All a Matter of Form
(Linked up to the meme at Lost in Books)
This week's question:
What are your favourite genres?
Well, this will actually be easy. The reason I don't do as many list memes as I'd like to do--being a natural list lover--is that I can never do them on time. So although I love to read those of others, like Top Ten Tuesday and Top Ten Picks, and of course, The Book List . . . I can't always come up with entries on time. My own Top 5 Lists take me weeks of pondering.
But it just so happens that I think about genre a lot. And I have a beautifully arranged collection of books in my bedroom that lets me know, at a glance, which genres are the ones I spend the most money on.
As much as I wish I could mean the Classics when I write of "Classics," I really can't. There was a time when I had a fighting chance of reading Virgil's Aeneid in the original Latin . . . but until I have more time to resume my study of the most beautiful language of all ages, that chance is gone.
So by "Classics," I mean merely (!!!) books that have stayed in print long after their respective authors left us for that big reading room in the sky.
It stands to reason that the longer the books have been with us, the better they actually are--and the more worthwhile, compared to contemporary reads. In other words, good value for one's time and money. No small thing, even when one buys books first and food with what is left. ;-)
I confess to being rather stodgy when it comes to the classics canon, sticking to the big names of Western writing (particularly the English names, because I'm queasy about reading anything in translation) and seeming to forget that the rest of the world exists. "World literature" is still a very new concept with no proper canon and no classics I can name--but it is certain that a future version of me at the end of the next millennium will write the word "classics" and see an unbroken literary tradition spanning all seven continents.
Well, this is no shocker, is it? =P I really should do a Top 5 Romance Authors one day. I already have my five candidates and have nothing to worry about but what to say about them.
Now, please note that a Romance is not the same as a Love Story. It is really more of a Love Puzzle. Each one presents the problem of how an implausible yet compatible couple is ever going to manage its happy ending, and invites the reader to sit back, relax and watch as the novelist first throws a thousand tropes in the couple's way and then guides them around their custom-designed obstacle course to that promised happily ever after.
So, yes, it's the same thing over and and over again . . . but it's also a little different each time.
And speaking of "custom designs," I find I like the "design kits" of Historical Romance the most--and as Paranormal Romance edges closer and closer to "Urban Fantasy," I find I like it less and less.
Anyway, this is the most serious I've ever got when it comes to what is labeled as "genre fiction." I'm not crazy about Thrillers, Mysteries, SF/F, or even Horror (unless I get it in a movie), but Romance will always rule.
I recently wondered to a friend whether "Young Adult" is still a literary form in its own right when it is a big enough umbrella for Harry Potter, Gossip Girl, Redwall, several decades worth of Newbery Award winners, and all sorts of "Children's Classics" written long before the "Young Adult" label entered the world of publishing. (All of which, incidentally, are in my own YA collection.)
Of course, there is one thing every YA novel will have in common, no matter what--and that is a main character a young reader can identify with.
Now, I would have just written "a young main character"--and pointed out (yet again) that although YA's first readers have grown up, its characters are forever young--but then I remembered the talking animals. (Mice are my favourite.)
Who was it who said that when children read a book written for adults, they first look for children to identify with; and if there are no children, then they look for animals; and if there are neither children nor animals, only then do they try to make do with the adults? Well, YA is filled with children and animals, and yes, the occasional adult as well. Young readers can't lose. And older readers who still find themselves "making do" with adults in Contemporary Fiction find that it's all Win-Win.
Image Sources: a) Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, b) It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas, c) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell