Sunday, July 22, 2012

Heidi Julavits On Genre Fiction; Joan Acocella and Maria Tatar On Fairy Tales

Heidi Julavits, the novelist and co-founding editor of The Believer, reviewing in this week's New York Times Book Review Glen Duncan's Talulla Rising marvelously describes the relationship between that which is "literary" and that which is "genre" in current fiction:

"If literature is lacinato kale, genre is gelato. Despite regular critical attempts to reconstruct this outdated food pyramid, the base holds strong. Fortunately, thanks to a surge in literary molecular gastronomy, readers can enjoy an ever wider array of broccoli rabe (or brussels sprout, or Swiss chard) ice cream. When cooked by mad word scientists like Glen Duncan — whose new horror novel, “Talulla Rising,” is a sequel to “The Last Werewolf” — this harmonic hybrid delivers sweet (plot), salty (character), sour (emotional pathos), bitter (psychological probity) and umami (stylistic and linguistic panache)."

She goes on to say that  the plot can best be described as a gleeful mash-up of Raymond Chandler's entire work, the vampire novels of Anne Rice and Foucault's Pendulum, with Proust looking on.   For the full review, click here.

Meanwhile, in last week's New Yorker, Joan Acocella superbly overviews the evergreen impact of fairy tales on modern fiction ("Once Upon A Time; The Lure of the Fairy Tale," July 23rd issue-- click here for the entire essay).   One example from among her many smart assertions:

"In truth, most of the Grimms’ tales cannot be made wholly respectable. The rewritings that seem most persuasive are sometimes more unsettling than the Grimm versions—for example, Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves,” inspired by “Little Red Riding Hood.” This story stresses the eroticism of the girl’s encounter with the wolf."

Acocella also deftly traces the recent history of fairy tale studies in the English-speaking world, noting that Maria Tatar has emerged as the preeminent scholar in the field.   The New Yorker already has Tatar in the fold as well-- see, for instance, her March 16th, 2012 New Yorker blog post "Cinderfellas: The Long-Lost Fairy Tales" about the discovery of five hundred (!) previously unknown (!!) fairy tales in an archive in Regensburg, Germany.  Click here for that.

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