Tags: fiction

Fiction of Manners

I hate fiction of manners, but that's not going to stop me from writing about it in some effort to see if I can figure out why. I hope that people who like fiction of manners will tell me whether I've got an accurate impression of the genre. (I admit that I might be as wrong as someone who hates sf trying to talk about sf, but I also feel it's occasionally necessary to look like a fool in public in order to learn things.)

Imho, fiction of manners is almost entirely about emotion and status, and a lot of my problem with it (aside from a probably neurotic aversion to paying attention to status maneuverings) is that I'm left feeling very claustrophobic when I read it. People don't seem to notice any material object except for its status possibilities. They don't talk about ideas. They don't make things. They hardly get out of doors.

Their status maneuverings are for very high stakes in terms of their personal happiness (frex, in a classic CoM, the cost of a bad marriage might be serious poverty), but the physical cost of losing is kept off-stage. (The emotional cost, say being the poor relative-companion of someone obnoxious, may well be on-stage.)

In a discussion I can't find easily papersky said that _Tooth and Claw_ was too savage to be fantasy of manners. I think it's not just savagery--people in fiction of manners aren't very embodied, whether for pleasure or pain.

"Nothing happened"

A lot of avant-garde art challenges the audience's ability to pay attention in spite of disgust and/or boredom due to repetition.

There's another frontier I haven't heard of anyone taking a crack at--an extended narrative about pleasantness. Usually, the complaint if there's no pain for the characters is "nothing happened", which gives an interesting angle on what people think of as a something.

Does anyone know of literature that's tried this?

Afaik, there's pornography where everything that happens pleases the characters, but that tends to be unambitious about prose and not considered literature. If there's anyone reading this who knows somewhat about pornography, could you tell me whether literary pornography tends to be less fun for the characters?

Collapse )

Getting angry at authors

There's a discussion in sartorias about reader contracts, and I thought I'd mention a couple of times when I felt an author had defaulted on me. Imho, the way you can tell the contract has been broken is because you're personally angry with the author--and not about their personal behavior or their possible effect on the world, but because there you were in a nice readerly trance, and Something Went Wrong.

One is that the book shall not slop over into the real world too nastily. I can remember reading Jerzy Kosinski's _The Painted Bird_ when I was a kid, and being edgy about being near members of my physically harmless family for an hour or so--just because they were human beings. I swore that I'd never read anything by Kosinski (seeing the movie of Being There doesn't count), and, while I don't take that sort of an oath seriously--not after decades, I haven't gotten around to any of his books since.

Another is _The Name of the Rose_. There's no way to go into any detail without spoilers, but let's just say that it's not a conventional mystery novel, and I was expecting one.

Now that I think about it, the Kosinski thing isn't exactly about the contract as usually conceived--that's about genre--it's more about what I expected from books generally.

When have you guys gotten really angry at an author for how a book affected you?