I have a confession: I like reading genre fiction. I also have a confession about the confession: I feel ashamed about it. And I shouldn’t.
I was on the phone with a college friend–the type who makes his own cheese and wants me to read more Bertrand Russell. He asked what books I was reading, and I responded with equal parts hemming and hawing.
At the time, I was reading A Morbid Taste for Bones, a detective story set in Medieval Wales. To make things more shameful, I was enjoying it. The characters were pleasant, the puzzle was engaging, and the prose was admirable.
But of course, my friend couldn’t know this:
“I’m working through a period novel right now. Lots of insight into the Scholastic mind, meditations on guilt, and grasping with ordinary men’s capacity for brutality.”
At this point I’m afraid he’ll ask for the book’s title, so I pivot:
“I also bought Infinite Jest. I’ve just nibbled on it so far, but I’m loving what I’m seeing.” I then compared David Foster Wallace’s writing style to literary kudzu, because I read that in an article once.
This was all true enough. I had bought Infinite Jest because it was ninety-nine cents at the Kindle store, and I had enjoyed reading through the first four pages. But I knew perfectly well that I was never going to finish that thousand-paged hydra.
I just needed to balance my detective story with something literary…
Continue reading “Reading Cynicism Out of Genre”