Genre Trends

Interesting piece in Salon about the (arguable) demise of chick lit that includes a broader survey of genre trends that have come and gone.

Laura Miller writes “What kills a genre isn’t always clear. Supposedly, the readership for the western turned to urban crime fiction sometime in the 1970s. Why? Were they simply tired of cowboys and gunslingers, or had the myth of the Old West been too thoroughly undermined by counterculture critics and Native American activists?” You can still find battered old gothics in junk shops and used bookstores, but as an instantly identifiable genre they’re no longer being published.

Other “expired genres” she cites include gothic novels, adventure novels a la H. Rider Haggard’s SHE and Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories. Can you think of others? Or have you watched the fortunes of a favorite genre decline and fall? If so, do you care to speculate on the cause of death?

Here is one micro trend that I’m rather enjoying: namely, the other-cultures-create-better-parents polemic (see Amy Chua’s ubiquitous Tiger Mom and the present coverage of Bringing Up Bebe.) Perhaps my own wide-eyed expat experience in Cairo colors my reaction, but I’m sympathetic to the feelings of amazement/niggling inadequacy that author Pamela Druckerman channels.  The whole time I lived in Egypt, I felt faintly astonished by the comportment of Egyptian children, who accompanied their parents everywhere as a matter of course and seemed as indulged and adored as American youngsters, but infinitely more patient.  I’m not quite ready to write a book on my own unscientific musings, but I’m looking forward to other cultures weighing in, surely China and France cannot dominate the conversation!

3 Responses to Genre Trends

  1. I’d love for adventure novels to come back, really. They were my favorite things to read when I was younger, but I feel like people find them too corny or idealistic these days. (And quite a few of the older ones could be problematic in the way they viewed other cultures, etc.) I’m somewhat surprised gothic novels never came back, what with the interest in paranormal everything these days.

    I imagine it’s more of a trend of the moment than anything else, but in the science fiction field, far-future stuff seems to be on the decline. More readers are imagining new worlds with “realistic” technologies set in the next few centuries. Perhaps it’s just our growing scientific knowledge and disillusion with technology that is in effect magic, but those novels had a certain type of spirit that isn’t captured as much anymore.

  2. I know Amy Chua had her two minutes of fame with Tiger Mother, but I didn’t realize there is a micro trend. I’ll have to seek out Bebe.

    Having lived in many cultures and noticed the various approaches even within cultures on parenting, and being a parent myself in a culture in which I did not grow up, I find the subject fascinating. I do think, however, it is important not to imagine that Chua speaks for any one culture, especially one as large and as diverse as the Chinese. In my reading of the book, it was very much a story of her. She happens to be of Chinese descent, via the Phillipines and Indiana, but her version of what constitutes parenting is really quite narrowly her own.

    But you have brought up a good point. Reading about parenting from different cultures would be eye-opening. For example, I would very much like to read about it in modern day China; in rural places as well as big cities, in areas that are primarily inhabited by Han descendants and those from other ethnic groups, by parents who have lived or studied in other countries and those who have not left.

    And I would read your musings on what you’ve observed in Egyptian families, scientific or not. :)

  3. Melinda says:

    Joe Queenan had a great column about the micro trend you mentioned called “Why Italian Moms are the Best” in the Wall Street Journal. He looks forward to more titles like “Incredible Incas: Why the Best Moms in the World Come from La Paz,” “Super-Moms from Fiji!” and (my personal favorite) “Martriarchs of the Yurt.”

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