Rebutting Yann Martel

This past weekend I spent 2½ all-too-short hours with ten other Manitoba writers in a roundtable with Man Booker-prize winning author Yann Martel. There was a great deal said about writing: the whys and wherefores, the hows, the fact that no one really writes for money. (Money’s nice, but you write to write. To exorcise demons, to entertain, to process the world — all these come long before money, assuming that money ever comes.)

There were at least three genre writers there, and the discussion came up of literature vs. genre. I was pleased that Yann wasn’t the snobby type that gazes down his nose at the apparent ghetto of genre. (In fact, I may be snobbier — he read The Da Vinci Code to its end, whereas I gave up on it at about page 60.)

One point that he made, however, kind of stuck in my craw. He claimed that literature can wring emotion from a reader far more effectively than SF, or fantasy, or mystery ever can. He posited that in 100 years’ time, Stephen King will be largely forgotten, but Dickens will live on, because the reader connects on a deeper, more emotional level. He said he can’t think of a single SF novel that’s made someone cry.

Well, here are two novel that succeeded in making me tear up:

  • Circuit of Heaven, by Dennis Danvers — It’s Romeo & Juliet for the mind-uploading set, in essence. Star-crossed lovers, separated by the life that may come after death.
  • The Dark Tower, by Stephen King. The chapter that did it for me is “In This Haze of Green & Gold”. If you’ve read the saga, you know why. (Also, “‘Olan” kind of got me, too.)