"Let me make a suggestion: the social RELEVANCE of fantasy lies in its audience, the fact that it reaches millions upon millions of people. All you have to do is look at fandom to realize that fantasy moves people far, far more profoundly than so-called ‘literary fiction’ (which, as you all know, I think has devolved into a spectacular in-group exercise, like-minded authors writing for like-minded readers, pretending to challenge all those out-group ‘adolescents’ (who never read them) with books literally designed to alienate readers without any specialized training. Popcorn, in other words, masquerading as salad.)Make no mistake: the difference between fiction in general and literature is moral. The latter is supposed to be good for you in a way the former isn’t. This means the difference between fiction in general and literature has to do with real world consequences – whether or not it ‘resembles’ what counted as literature in ages gone by is pretty much meaningless once those forms cease to have real literary consequences for real readers."
"Since humans seem to possess an innate preference for hyperbolic representations, denigrating the spectacular and embracing the quotidian allows literary producers and consumers to identify themselves over and against the general population. The alienation of popular readers has become essential to literary self-identification. The result, I argue, has been a troubling compartmentalization of our culture. On the one hand, the writers supposedly most invested in challenging readers generally communicate only with those who already share the bulk of their values. On the other hand, readers in the popular mainstream rarely if ever encounter anything that challenges their preconceptions, reinforcing what I call ‘interpretative illiteracy,’ the magical belief that one’s own interpretations are the only interpretations worth serious consideration."
"Saying broccoli is better than doughnuts means nothing so long as you are talking about taste. Saying broccoli is better for you, on the other hand, is saying something quite different...So doesn’t this suggest that the literati are right? That, like broccoli, their writing is ‘just better for you’ than what you find in genre?As I keep saying, if you stubbornly refuse to ignore the communicative dimension of conventionality, if you obnoxiously insist on pairing readers with your writers, the conceptual landscape is radically transformed. Once we do this, we can see, for instance, that the broccoli metaphor is quite misleading. Broccoli is healthy because the link between what it is and what it is does is more or less fixed. Fiction, on the other hand, possesses no such stability. As ‘semantic objects,’ books quite literally do not exist independently of readers, at least not the way broccoli exists independently of eaters."
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