11 May 2012

"Genres Do Not Exist"

From a New Inquiry Q&A with Eileen Myles:
What ‘bad’ genres did you grow up readingscience fiction, fairy tales, romance, etc.or read as an adult?

I resist the question entirely. I don’t think quotes ['...'] dispense with the idea of putting writing into good and bad genres. Let me say and I probably mean this in the most manifesto-ing way that genres don’t exist. They don’t exist at all. They serve the needs of marketing, of academic specialization, even as modes of work, but in terms of meaning or content or associative formations they are like traffic lights—not so interesting and most adamantly not what we are doing today. Genres for me are just a way in which we are controlled, protected I suppose but I’m not a writer to be protected at all. I love science fiction, have all my life and it’s where I met Kafka. Angela Carter is swimming around in there too. Science fiction propelled me into poetry and writing in general and if I think of the children’s books I was exposed to I can’t see the difference between sci fi, poetry, Kafka or Angela Carter. Yet they all know each other very well. That’s all I’m saying. Are there good and bad writers? I’m not sure about that either.
While I generally agree, I would offer various footnotes of minor disagreement (or nuance), most of which would just be me paraphrasing my introduction to The Jewel-Hinged Jaw and review of Gary Wolfe's Evaporating Genres. Genre is not merely something that "serves the needs of marketing", etc., but rather has been something produced by a variety of publishing practices — genre-specific magazines and book publishers, fan clubs, fanzines, conventions. Those are real, and they exist, and they profoundly influence, for better and worse, how all sorts of different texts are created, shaped, distributed, and received.

Otherwise, yes, exactly. I, too, met Kafka in science fiction. As have others.