Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writing in another time

Thursday, February 12, 2009

There is a lot of talent among those who write genre fiction.

I have the impression that many genre fiction writers today would have had the chance to become classic writers in another time. Nowadays, to make a living, you have to go another way.

There is an extremely well-known, bestselling mystery writer who attended the same college I did at about the same time. I didn't look up the dates to see if we coincided.

Anyway, if I read his biography correctly, he tried more serious writing and then turned to genre fiction.

That reminded me of a couple of people who were students with me in advanced writing in college. They were serious writers who had visions of writing great books. I'd bet if those people are still writing, they are either unsuccessful or writing genre fiction. And that's true, even though they were talented writers. Bestselling books are the issue today. Much of the great fiction (not all of it--i.e. John Updike) comes through some genre.

I'm reminded of Dashiell Hammett. I think he is one of the greatest of American writers, on a par with Mark Twain or William Faulkner. But he never thought so. He saw what he wrote as genre fiction. He quit writing genre fiction with the supposed purpose of writing something serious, and he ended up funneling his talent into helping shape Lillian Hellman's plays.

So there is a lot of good reading, great writing, in genre fiction. A lot of wonderful writers have funneled their talents into things like mystery stories.

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