Sunday, September 4, 2016

An early review of Amitav Ghosh's THE GREAT DERANGEMENT which is proscriptive on genre writers and unseemly

An early review of Amitav Ghosh's ''THE GREAT DERANGEMENT'' which is proscriptive on genre writers and unseemly -

Showing 1-1 of 1 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on September 3, 2016
While the sections on climate change geo-politics and history are brilliant analyses, Dr Ghosh's prescription for creating the conditions for novelists tackling global warming impact events and issues only in ''serious mainstream literary circles'' is so proscriptive as to be absurd and lamentable. A total fail in the section about climate novels by genre writers. The author did not do his homework on this and his ignorance and prejudice toward genre novelists does not serve him well. There have been sci-fi and cli-fi novels about climate change issues from the early 1960s to today, and Amitavji, always smiling in his photographs, does not seem to grasp this point. In India, not one literary critic challenged him on this. But literary critics and reporters in North America and the UK will be sure to challenge him on this. His view of what constitutes "literature" is antiquated and prejudiced. Hopefully, after living in Brooklyn for over 25 years he knows that genre novelists from Ballard to Turner to Atwood to Robinson to Vandeermeer have been writing about climate change for over 50 years, and yet he pretends in this book that only ''literary fiction'' by so-called serious VIP novelists can tackle global warming issues. So I give 2/3 of the book five stars for its brilliance and 1/3 of the book one star for its dismal failure to see contemporary genre literature for what is: a happening form of human communication for both writers and readers. Which is why I found it curious that Ghosh more than once brings up the matter of 'serious fiction' and its upturned nose.

To bring up climate change in a novel, Ghosh writes, 'is in fact to court eviction from the mansion in which serious fiction has long been in residence; it is to risk banishment to the humbler [low-class] [genre] dwellings that surround the manor house.'

But why take serious fiction so seriously? After all, its conventions don't have a monopoly on human imagination. The lines between categories of fiction are blurry at best, and if something called science fiction or climate fiction can better accommodate what is urgent, then maybe we should let it.

============== ADDED VALUE:

A British Publisher living in France, a  FRIEND, TELLS ME:

Dear Dan
Thanks for your keen interest in Amitav's book and your important work on climate change with your site and cli-fi PR.

 (Thank you for pointing out on Twitter that Amitav's book itself will explain what he means by "mainstream literary fiction.")

Thanks also for supporting the book. Two clarifications: the argument about fiction is only one-third of the book. Yes, it will be controversial, but I hope that won't detract from the other parts, which concern history and politics (the section on history is especially important in many readers' view and casts much light on Amitav's own fiction). Also, the book is not a transcript of the Berlin Family lectures. No. It is based on them, yes, of course,  but much expanded and extensively rewritten. There is a long tradition of important books derived from lectures -- c.f. the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, the Clarendon Lectures, Tanner Lectures, etc. So by any conventional understanding, the book is new.

PS: I am traveling during the Labuor Day weekend, away from email, returning to the office on Tuesday, September 6. Your message has been saved, and I will respond as soon as I can.

With thanks for your patience,

Bertran X. Latour


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