The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers discussion

genre conventions, fiction, etc

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message 1: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Hi all-
First, thanks to anyone who reads my books, or reads about my books, or who plans to maybe read my books one day, when they have more time. I'm new to Goodreads but I wanted to start a discussion thread not so much about my book as about genre. Which sounds really pretentious, but I promise it won't be:

One of the things I had fun with when writing "The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers" was how I was able to play with hardboiled-detective genre conventions and turn some of them on their heads. It's a bank-robber story, so therefore it needs to have a gunfight or two, and maybe a car chase, and a beautiful woman in distress, and heroes in fedoras, and a real bad guy with a big gun, etc. But apart from that the book differs greatly from any sort of conventional hardboiled tale (at least, I hope it does; it's a family saga about financial hardship and the family members' differing reactions to tragedy, it's a portrait of the Great Depression, it's a sort of kind of magical realistic myth about storytelling and the American Dream, etc).

Lately I've been noticing that some of my favorite contemporary novels are books that do this as well: Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," Jonathan Lethem's "Motherles Brooklyn" and "Gun With Occasional Music," Colson Whitehead's "The Intuitionist." (This applies to movies, too, like "The Big Lebowski" and pretty much anything else by the Coen Brothers.) All of these borrow heavily from detective fiction tropes but gleefully invert them to create something new and bold.

First, I think such books and films work mainly because they're fun. Mysteries (and other genres like scifi or western or cyberpunk) are cool, and when tweaked just so, they present new avenues to explore.

Second, I think that, sometimes, literary fiction can be unfortunately plot-averse. Sometimes I read a new book and really admire a lot of it, but I feel that the author was afraid of having too much plot, for fear it would label him or her a thriller writer or a suspense writer (horribly insulting terms to a literary novelist), for fear that too much plot would cause the reader (and book critics) to overlook his or her fine, artistic prose. This is unfortunate. The great books of the 19th century always had big, bold plots, they always had murder and mayhem and adultery and assorted shenanigans, and there's nothing unliterary about books in which Things Actually Happen. Right?

(It's like that great scene in "Adaptation," in which Nicholas Cage's character tells a writing instructor he wants to write a book about "real people in real life, you know, where nothing really happens," and the instructor explodes: "NOTHING HAPPENS?!?! Every day real people die and fall in love and commit murder!" etc etc.)

So one of the reasons I like books that play with genre conventions is that the genre (mysteries, in the above examples, or scifi apocalypse like "The Road," or espionage like Don Delillo's "Libra" or anything by Alan Furst) gives the writers a plot framework in which they can couch their observations and viewpoints and characters and glittering prose.

What I'm wondering is: Do readers think much about these concerns, or is this exactly the sort of thing that writers overthink? Do you think of books in genre categories and avoid some of them (do you think "hmm, this sounds too much like a mystery, and I don't like mysteries") or do you just pick up any book that strikes your fancy, regardless of category? Do you like books that cross lines and straddle boundaries, or do those books feel like marketing gimmicks? A good book is a good book, regardless of category, so maybe all of this really IS pretentious to think about?

And am I being unfair when I say that some contemporary literary fiction is plot-averse? I mean, it's pretty much all I read, so obviously I'm not that down on it and am just being a Devil's Advocate. But it leads to questions about what we want from a book, what constitutes a good story, what sorts of stories we seek out, how we search for truth. Or a good time. Or both.

A meandering post, I know. But I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts...

Tracy Honestly, I picked up this book because of the catchy title (and because your book "The Last Town on Earth" was on my booklist, so I recognized your name). I like unconventional stories which allow you to suspend certain beliefs about reality (easy to do when everything else is so very real - a mother who worries about them, the typical brotherly semi-competitive relationship, charming girlfriends, injustice upon the father, wolf knocking on the door, etc.) - particulary when there are *very* likeable heroes involved. That's the whole point of creative license, right? And I happen to like a plot, while we're at it. Nicely done. Things Actually Happen and it's a fun ride.

Kerri-Anne To be honest I picked up your book because I was trying to branch out of my normal genre. I was (and still am) a fantasy nut but I am working toward a degree to teach English so I felt I needed to expand my library. Still the fantastical element of the brothers dying and then coming back to life helped bridge the gap between genres. I love stories that straddle lines and boundries because life is like that. Events or happenings in your life do not always fit neatly into a specific category and I find it more interesting and more intellectualy stimulating that way.
I would like to say that a good book is a good book regardless of genre but I don't think that is always the case. Your interests and mind set determine how you respond to a particular look. For example, as I grow older I am finding that I am not as interested in the Young Adult fantasy novels that are coming out. That dosen't mean that they are not good, it simply means that I don't relate to them as much as I once did. Right now I have a passion for drama so humorous books might not hit the mark with me right now but they might at a later date. So I guess I'm saying gene does make a difference and stradling them can interest people who normally wouldn't be if you stuck with one or the other.
For your second question, I'm not sure. sorry :(

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