I’m republishing a series of pieces that I wrote for the now-defunct Juniper Bends Author Collective. Since I can safely assume that none of my readers are big enough fans to take issue with this–much less to notice–I have few qualms about this course of action.
The joke goes that genre only exists so that you know where to find a particular piece in a bookstore. Now the nonfiction section leaps spasmodically from memoir to historical biography to cultural theory. Fiction includes flash, meta, stories, novellas, novels, and epics. And let’s not even get started on poetry (lyric essays, political anthologies, translations, oh my).
Here’s the question: as amateur (read: non-contracted) writers, why are we so obsessed with categorizing our own work? There are many journals that accept multi-genre pieces, or even seek them out. Authors publish multi-genre books (sometimes with friends); lyrical novels are a thing; David Rakoff wrote a novel in (rhyming) verse; Anne Carson’s brilliant Autobiography of Red is a classic piece of hybrid literature. And no one cares what they are since they’re crisp, polished, and satisfying.
Whenever I write, I find myself compulsively worried as I close in on a piece: but is it a poem? Is it flash-nonfiction? How will the bookstore know where to put my collected works?
Then I shake myself and ask the question above: who cares?
Maybe one day I’ll have to concern myself with genre, but for now, I’ll just shut up and write.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Still probably the most overwhelming and spectacular novel I can conjure up. The prose is sometimes whimsical, sometimes bizarre, but always breathtaking. Hulme stirs up the overlays of dreams, fantasies, ghostworlds, violence, and healing in this massive, indomitable novel. A must for hybrid genre enthusiasts, as Hulme’s language is part-Maori, part-poetry, and miraculously fresh. This novel is like nothing you have ever read before, weaving dreamscapes into stories and harnessing the complex relationships that make us human, even while we are fraught with despair.
This novel rocked my world; even my language changed for the writing of this review, reconnecting to an organic flow that I usually suppress. Unbelievable.
View all my reviews
Just wrote a really mean review of Alison Bechdel’s latest book on Goodreads. I feel kind of bad. I’m sharing it here anyway.
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Very sad to give two stars to Alison Bechdel’s anything, but this book was tedium incarnate. Things to keep: Alison’s deeply sad, fascinating mother. Things to toss: literally everything else, especially the pseudo-scholarship integrated throughout. Two stars go to the drawings.
As a big fan of hybrid genre (theory + nonfiction + comix), I was stoked at the potential of a book like this. However, Bechdel’s very poor choice and inclusion of critical texts really ruined any cool effect that a meta-memoir could have made.
Great for other fans of white male psychobabble about mommy issues and white female therapy transcripts, but insufferable for anyone looking for more.
View all my reviews