Patrick Nielsen Hayden takes on Charles McGrath’s recent column about Philip K. Dick in the New York Times, which features — you guessed it — the greatest hits of condescending clichés about genre fiction. Nielsen Hayden concludes:
Dick is definitely a major SF writer, very much worth reading, and some of the standard cliches about him are surely true. But McGrath’s essay is an impressive example of the kind of normative blather dubbed “bookchat” by Gore Vidal, writing whose main purpose is to explain to anxious readers whether it’s socially acceptable to like this stuff or not.
I won’t be teaching my planned course on the rhetoric of popular fiction in the fall, but if I were, this would be added to the ever-increasing pool of material on anxiety about literary taste and the “genre ghetto.” See also: Colleen Mondor’s recent and equally great post about Wired’s article on the subject.