Haddon on genre and literary fiction

Because of the sheer number of them, I stopped linking several months ago to interviews with Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. His essay in this weekend’s Guardian, however, is well worth reading. Among other things it’s a thoughtful (if broadly-drawn) consideration of the differences between genre and literary fiction:

At 20, 25, 30, we begin to realise that the possibilities of escape are getting fewer. We begin to picture a time when there will no longer be somewhere else and far away. We have jobs, children, partners, debts, responsibilities. And if many of these things enrich our lives immeasurably, those shrinking limits are something we all have to come to terms with.

This, I think, is the part of us to which literary fiction speaks.

Genre fiction says: ‘Forget the gas bill. Forget the office politics. Pretend you’re a spy. Pretend you’re a courtesan. Pretend you’re the owner of a crumbling gothic mansion on this worryingly foggy promontory.’ Literary fiction says: ‘Bad luck. You’re stuck with who you are, just as these people are stuck with who they are. But use your imagination and you’ll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care.’