Why Not Abolish Literary Genres?

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Original Air Date: 
July 16, 2017
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Why do we keep dividing the world of books into different genres - like romance novels, science fiction and literary fiction? So here’s novelist Lauren Beukes’ Dangerous Idea: Abolish the whole idea of genre.


Lauren Beurkes: My dangerous idea is that we should get rid of genre altogether. I am so tired of the very artificial arguments that there is literature and there is science fiction and that there is westerns and crime novels and that these are all somehow different and have different value systems.

As far as I'm concerned, we should be promiscuous in our reading habits. We should take any damn book we like to bed, as long as that book is good in bed. Or in the bath or on the sofa or wherever you like to read. You probably shouldn't read with your e-reader in the bath, but you know.

So the idea is that we have stories and we have good stories and bad stories and we have stories that use different elements, but to reduce them into these kind of little boring pigeon holes where they have to fit certain criteria is so frustrating and tedious. I think we miss out on a lot of really good books.

Of course there's bad sci-fi. But it also depends on what your idea of science fiction is, it's a very broad church. It's the same with crime. You might have a really tedious little murder mystery which breaks out all the clichés about pretty dead girls and the serial killer creeping up on people. And we've seen it all before. And then you might read a crime novel like "Gone Girl" which just blows you out of the water.

These distinctions, they're fake. They don't exist. We need more hybrid novels we need novels which can take their inspiration from the world.

Read what you want to read. Make yourself happy. Read challenging, adventurous, dangerous books across different genres. Surprise yourself.

Lauren Beurkes is the author of "Broken Monsters."

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