Monday, April 26, 2010

Magical Prose and Rethinking Literary Realism

On Saturday I led a panel at UCLA with three writers who work in what we might call slipstream, literary fantasy, conceptual fiction, surrealism, or some other school still to be named. While the specific label isn't particularly important, the emphasis on rethinking realism, on embracing the best of genres like fantasy and science fiction, and moving into what Michael Chabon has called "the borderlands" between literary categories is at the center of much the best fiction these days, I think.

HERE is a Jacket Copy blogger's coverage of my panel, which I described as about the Gen-X rebellion against doctrinaire realism, and which included the writers Aimee Bender (The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake), Lev Grossman (The Magicians) and Victor LaValle (Big Machine).

My favorite moment was when LaValle was asked if he'd drawn from any myths or legends in developing his literary style and he mentioned how he had read the Bible all the way through -- a volume, he said, drawn from so many previous ancient sources that if functions like an anthology.

The Jacket Copy post includes a pretty sharp summary of the stakes of the conversation as well as a reasonable unflattering photo of yours truly mid-syllable.

I quoted Chabon's excellent book of criticism, Maps and Legends, praised the work of Ursula Le Guin, and referred to Ted Gioia's blog, Conceptual Fiction, which is dedicated to these very issues. I also name-dropped my first "favorite writer," J.R.R. Tolkien, whose family monogram is pictured.