the preposterous premise of Rupert Thomson’s Divided Kingdom which Thomson himself single-handedly gets you to believe?
While Pearl was likely trying to get the fuddy-duddy NPR listeners to consider the speculative fiction genre as they sucked down the morning’s brew from their expensive homemade latte machines, this still strikes me as an extaordinary conceit. Why must Pearl perpetuate the great white lie that anything dealing with the “fantastical” has to be subjected to these ridiculous handicaps? Cannot these books be considered on their own terms? Besides, isn’t truth stranger than fiction? Isn’t life “fantastical” in the curve balls it often throws? Or is literary worth at large now confined to such safe septuagenarians as Phillip Roth and John Updike. If so, so sorry to have muffed up that L.L. Bean scarf, old sport, with a bit of that New Crobuzon grit!
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.