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.

The New York Times: “75 Things New Yorkers Talked About in 2011”

No, self is not going to list the 75 things.  Yes, there was the presence of a Kardashian (Also:  Anderson Cooper.  Also:  Meryl Streep).  But here are the items that truly interested self:

8.  Princess Beatrice’s fascinating headgear at the Royal Wedding (raised $131,000 for charity)

12.  Steve Jobs.  “Fittingly, many people learned of his death on their iPhones.”

15.  Ellen Barkin on Twitter.  “Never has unbridled profanity been so entertaining.”

18.  “Homeland”:  “Angela Chase grows up into a pill-popping, bipolar, line-crossing C.I.A. operative.  The most compelling character on television in 2011.”

24.  “Keith Olbermann leaves MSNBC to go to Current TV, is never heard from again.”

25.   “Zooey Deschanel:  adorable or irritating?  Discuss.”

51.   Planking

57.  “Michael Fassbender.  And not just because of the frontal nudity in Shame.”

74.  “The now officially annoying James Franco.”

(The “75 Things” was in the Thursday, 29 December 2011 issue)

A Poem for the New Year

The New Song

by W. S. Merwin

(encountered this evening, the last Saturday of 2011, in The New Yorker of 12 December 2011)

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

* * * * *

I read that poem and I think, How true that is. How true.

Thank you, W. S. Merwin.

Stay tuned.

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