Literature vs. “Punk Literature”

punkrockThe mid and late 1970s (my teenage years) was not a great time for music. Rock music that had been the soul and catalyst of the 1960s had become simultaneously corporate and excessive. It was boring, over-blown, derivative, and gimmicky…. it was Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and James Taylor or Yes, Kiss, and stadium rock songs with long, boring drum and guitar solos that would go on, and on, and on, and on. It was a dying art-form and we were a dying  generation.

But just in the nick of time, along came punk music: a cultural “f- you” to pretentious and corporate establishment taste-makers. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash stripped rock down to its essential bare-bones: loud, fast, and angry. The punk movement saved music… and my generation.

An interesting article posted at the Sci.Fi/Fantasy site Tor.comentitled “Are Fantasy Tropes a Punk Response to Literature?” has got me thinking again about the punk movement of the 1970s and the artificial distinction that is often made critically and academically between real Literature with a capital “L” and ordinary genre fiction, and the roots of my own personal rebellion against “establishment” literature… a rebellion that includes interest in more than just fantasy novels, for if anything fantasy seems a bit behind the times ultimately in any literary punk movement, if one exists.

As I have written elsewhere here on MontanaWriter (and yes… I am quoting myself):

The distinction between literary and genre fictions (mysteries, westerns, fantasy, and sci.fi.) is largely an artificial one. Those who still insist on making anachronistic literary distinctions do it for the same reason that all snobs make such declarations, self-aggrandizing assholery.

The only distinctions that can legitimately be made in literature are between good writing and bad writing and good stories and bad stories. When a work of fiction takes hold of your imagination, when the language continually invites you to turn pages the writer has done his or her job. When the book haunts you and you can remember it years and years later, the writer has written a masterpiece.

I began in my 30s to read genre fiction for the first time in my life because I was looking for literature that was stripped down to its essential bare-bones: action, plot, and dialog. I was looking for something more than Oprah Book Club books and New York Times best-sellers that seem all too often simultaneously corporate and excessive:  boring, over-blown, derivative, and gimmicky. I wanted literature… loud, fast, and angry.

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