value-neutral literary theory

“and the tradition of, if you like, ‘mainstream literary fiction’ of which it’s the most celebrated local jamboree, has tended strongly to celebrate the former over the latter. There’s an obvious relation with realist versus non-realist work (thinking on these lines might help map links between the pulpiest SF and more celebrated Surrealist and avant-garde work), though the distinction maps only imperfectly across the generic divide. All fiction contains elements of both drives (to different degrees, and variably skilfully). That very fact might be one way of getting at the drab disappointment of, on the one hand, the cliches of some fantasy and the twee and clunking allegories of middlebrow ‘literary’ magic realism (faux estrangement, none-more-mollycoddling recognition), and on the other at those utterly fascinating texts which contain not a single impossible element, and yet which read as if they were, somehow, fantastic (Jane Eyre, Moby-Dick, etc). Great stuff can doubtless be written from both perspectives. But I won’t duck the fact that at its best, I think there is something more powerful, ambitious, intriguing and radical about the road recently less feted. I’d rather be estranged than recognise.”

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