January 17th, 2005

The genre that dare not speak its name

I have a book here, which I purchased from what is allegedly the largest bookshop in the Southern Hemisphere (which I doubt). It was in the Australian Literature section - no jokes from the back please - I bought it along with 'The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco' from the author of 'He died with a falafel in his hand' (John Birmingham).

The blurb is as follows:
'Frank and Philby meet at uni. Frank is the king of cool, and dysfunctionally libidinous. Philby is nervous, nerdy, and dysfunctionally insecure. Somehow, they form a team and go about chasing girls, passing their degrees and surviving many a green drink experience.

The hilarious misadventures of Frank and Philby are just part of what lies between the covers of Headgames. There's also a difficult unicorn, a shampoo fetish and cyber romance, a shopping mall that goes on forever, a fishing trip with Keanu Reeves and much much more.'

Now, call me unobservant, and naive, and in retrospect it is obvious that it is a collection of short stories. However, methinks that the 'are just part of what lies between the covers of' is a deliberate obfuscation of the fact that it is a collection of short stories.

Which is not surprising, because I am sure I am not the only person who spurns non-SF short story collections as I would a bag of rabid weasels. Unless they're by Douglas Coupland or Garrison Keillor of course, and even Keillor palls after the first couple of books.

Because, let's be honest, non-genre short stories are rarely any good. These collections seem to consist mainly of
a) mood pieces in which nothing much happens
b) tedious whimsy of a particular kind, all of which seems to hit exactly the same note. Mark Leyner springs particularly to mind in this context.

So, having seen this 'concealing the fact that it's a collection of short stories' trick in action, I shall know to be more suspicious in future.