Bang Bang, You're Dead

Serious lit is a dying genre.

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 19, 2008

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What if, sometime in the 1840s--in an alternate North America--an independent French-speaking Canada invaded and conquered most of the U.S., leaving only a rump of impoverished Southern states under American control?

Today the U.S. would be a Third World backwater. Would those poverty-stricken Americans have the inalienable right to "illegally" cross the so-called border and seek work in those parts of the former U.S. stolen by the foreign-language-speaking land-thieves?

These musings were inspired by the recently published non-alt-history A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War With the United States by Timothy J. Henderson.

It's a book I'd recommend to the effete twerp James Row who recently rubbished the just-published alternate history novel Resistance in The New York Times by claiming it was derivative of Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (citing Roth's own absurd claim that he had "no literary models for reimagining the historical past.")

One can only assume that neither Roth nor Row has ever browsed the science- fiction or thriller sections in any bookstore anywhere in the world.

Or they could go to www.uchronia.net for a massive and comprehensive list of alt-history books.

Or they could check out the just- published History Revisited: The Great Battles: Eminent Historians Take on the Great Works of Alternative History.

One can only draw the conclusion that Roth and Row don't consider any of these works "literary"--which reveals them as the most appalling snobs. It also puts them at odds with James Campbell, who in reviewing the latest Stephen King horror novel in the same NYT, airily dismissed King's famous touchiness about being dismissed as a mere genre author by quoting Oscar Wilde: "Books are well written or badly written. That is all."

Agreed. And one stinking humdinger of a badly written book is proper novelist Jerome Charyn's slow, boring and all but unreadable Revolutionary War spy novel Johnny One-Eye, covered as it is in plaudits from other equally "serious" and--one can only assume--equally shit writers.

(By way of a vastly superior antidote, may I suggest buying any novel written by the recently deceased George MacDonald Fraser with the word "Flashman" in the title? You will not be disappointed.)

One last gripe: The novel No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy doesn't have a proper ending. Just some senile old right-wing fart blathering on endlessly about God-knows-what in really annoying italics. What a rip-off.

No genre novelist would be allowed to get away with such sloppiness. McCarthy should be forced to return all his royalties until he's provided us with the long and bloody slo-mo shoot-out his own plot demands. And then whipped like a dog regardless.

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