Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The anxiety of the author before the genre labeling.

Hey, Jim! Yeah, you, Sunny Jim Joyce! C'mere for a sec. I need your help. No, not your advice. Your holp. A swig from your battle. A geistly flug on the mizzen of your Dutchman. A "What would Herr Satan do?" A walk-a-mile in my shoes ... and back, barefoot. Barfeet. Cheerio. M&Mpathy.

If it is advice, it is ad-vice: adwordtizing; me-harketing; labeling; nichyssoise; the what-is-my-crock? That is: I have to declare a genre. For Goodreads.

You see, there are books. With my name on them. And one without my name that is my fault. All of which I wrote for reasons I can only understand as Vesuvian. And, no, I'm not trying to be a Pompeiious ass. And, yes, nausea works the same way.

But as it happens "spewing word-chunks" isn't available as a genre on Goodreads. Should I suggest it? It does seems reasonably assonant with "Palahniuk," so maybe ... but what is his genre? "Grotesque" isn't on the list, but "horror" is followed immediately by "humor," and somehow it seems if you forced the two of them together, something like Palahniuk would come out of it, but then the whole rest of the genre list just gushes out. Diarrhea, man. Which sounds very Chuck, especially if you throw in a suck factor, but it's not me.

So, what've I got? "Literature & fiction" and "humor," and I get to pick one more. Okay, what are you laughing at? "Humor"? [rimshot]

Seriously, though, what do those tell you? Anything?

Except lots of readers will look at "literature & fiction" and go "Oh, no, probably somebody who would go to James Joyce for advice." Or to George Eliot. Or Russell Hoban. Or to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Or John Barth. Or Flaubert/Baudelaire/Rimbaud. Which I would do. I would also kiss death.

And "humor"? I'll keep that one, if only to clue in hurried flak flacks like Brian Doherty. (@Brian, the idea behind books is that you read them first, then you say something about them. But hey, look where ignorance got you! Editor at Reason magazine! [rimshot])

Yes, there's "science fiction/fantasy," but that's a clotted, sclerotic, schizo Big-G Genre: head of alien and foot of hobbit. No, they don't belong together, but the Lords of Marketing have ordained their merger marriage. Sure, I have talking toads and a writing oboe (pace, Brian "Reason" Doherty! Humor is more than a bodily fluid!). They seem to me closer to magic realism than to sci fi/fantasy. But magic realism isn't on the list.

Neither is "music." Music is a very important part of my novels. 44, rue d'Assas has a discography that lists, chapter by chapter, musical works that figure in the plot; also, as Brian can tell you from his deep reading of a catalog thumbnail, it is purportedly written by an oboe. The Signal Mountain Spelling Book of JuliUn Tod has a toad chorus. Blue Oboe has--surprise--a blue china oboe, but also bassoons, shawms, dulcimers, bouzoukis, harmonicas, etc. ("etc." here means "and clarinets.")

Most of it would also fit as "Southern fiction," since most of it takes place in ridge and valley Appalachian east Tennessee. As everyone knows, Southern writers are very placeful, which I am. But I'm not sure how much it "fits." In fact, it's mostly about being ill-fitting in one way or another: out of it in the South. "Southern misfiction"? With the added twist of making "out" the real "in." Work with me, here. We're murketing, aren't we?

Other significant elements are word-play, action-driven plots (chord structure!), revolution/terrorism, and the in├ęgales of the French-American dance.

So, as near as I can tell, the real, true, and actual genre is "Neologistic Franco-Appalachian outsider musico-magical realistic thrillers."

Think of it this way: what would Deliverance be like if the rednecks were truffle-hunting blue oboe players?

To which Sunny 'Herr Satan' Jim ahems,  "Either way there's the swinish element."[rimshot]

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