The merits of pop fiction

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

Jonathan Yardley, a reviewer for Washington Post Book World, has an interesting take on the importance of literary awards:

Literary awards mean much less than most people think — they tend to reveal a lot more about those who give them than those who receive them — and literary reputation doesn’t mean much either, influenced as it so heavily is by the scribblers of academic and journalistic ephemera, yours truly included. A few writers of what is still pigeonholed as “genre” fiction have attained a measure of critical respect — Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, et al. — but it is handed out in a grudging or slumming sort of way. The prevailing assumption among the literati is still, and doubtless always will be, that popularity equals mediocrity.

Granted, this frighteningly cogent opinion is the lead-in for a defense of John Grisham’s The Broker. I loathe John Grisham books, not because they are “pop” fiction but because either (a) his legal thrillers are always incredibly unrealistic, which irks the hell out of me, or (b) Grisham is a lawyer who actually figured out how to make a living doing something other than practicing law — a secret fantasy of all lawyers (even, occasionally, yours truly). However, one can’t argue with Grisham’s popularity, right?

So who’s got it figured out, the great unwashed masses or the few illuminated souls who can pick a Booker Prize winner without even reading all of the entrants? Personally, I’d go with the masses — I don’t care what anyone says, The God of Small Things was a self-indulgent vanity piece. There, I said it — so sue me.

(for the entire article, check out the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)


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