mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Little and big genre thoughts

Weird. That new manga store. One of those cases where I seem to be always talking at cross-purposes with someone.

I go in Monday to pick up FMA 12&13 in English, because I'm not so devoted to the series as to need to see what they're really saying read it in Japanese. 13 is in, 12 has sold out overnight. The terribly genki owner is terribly genki at me. "You've read the earlier volumes?" "Yes, I have up to 11 in Japanese, but you know, manga in Japanese-" "Yes, hard to find," she supplies. "Uhh, no, I get them from amazon japan--" "You do!?" in great surprise, as though amazon is unheard of. "Yes, but they're--" "Oh yes, very hard to read." "Uhh, no. Expensive. The delivery charges, you know." She doesn't know, from the quizzical expression.

So Thursday when her new shipment has arrived I go in to get 12. She smiles all over me in her genki fashion. "Now you'll know what's really happening!"

*Really* happening? Maybe an unfortunate slip of the second language speaker's tongue, but lady, you're giving a very good impression of someone who doesn't *really* believe a round-eye can read an Asian language.

The only other explanation is that she's kerblonxed by my staid middle-aged appearance, but I doubt it. If that were the problem she wouldn't be recommending Anime North to me ("all the fans will be there!" Yes, love; that's why I stay away) and pushing FMA goods on me.

Otherwise I finished Little, Big. Fantoddy to the last, though the very last was excellent. I haven't read much magic realism in English (is there any?) but that's certainly what LB reads like to me. In spite of fairies (the word that, quite rightly in context, people shy away from speaking) the mhh look of the book- the way it looks in my head- and certainly all the bits that happen in the City, including and especially Hawksquill, read like Marquez to me.

Some wag said the difference between fantasy and magic realism is that fantasy's in English and MR is in Spanish. Funny, but no. There's a qualitative difference between them to my uhh my sense of reading, whatever. (Smells with nose, sees with eye, hears with ear, reads with what? All of the above?)

I don't want to start the 'if it's bad it's genre, if it's good it's literature' thing but. Genre has rules. Break the rules and you're out of genre. There are novels that involve a detective story of sorts but that break the detective story rules. Dashiell Hammett, for choice, who drove me mad because I was reading him as a detective story writer. Chandler too. They're good but they're not the genre I'm used to. (For that matter, ten year old me disapproved of Sherlock Holmes for the same reason. 'Broke the rules! Holmes produces the murderer and it's someone I've never met who hasn't even been mentioned! No fair!' I think Conan Doyle is literature too.)

But it seems to me that genre also has latitude: the forgiving attitude of fanfic. What's bad in literature is often good in fanfic, because the latter caters to something other than the head and the critical faculties. (To love, often enough: more and more and more of These Wonderful People. How can it be dull if it's about These Wonderful People?) The self-indulgence of fanfic is something I find also in fantasy. Long ago, far away, utterly different: 'scuse me, I'm too busy world-building to write lean prose and to show not tell. Anyway, my readers *want* to be told.' (Which is often true. Me, I shall never read Mary Gentle because she prides herself- and IMO smugly- on never telling. 'Ima gonna make you *work*, you lazy bastards', or words to that effect.) So it seems to me that even the best fantasy doesn't make it to literature as long as it's being conscious fantasy because it's obeying fantasy rules, not literature ones, and when the two are in conflict the fantasy rules win.

Possible evidence being that the fantasy works that straddle the lit line are things many fantasy readers have said they can't read or can't finish. Jonathan Strange; Gormenghast; Otranto and Frankenstein (Yes, both by amateur writers and so what?); possibly Perdido, though if Mieville was trying for literature he should have worked more on his characters. (But why? They're no more two dimensional than all of Pyncheon's and no one thinks Pyncheon anything but a mainsteam novelist. It's Pyncheon's quasi-here and now setting that makes this so, I say, because Gravity's Rainbow could have happened in New Crobazon's world and then people would be calling him a long-winded writer of pseudo-fantasy instead of, well, a mainstream magic realist.)
Tags: fma, manga_07, reading, rl_07, writing

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