Monday, July 21, 2008

A Quick Note on What Has Me Excited Today


Yeah, so I look a bit scary. So what?

What has you excited today?

11 comments:

Jay Johnson said...

It has "Magic for Beginners" and "The Faery Handbag" from Magic for Beginners. It is a YA short story collection. Very. Excited.

Trent Hergenrader said...

You may have that book now, but you're stuck with that face for life.

Say, how about you lend that to me and I'll give it back when I'm done?

Kyle said...

The White Box was good to us this month!

sarah marine said...

YA is taking over the world.

Brian said...

It's all vampires and YA books, all of a sudden -- here, the New York Times, HBO...

I dig Kelly Link, but it's weird to think of her as a YA author, as some of her stories strike me as morbidly spooky: "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" in Stranger Things Happen, "Stone Animals" in the later book, "Lull" in Conjunctions 39.

sarah marine said...

Bayard and I had a conversation about this cult of the teen at the laundromat yesterday. After seeing fifty commercials for this 'secret life of the american teen' show and a few trailers for this 'american teen' movie, I am left to wonder at what point will we stop worshipping this very modern creation (read Teenage by Jon Savage-I will borrow it to you). I mean, I cant even imagine how much money is pumped into lauding this next generation, wooing them with marketing campaigns and such. Also, I partly blame Sherman Alexie for making all these fine novelists think they can write a National Bk Award-winning YA/teen work. I may be an old crone shaking my stick at young hooligans but it really is amazing how fast we, at the bookstore, are outgrowing the YA section as it is layed out right now. As for something positive, I will venture to say that it is imperative that there are alternatives to Gossip Girl and Clique novels and for that I welcome Kelly Link into the fray.

Brian said...

Last week's New Yorker had an article on Stuart Little and children's libraries, which included this block quote from Katharine White (E.B.'s wife...and Roger Angell's mom , I think): "It has always seemed to us that boys and girls who are worth their salt begin at twelve or thirteen to read, with a brilliant indiscrimination, every book they can lay their hands on. In the welter, they manage to read some good ones. A girl of twelve may take up Jane Austen, a boy Dickens; and you wonder how writers of juveniles have the brass to compete in this field, blithely announcing their works as “suitable for the child of twelve to fourteen.” Their implication is that everything else is distinctly unsuitable. Well, who knows? Suitability isn’t so simple."

There seems to be an operating assumption that YA books are a gateway drug to bigger, better, "older adult" books. Is that the experience of you booksellers?

Jay Johnson said...

Let me preface this by writing that I almost categorically don't believe in categories...

I tend to agree with Welty's quote - thanks, Brian - in that good novels, stories, "literary" fiction, whatever labels they hold, can appeal across ages and levels of readership. YA seems to be more a marketing strategy, like mystery, romance, western, scifi, etc. In a sense, it seems to be an attempt to define itself as a genre, one that perhaps exclusively appeals to an age group. That makes it unique from the genre trappings of mystery/scifi/etc, which attempt to define (or resist, in some cases) themselves to a "type" of personality or interest group. Essentially, they don't try to define themselves as "old people" books or "30-something" books.

The age level has some implicit notion of comprehension level, but I think that's a little prescriptive. There are adult readers who miss important aspects of adult books, just as there are certain to be YA readers who understand the nuances of YA bokos more fully than there YA "peers".

For instance, I think Fahrenheit 451 is an appropriate book for YA and appropriate book for adults an appropriate book for "fiction" and an appropriate book for "science fiction". When masquerading as a bookseller, I have to put it in "Fantasy & Science Fiction".

I think Kelly Link's work faces this same paradox. The story "Magic for Beginners" is one of my absolute favorites, for many, many reasons, mostly for its play, inventiveness and ability to cross genre boundaries while being slyly self-aware of the challenges it faces in achieving these goals. I would recommend it to professors and grad students, "sci-fi" readers, young adults and everyone in between. (We shelve it in "Fiction".) I think the inclusion of two stories from Magic for Beginners in Pretty Monsters supports this, too.

She busts genres and audience, which aren't necessarily the same thing.

Maybe Trent could add some insight to how Kelly views her own work, having worked with her at Clarion?

Trent Hergenrader said...

Sorry, dropped out there for a bit.

Kelly has said that she views her work as science fiction, a comment she made on a panel at World Fantasy in Madison a few years back. The audience literally gasped (yes, it does happen) and a few particularly stricken people called out "No!" Hilarious.

Having said that, Kelly is also a huge proponent of writing what you write and let the marketers and categorizers decide what genre it fits into. She is very enthusiastic about helping people write, including helping young people write, and is all about breaking down boundaries--between literary genres, between sexes, genders, sexualities, races, you name it.

I have also heard that the only real thing that separates YA as a category from adult fictions is that YA usually has a YA protagonist. Which would explain why "Magic for Beginners" and "Faery Handbag" make it into the collection whereas "Lull" and "Stone Animals" deal with more thirtysomething issues.

Jay Johnson said...

that's pretty marvelous, that an audience at major fantasy convention would gasp at the notion of SF. i guess your enemy's enemy isn't always your friends.

that literary fiction is so Machiavellian...

Trent Hergenrader said...

Yeah, the fantasy vs. sf thing can get pretty heated. There are those from the fantasy side who state that all fiction is fantasy because fiction is necessarily a representation of reality, and can never be reality. Then there's a group who believe that any story that makes use of any scientific principle (including things like psychology) and call it sci-fi. Both groups tend to forget (or wantonly ignore the fact) that those arguments don't swing any but the most hardcore, committed genre fans.

I don't quite know how Kelly defines sci-fi, but it must be a very broad, inclusive category.

Post a Comment