I don’t tell my ‘academic’ colleagues that I write fiction. I don’t talk much about my non-fiction writing to my fiction-writing community. I LOVE e-readers because they don’t reveal whether I’m reading a steamy romance, popular history, angst-ridden literary novel, nineteenth-century article on hospitals, or an idiot’s guide to something technical that even my nine-year-old already knows how to do.
Why do I do this? Why hide my reading and writing habits? Am I ashamed of something? Scared? Yes, of course. But of what?
In switching between genres I’m scared of crossing social boundaries—of entering unknown, perhaps even unfriendly, territory; of not knowing the rules of acceptable behavior; of feeling like an outsider; of being judged, teased, criticized, left out . . . wait, this is starting to sound like conversations I’ve been having with my daughter about playground interactions.
So, does this mean genres are the literary equivalent of cliques? Hmmm. Bear with me for a little while on this.
First off, I’m not saying cliques (or genres) are good or bad in and of themselves. They exist. I’m also not interested in examining the varying characteristics of different literary genres. I do want to examine how we use them, what we potentially get from them, and what we lose by them. [Read more…]