This business of genre

In Current reading, Film, Music, Poetry, Theater on December 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

I read. I wrote. I read some more. I slept. Went for a walk with the dog. Read. Watched excerpts of Disney’s Fantasia from the forties, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Read excerpts of Rabelais’ Gargantua. Forgot all about this blogpost.

I don’t think there’s anything more I can do with the story. It is what it is. Neither fish nor fowl, neither this nor that. I’ll stay clear of all agent websites that offer a drop-down menu out of which to choose your submission’s genre along with a tweet-length synopsis.

I’m at a loss to summarize it, other than to say the following :

Francesca Aretino has a gift. Or a curse. She hears voices. They don’t order her to kill for Jesus or for Allah. They don’t provide the winning numbers at the Lottery. No, they sing in Russian, recite Greek and Bulgarian poetry, and stream latitude and longitude readings through her head. The voices get Francesca into trouble on a regular basis. She listens to them anyway. Perhaps Francesca is crazy, as some people say? Then again, maybe she isn’t.

I wrote the story. Do I think Francesca’s crazy? No.  Too imaginative for her own good, as they say? Could be. Then again, maybe she isn’t.



In his learned introduction to the Oxford edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest,  Stephen Orgel has this to say on the topic:

“Modern conceptions of genre are not those of the Renaissance, and our categories tend towards different ends: ours are exclusive and definitive, theirs tended to be inclusive and analytic. To find a new category for a play was not, for the Renaissance critic, to abandon the old ones. J.C. Scaliger describes the Oresteia as both a tragedy and a comedy; analogously, the Quarto of Troilus and Cressida declares it witty ‘as the best comedy in Terence or Plautus’, while the Folio editors included the play among the tragedies. These claims do not contradict each other.”

Yes, I know. This is the tail end of the year two thousand and fourteen of the Common Era. I am neither Shakespeare, Terence or Plautus, and the question of a genre category for this story befuddles me.

As for The Tempest, my favorite lines in the play always were, still are, and will probably always remain Caliban’s:

“Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,

That if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked

I cried to dream again.”


The way a small child can sleep through the worst upheavals, and remember a small tin monkey rather than the rubble that surrounds it?

Something like that.


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