Sunday, March 18, 2007

Great Literature

Spinetingler Magazine, of which I am co-founder and editor, is non-genre specific. We publish literature.

In my opinion, one of the best examples of this over the past year was MG Tarquini's story, ABSOLUTION. Brilliant, haunting. The caliber of the writing convinced me that I wanted MG on my editorial team. In fact, I am hoping there’s a suitable award to nominate that story for, because it’s an exceptional piece.

We review non-genre books too. Ian Rankin’s THE FLOOD was used in university courses in Scotland. Next issue I’ll review AFRICAN PSYCHO, which I would not label as crime fiction either. THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING is in the pile, as is LIGHT ON SNOW, AS I LAY DYING and THE SOUND AND THE FURY.

Hardly what I’d call exclusively crime fiction. Not by a long shot.

Google alerts have tipped me off that my recent post on reviews has revealed that I am a member of the forces of evil. Oh no, my cover’s blown! (Not like that’s a newsflash – evilkev’s been saying that for years. And at least I’m in good company.)

The funny thing is, I have nothing against “literature” except one thing: A lot of the authors and anti-genre lobbyists are arrogant. They are all about putting others down to elevate themselves. I can’t be bothered with that.

Funny thing is, I even have a non-genre author on my list for upcoming interviews for Spinetingler. Ooooohhhh, look at me. Really being evil, promoting someone outside my genre. (Where is the roll eyes emoticon when you need it?)

The only thing I’ve ever been interested in doing is promoting great books. You want to know why we don’t run more stuff from outside crime fiction? We don’t receive it. It isn’t genre authors who turn up their nose at the thought of being interviewed by us or having us review their book. And with so many authors eager for the attention we certainly won’t waste time and energy on those who are difficult.

We deliberately made Spinetingler non-genre so that what we published wouldn’t be narrowly construed. A great story is a great story, no matter what label it falls under. Movies like THE HOURS or AMERICAN BEAUTY are far more poignant and meaningful than movies like CASINO ROYALE.

I’m not begging for review copies. I have more than I can handle already. But maybe the reason we aren’t offered non-genre fiction more is because the authors are afraid of whether or not their work will measure up under the scrutiny of people who are not automatically predisposed to be impressed by it.*

* This is referencing published authors and review copies, not unpublished stories. We actually have published quite a few that fall outside "crime" or "genre" fiction.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading Spinetingler for a few issues now and while I've seen that some stories don't fit the crime fiction genre, the darker tone of the mag has meant that I haven't submitted some stories that I'm looking for a home because I didn't think they fit.

It's a conundrum because on the one hand the stories published give a indictor to the reader what to submit, but then all you get is crime orientated.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I can appreciate the conundrum Amra. In our first year we had a broader range, I think. Because of my associations we really caught on with the crime fiction crowd. Still, we've published a variety of people - two stories by MG, Vincent H. Keen, Shelly Wass, Michael Spohr, Timothy Hobbs (The Well - fall 2005, another story worth a read) that fall well outside 'crime' and those are just naming a few.

Vincent H. Keen actually has a manuscript I love, but it falls through all the cracks and is considered hard to market. A real shame, excellent story.

M. G. Tarquini said...

In my opinion, one of the best examples of this over the past year was MG Tarquini's story, ABSOLUTION. Brilliant, haunting.


holy shit.

*falls over*

Sandra Ruttan said...

Gee, now they'll be saying I'm conspiring to kill off non-genre writers with my compliments! I'll send Angie over with a bucket of water to revive you.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Bucket of bourbon will work better.

Sandra Ruttan said...

We might make a crime writer out of you yet!


ORION said...

I so enjoy reading this and I adored m. Tarquini's contribution.
Good call.

Jersey Jack said...

Sandra, you have to admit that a name like "Spinetingler" might fool a lot of literary types.

Daniel Hatadi said...

With a name like Spinetingler, if I didn't already know, I would assume it was a horror mag.

But I applaud the decision to make the mag non-genre and to tend towards the darker side of fiction. I've always been personally attracted to the dark side of pretty much everything (especially programming--nerds are so HARDKORE) and it's the same direction my own writing is taking.

So where the hell is this evidence of you being evil (like we need to be convinced)???

Sandra Ruttan said...

Orion, she's a great writer, isn't she?

Jersey Jack, is that the trouble? Funny, we always said from the beginning we were looking for stories that got a reaction - your heart thumping, your blood racing... your spine tingle.

Next time, we'll dumb it down and call it Non Genre Magazine. I just hope that won't be too complicated!

Daniel, if you go to this site called Crimespace and go to my blog and read the comments I've made it easier. If you're here you have to follow a link from my Friday post but I won't post a direct link. Kevin's read the post - I've elected not to, only what google sent me.

Evil Kev said...

Here is an except from the "Forces of Evil" post :

Sandra then applies her logic to book reviews:

This is, in my opinion, why review space in many newspapers is decreasing. Reviewers fail to understand their role is not to be a cultural innovator. Their role is to reflect popular culture.

Critics as experts who point readers toward important works? Phooey. Who needs 'em. Right, Sandra? I know what I like. Just tell me it's good! I don't need critics to help me to expand my horizons. I want them to act as mirrors that reflect my good judgment back upon me.

Better yet, critics, save your words. Just run's rankings - and only the Top Ten, please. That will insure that I never read "unpopular" fiction.

The underlying issue of that blogger's post is not about literary vs. genre fiction but that of the role of critics and reviewers. There are two kinds of reviewers. Those who tell what they read and those who tell you what to read. These "literary" reviewers too often act as if they are beacons of light for the unwashed masses when they actually are no different than any other writer. They praise what they like and criticize what they don't. You can dress yourself up however you want but a rose is still a rose.

But what is most telling to me was the following statement from the front page of the blog:

What if you asked 125 top writers to pick their favorite books? Which titles would come out on top?

You'll find the answer in "The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books." Edited by J. Peder Zane and published by W.W. Norton, "The Top Ten" is the ultimate guide to the world's greatest books.

This individual who attacked Sandra edited a book that tells the unenlightened hordes which books are the best. Interesting...

Dave White said...

AMERICAN BEAUTY always struck me as a PI story without a PI. If we had started after the suicide, and someone hired Lew Archer, we could find out about the Kevin Spacey character's plight that way.

CASINO ROYALE was awesome, amazing, and the best reviewed movie of 2006. It was also quite poigniant and showed us how a beloved character became the way he is.

I haven't seen THE HOURS, but that's because I immensely hate Virginia Woolfe. She spent ten pages in MRS. DALLOWAY describing a car driving down the road. And Mrs. Dalloway trying to figure out who is in the car. And then we--in class, in college--spent two hours discussing the passage. And it turns out NO ONE KNOWS who is in the car and NO ONE CARES. Virigina Woolfe never wrote about anything and then hid under the guise of writing about daily life.
Well guess what? Daily life is BORING.

(Unless you're Arthur Miller, then it's not.)

And if I remember, AS I LAY DYING was good and THE SOUND AND THE FURY was confusing. But Faulkner wrote crime fiction too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

EvilKev, I wonder how they determined who 125 top writers are? Surely not sales...

Dave, I have to disagree on Casino Royale personally. That said, I have no need to try to persuade anyone otherwise - the movie just didn't work for me on certain levels. It was more about structure, balance, editing and producing than anything else but I left before the end. Just didn't hold me.

The Hours takes place primarily in modern day and more recent history. I certainly wouldn't watch it to be cheered up. And shhhh on Faulkner. You don't want the literary types to get confused.

You know what's funny? A lot of "great literature" - the stuff we studied - involves crime or a mystery. Hamlet. Great Expectations. Jane Eyre. The Heart of Darkness.

Here, a lot of books are shelved separately from mystery. You'll find everything from Patterson to Parrish to Tess Gerritsen to Alexander McCall Smith over in "fiction" not "mystery".

The problem I see there is, most mystery readers are pretty hard core and I'm one who seldom strays out of that section anymore. For the life of me I can't fathom how they decide to put Sean Chercover in fiction and Ken Bruen in mystery. Doesn't seem to make sense.

Sela Carsen said...

Jane Eyre I put squarely in the romance column. The mystery isn't at the heart of the story, Jane and Rochester are. That said, I feel Bronte let us down horribly with the "Jane! Jane!" gimmick.

I've found Alexander McCall Smith in mystery. And it's a good thing, too. I like mysteries. "Fiction" is too sticky to wade through. Unfortunately, that's where I have to go to get my Jasper Fforde fix.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sela, I agree with Jane Eyre - it is a romance, but it does contain a mystery. More than one, in fact.

As so many of the books do.

But then, this snobbery carries over to all genres, not just mystery.

Oh, and in my opinion Casino Royale had the cheesiest love lines ever. Kevin and I about died laughing.

Sela Carsen said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I really want to. I'm a huge Bond fan. And then there's the matter of DC in those little blue swimtrunks. *gg*

Sandra Ruttan said...

Nothing wrong with DC, except someone mentioned his...... and they had a point.

I won't tell you so you aren't automatically drawn there. When you watch it, come back and tell me if you figured it out.

(Rotten, aren't I?)

Trace said...

Absolution is an amazing story. I loved it as well.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Awwww...thanks, Trace. Thanks, Pat.

Next time, we'll dumb it down and call it Non Genre Magazine. I just hope that won't be too complicated!

I totally lost the diet coke over that one.

Anonymous said...

Mindy, would you PLEASE get off the floor. I nearly stepped on you.

Drama queen.