It’s the long Pentecost/Whitsun weekend in Germany and the long Memorial Day weekend in the US, plus plenty of people seem to be at some con or another, so the Internet has been a bit quiet of late.
Nonetheless, I have found a couple of interesting links for you:
For starters, we’re apparently having our annual discussion of genre versus literary fiction again. The opening volley was fired by this New Yorker article by Arthur Krystal in which he goes on about “guilty pleasure reading” and claims that the distinction between literary and genre fiction has become less clear of late (Really? He noticed that already?), though genre fiction is still escapism and literary fiction is still art, though the former may be anointed to the latter by the actions of respected critics. Unfortunately, the full article is behind a paywall, so there’s only a truncated and somewhat strange abstract. Presumably, the full article also mentions Fifty Shades of Grey, at any rate the headline does.
Critic and fantasy writer Lev Grossman responds at Time. Unlike Krystal’s article, this one is actually accessible in full. It’s a decent article and it’s good to see a genre-friendly critic in the mainstream media, because that sort of thing is still all too rare. Nonetheless, Lev Grossman basically says what he has said several times before, namely that the modernist mode of literary fiction is just one of many possible modes, that not all genre fiction is necessarily escapist, that plot matters. The only thing new bit is that Lev Grossman compares genre fiction to disruptive technologies.
Paul Jessup responds to both Krystal and Grossman and wonders why we are regurgitating the same conversation year after year after year. He also points out that Krystal’s references to Ford Maddox Ford and Agatha Christie are seriously dated.
The Cannes Film Festival once again proves itself to be basically an awards dispenser for internationally acclaimed arthouse directors and awards the 2012 Palme d’Or to Amour by Austrian director Michael Haneke, a film about very old people near death and in love. Now I really, really don’t like Michael Haneke’s work. I disliked his films even before most people had heard of him. So yeah, this is also a taste issue. However, the Haneke win also illustrates very clearly what is wrong with the Cannes Film Festival, namely that it’s predictable and awards the same sort of self-consciously arty films from a certain type of international top director over and over again. At least the Berlin Film Festival awards films that genuinely are different and unusual, e.g. past Golden Bear winners have included Peruvian films about inherited rape survivor trauma, adaptions of Carmen set in South African townships and the like. Berlin is genuinely daring, while Cannes just awards the same highly acclaimed directors over and over again.
The Palme d’Or wasn’t the only award given this weekend, the BAFTA television awards for the best British TV programs of 2011 were given out as well. Three of four possible acting awards went to Appropriate Adult, a drama about the relationship between serial killer Fred West and a woman assigned to him as an appropriate adult, i.e. a person supposed to look out for teenagers and “vulnerable adults” in police custody in British law.
Now I have zero interest in Appropriate Adult, largely because the subject matter turns me off. The Fred and Rosemary West case was heavily in the news when I went to England as an exchange student for a semester and as a result I was extremely careful about where I lived, because the Wests were always at the back of my mind (You can’t even trust couples. You can’t even trust families with children.). So this is part of the reason why I don’t want to hear anything about the Wests ever again. Besides, Benedict Cumberbatch should have taken the lead actor award for Sherlock, though Andrew Scott who played Moriarty won the Best Supporting Actor award. The best single drama award went to Random, which I have never even heard of, the best mini-series award went to This is England 88, which I don’t care about at all, though I am pleased that the quirky supernatural teen series The Fades won the BAFTA ward for best drama series. Terry Pratchett’s assisted suicide documentary won the documentary award, by the way.
The New Yorker also has an article on Doctor Who, particularly the most recent Steve Moffat/Matt Smith incarnation. What makes this article interesting is that the author Emily Nussbaum (not to be confused with Abigail) is not really a genre insider or hardcore fan nor someone who grew up with the good Doctor like most British commentators.