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Literary, or just likeable?

 I participated in the essay anthology Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series, which was released by Smart Pop on April 6. I was flattered to be asked to participate, and it forced me to dust off critical skills I hadn’t used since university. Not that harkening back to my school days was always a help. The editor of the collection demanded not only an insightful, well-reasoned contribution, but also an entertaining one. In other words, she put me through my paces with just as much discipline (and, I sometimes imagined, unholy glee) as any of my profs. I polished that sucker until I was blue in the face.

Collections like this one are cropping up more and more frequently. I certainly see no reason not to apply the academic toolkit to movies, TV, and books on the mass market list. For one thing, some creators (J. Michael Straczynski comes to mind) write such excellent stuff that it begs for a closer look. The world of Buffy can, and has been, dissected without damaging the original one bit. But sometimes brain candy is just that, with no hidden profundities or depths to plumb. These stories and shows were never meant to be analyzed, and it wouldn’t be fair to do so.

But acknowledging that some popular entertainment is robust enough to support criticism and some is not raises some interesting questions—and I’ll say up front that I don’t pretend to have answers. One essay does not a theorist make.  

As I said, this “literary criticism of the non-literary” seems to be increasingly popular. More and more of it is getting published, so someone’s buying it. What appetite is it filling? And what does it say about the shows and books these essays are about? Are popular genres developing their own sub-strata of smarter, meatier works, or is this just a belated recognition of the fact?


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
I love the "Anita Blake" series, and I've long thought that the books have a depth that most people don't acknowledge. Primarily the fact that Anita goes from seeing the world in black and white terms (all vampires are evil) to shades of grey (monsters come in all varieties, some human). In parallel, Anita also goes from being overworked, isolated, and on the verge of burnout, to having a huge family of people who love and support her.

I've debated picking up that book. Although, that type of analysis from the outside almost scares me, because Laurell, and that series in particular, have lots of detractors. Although, given the fact that Laurell agreed to do intros says it isn't too bad.
Apr. 12th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
The anthology takes a balanced view of the series, which I think is essential for a volume like this to succeed.

I agree with your view on Anita; the way she changes her view of the world and consequently finds a measure of happiness is very interesting.
Apr. 13th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
In my high school English class, I wrote something like ten pages on the symbolism of eyeballs in The Great Gatsby. What I learned (other than that Fitzgerald apparently had a thing for eyeballs) is that literary analysis gets more and more fun the farther you get from litrachuh. I'm sure most of us have contemplated episodes of South Park and even LEARNED something. Mostly we've learned to swear more, but whatever.
Apr. 14th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC)
I pass an elementary school on the way to work called South Park. I'm sure that makes quite a few parents roll their eyes!
Apr. 22nd, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yes this is great book.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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