(Burger) Bunfights at the Point of a PenPosted: December 15, 2010
There’s a war going on. It’s filled with religious themes, where the combatants are split down tribal lines. It’s replete with bitterness, personal feuds, recrimination and accusations that the other “did it first”. It’s not a new war either because we’ve been here before. No, not Afghanistan, I’m talking about the row over what constitutes a good book.
The eye rollingly named Edward Docx* has had a minor rant published in the Guardian. He claims, with no irony, that no matter how you dress up a burger it’s still a burger. Burgers being is his oh-so-clever-never-heard-that-before metaphor for the sin of genre.
How very droll of you Mr Docx. I challenge you to an eating contest. On the one hand we will eat the filth that McDonalds serves the poor masses and then on recovery we will consume hand crafted tasty burger-treats. If you still cannot tell the difference then I will bid you good day and recommend you have your taste buds checked out.
You see the problem I have is that Mr Docx conflates the word genre with bad. Even as he stresses that there’s bad Michelin starred linguine restaurants you can sense the clenching of teeth or a titter hidden behind a single hand. My my a chip so large that it can’t fit into a McDonalds deep fat fryer. I feel the urge to put a consoling arm around his trembling shoulders and tell him it’s ok to admit that any book from any form can be horrifically bad.
And that’s the problem. It’s not that genre is bad, it’s that there are bad books. I can’t comment on Larsson’s The Girl With… books because I’ve not read them. However I can say that if I could, I would go back and prevent Dan Brown learning to write. A man like Dan Brown represents all that is bad in book writing. He is the very epitome of what happens when you give marketing departments a budget and tell them to sell the feculence from the side of the road. The Da Vinci Code is, for want of another metaphor, a Big Mac: plastic, bland, lacking in nutrition and bearing only a vague resemblance to the picture on the board.
And yet people do buy Big Macs… yeah Mr Docx I am puzzled by that too but then I am not the one confusing one type of burger for another.
We can stretch his metaphor further. Has he never been in an alien city and unsure where the good places to eat are? Has he never stood on a street and wondered whether it was the Chinese or Indian tonight? Or had trouble when the group decided that it’s Italian for tea even though he wanted Michelin rated linguine. Even then, when he’s sat down (presumably alone because he bemoans the lack of sales) for his Michelin meal it seems that he’s not sure what’s going on because even in these sorts of restaurants they’ll only make you what’s on the menu.
Docx goes on a tirade about the constraints of genre, arguing that genre means that the writer has limited paths he can take to tell his story. While he’s doing this he doesn’t mention that genre is a marketing concept. He doesn’t seem to grasp that many authors are unsure if they are going to write genre and that these are attached to them at a later point. He doesn’t understand that some literary fiction authors have a wide following. In fact he doesn’t seem to understand very much.
So why is he in the Guardian pontificating?
Or is this a clever ploy to increase his sales?**
** In which case I have to salute him because I bet his Google search rank has gone up.