Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top 10 genre-defying novels

In 2006, author Kit Whitfield named a top ten list of "genre-defying novels" for the Guardian.

Whitfield's case for genre-defying novels and Number One on her list:
"Genre is all very well, but it's a cage as much as a support. Who knows how many books a person who won't touch women's fiction or only reads sci fi is missing out on that they'd otherwise love? But for a writer, the effect is more insidious. A work of art needs to be complete on its own terms: it needs to ring with internal rightness, never mind whether it makes sense in terms of genre. A writer who forces a trope in or leaves an idea out because they're worried about genre categories has mutilated their book. The best novels are those that are so effective in themselves that they let genre go hang: use what works, leave out what doesn't, and come up with whatever's fresh and vivid that serves the story you're trying to tell."

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

One of those books that's worth including on almost any list because it's one of the best books in the world, and a book so strong that genre becomes irrelevant. It's a literary classic, but also, technically, a political fable, an historical novel, a ghost story, an allegory and even an anatomy of a murder - but none of that really matters, because Beloved is just Beloved. There's no other book like it; it's unique, individual, perfect. It doesn't contain a ghost because it's a ghost story, for instance: everything is there because it couldn't be any other way. It's the ideal of literature: a highly cultured and informed book, that in the end is still only answerable to itself.
Read about the other nine titles on the list.

Visit Kit Whitfield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue