Lost in the “Genre Ghetto”

Letter to the New York Times Book Review from a reader in Hollywood, California:

To the Editor:

Christopher Buckley refers to certain major works by Vonnegut as “sci-fi(esque).”  If Cat’s Cradle is “sci-fi(esque),” then Farewell, My Lovely is “mystery(esque)” and Shane is “western(esque).”  I had hoped we were long past the Canticle for Leibowitz days when publishers could persuade critics to treat science fiction with the respect granted to other forms of literature only by pretending it wasn’t science fiction.

Perhaps Buckley was trying to protect Vonnegut posthumously from the sci-fi label he’d avoided in life for fear of exactly that kind of “genre ghetto,” as Buckley puts it.  But surely in this century the secret life is no longer necessary.  The cat and the cradle are out of the bag, and it should be gladly and admiringly acknowledged that Kurt Vonnegut was a man of many parts —  including a writer of science fiction.

(Fab Skyline prof Liza Erpelo tells self that only outsiders refer to “science fiction” as “sci-fi.”  To insiders, it’s always science fiction.  Which suddenly reminds self that she’s seen Buckley before: at the now-on-hiatus Foothill Writers Conference)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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