So what is it, exactly, that makes literature trivial? Is the point of literature to depict something more like “real life”? If the formulaic qualities and perfervid fantasy of romance novels bring them closer to superhero comics than to Dostoevsky, what does this mean, exactly? What is the difference between genre and “serious” fiction, now that Maus and The Left Hand of Darkness and The Man in the High Castle have conclusively demonstrated that deeply serious, insightful ideas may indeed come in a deceptively lightweight envelope?
The key difference between Fyodor Dostoevsky and Violet Winspear is—the beard, obviously, but in terms of literary production, the difference is that the latter is thinking more about you, the reader, whereas the former is thinking more about himself, the author. Each approach has an enormous value, potentially. To put this another way, Dostoevsky writes from deep inside himself, about his whole life, every single thing he ever saw or learned; Winspear plies her craft according to what she imagines it would please you to read, imagine or dream about, though it’s nearly impossible for a novelist to avoid revealing some of his own ideas and beliefs about the world, however tangentially.
It doesn’t matter whether you call this “serious” literature or not, really, though it seems to me that when millions and millions of people are involved in the same reading, it is very serious indeed.
As you can probably tell, I am reading all the articles I’ve been meaning to read for the past two weeks. This one is also highly, highly recommended. I don’t agree with 100% of what she says, since I do not have any particular interest in romance novels, but I do happen to be 100% in favor of people reading whatever the fuck they want, and also people writing books actually targeted at women, which made this an interesting read. Fantastically well-written, too.