Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It’s up to us

Everyone knows that most famous of Rodney Dangerfield lines, “I don’t get no respect.” Based on what Vicki wrote yesterday, and my responses citing the article from The National Post, crime writers fall right into Rodney’s camp, too. We certainly don’t get no respect, especially in Canada.

There was something about Lorna Crozier and Michael Enright chuckling at their own witticism that really raised my hackles. “So on Sunday, you read bad books,” host Enright says, and chuckling, Crozier agrees, “Yes, I read bad books.” The author she brought up as one who writes “bad books” was Peter Robinson. [To clarify, the meaning of “bad books” in this little exchange is books that aren’t “good for you” (i.e. serious literature), but books that are merely low-level “entertainment”.]

Excuse me? Peter’s books are brilliant, have won an incredible number of awards — and not just “industry” awards, either. He’s translated into a ridiculous number of languages and I wouldn’t be surprised if his sales numbered in the millions. How many books do you sell every year, dear Lorna? And how many awards do you have?

I know what they actually meant when they said “bad books”. It wasn't saying Peter's books are bad per se, but it was a reference to the fact that these self-appointed cognoscenti feel crime or genre novels don’t have the same literary weight as the sort of novels “literary” writers produce.

So I spent yesterday feeling incredibly indignant for us all. This attitude of what constitutes a “good book” is far more ingrained here in the far north than it is in other countries, but it’s everywhere to some degree.

Then I got up this morning and thought, “Well, the only good defense against this is to write better books.” Yes, there is a lot of bad crime writing out there, books that should never have been published. But I’ve read some real stinkers from the “literary” camp, as well.

So, to all of us, let’s dig a little deeper, be less satisfied with what we write, polish just that much more. “They” probably will still not give us our due for whatever stupid reason they can come up with, but at least we can hold our heads up high and KNOW that we have written a good novel, that our prose will stand up against any of theirs, no matter how lionized their anointed writers are.

My guess is that someday Michael Enright will want Peter Robinson on his little Sunday show. If I were Peter, I’d ask for an on-air apology or tell him to take a flying you-know-what...

By the way, if you want to listen to this interview, go to the following link. Beneath the 3rd paragraph is a flash player where you can listen to the show. The comment in question is somewhere around the 14th minute of the program:



Charles benoit said...

I wouldn't mind if some pundits called my books "bad books" as long as they also had to refer to them as "bestsellers", "crowd pleasers" and "fan favorites".

Vicki Delany said...

I am sure Peter is crying all the way to the bank.

Rick Blechta said...

I'm sure Peter would be quite pissed off. I know I would be.

Actually, I am.

It's matter of respect.

Donna Carrick said...

Well said, Rick. I can't even add anything. Let's all write the best damn books we can, and devil take the ranks of the "snobbishly ignorant"!