Here’s the rest of my article from Southern Writers Magazine:
A few years ago, Arthur Krystal wrote a piece for The New Yorker that set off a minor firestorm in book circles. Its premise was that, historically, “there was little ambiguity between literary fiction and genre fiction: one was good for you, one simply tasted good,” and, despite protests from the genre community, that was still the case. He leavened his opinion with a reflexive nod to the usual pantheon of genre authors (Leonard, Raymond Chandler, P.D. James), but only in a back-handed way (Don’t mix your metaphors! Avoid exclamation marks), insisting that “[n]othing bogs down a pulpy tale faster than real-life feelings about real life.”
Well. The response was swift and Krystal back-pedaled, sort of (Another preposition!?). In a New Yorker piece written five months later, he acknowledged “’a vast blurry middle ground in between genre fiction and literary fiction . . . [where] books don’t so much transcend genres as simply collapse them.” Nevertheless, he maintained his belief in the superiority of literary fiction:
“Writers who want to understand why the heart has reasons that reason cannot know are not going to write horror tales or police procedurals . . . [M]ake no mistake: good commercial fiction is inferior to good literary fiction in the same way that Santa Claus is inferior to Wotan. One brings us fun or frightening gifts, the other requires – and repays – observance.”
I’m for the “blurry middle ground.” I’ve published five novels. People die in all of them, and the search for a killer is always a story. But – there are other stories. And it doesn’t have to be art or craft – it can be both. I, too, want to know, among other things, “why the heart has reasons that reason cannot know,” and I try to create settings, characters and plots that enable my readers to know as well. James Bond is genre – George Smiley is not.
Sometimes I even “surrender to the unknown” – I usually don’t know how a book will end until it ends. Three different critics have said that my work “twists genres,” or “crosses genres” or “defies genre conventions.” You can have it both ways.