Monday, January 25, 2010


As I read in the early AM hours, barreling through pages of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, something occured to me. It's not very often that literary-minded people read things they legitimently enjoy. At least I don't.

Here's the thing. I started this year with Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a wonderful novel I was happy to come to, and which did make me tear up on a number of occations. I followed that with Henry Miller's The Tropic of Cancer, a tough, literary beast that wasn't much fun to sit down with, but was intellectually rewarding. My 2010 reading list has hardly been disapointing, but as I read Jackson, something occurs to me: I'm having fun.

I'm laughing. I'm suspicious. I'm curious. I'm intellectually engaged. And perhaps more than anything I'm convinced Jackson is one of the most underrated writers of the century.

I hate to go on too much about the book, as I'll be blogging about it tomorrow, but the thing about Jackson is that she's able to write compelling genre fiction, that's infused with literary intent. Behind the simplity of her American-style prose and the simple nature of her subject, are books of subtle complexity. She is not an author whom you can read half of a novel, and say "Ah, Ha! This is what she's talking about!" She's far too smart for that.

And reading it, I've begun to question why all books aren't more like her's. Of course I have a certain affity for the genre, but I don't understand why appreciation and enjoyment are disperate things. I've always upheld that I want to write like Raymond Carver. Fuck it! I want to write like Shirley Jackson! No! I want to be the literary love child of Raymond Carver and Shirley Jackson! Yes!

Reading should be more fun, damnit! Because what I've noticed is that by embracing the narrative, I'm more rather than less interested in her intent. I'm thinking about the book more. What good is Joyce if I'm too busy wishing the book was over with to think about it?

A good book should never be a chore, and people shouldn't have to resort to pure genre fiction to have a fun experience. I'm not saying there isn't room for Joyce or Miller, but, well... the literary world should include more than broccoli and cheese doodles! Where has the middle ground gone?

I demand more fun!

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