Cast Your Net
I fully understand the necessity for genres in publishing. If nothing else, publishers and booksellers must have some way to let prospective readers know as quickly as possible what they are more or less in for when they pick up a book. Thus, over in the science fiction/fantasy section you will find lasers and dragons, and in the suspense section you will find someone being killed and someone else will learning who that killer is and bringing them to justice. In the last twenty years there has been a proliferation of media, from a slush pile of cable channels, to the internet, to satellite radio. One result of this has been a genrefication of everything from news to music. If you’re liberal you know where to get your version of the news, if you’re conservative you have your outlets; likewise, there are radio stations for those who prefer Hip Hop and those who prefer Country.
This is when pundits will typically talk about the fracturing of America and how there are no communities anymore and we’re all cowering in our political/aesthetic corners—to which I say, bunk. This flowering of options is merely a result of that most basic of human impulses—preference. That we have gone from seeing most of humanity as the gray peon of the industrial revolution to something so diverse that women who love African American Christian Romance deserve their own sub-genre is all to the good.
And besides, too often I have learned that a man I was certain swam only literary waters has read every Clive Cussler novel, or a woman I thought thoroughly devoted to vampires was a enthusiastic Amy Tan reader. We are forever seeking what we love most. That is all. Only we sometimes mistakenly believe we have found all there is to love, and we cross our arms and declare, “I know what I like.”
Of course we do. Except what we love isn’t a thing or a person or a genre, it is a feeling only, a vibration of thought capable of many forms. Indeed, it requires many forms to complete itself. And so we cast our nets every day for all the music and books and leaders and friends and lovers and ideas that we assemble into what we call pleasure, and in the end the lines between genres and political parties are no more real than borders drawn between nations.