Hooliganism: Genre Kryptonite
GENRE KRYPTONITE is a regular feature about genres we have an inexplicable weak spot for.
I clicked on one of the articles under Genre Kryptonite labeled as Dysfunctional Families (Under-the-Radar Edition) and the article tells the reader how the author has a weakness for books about dysfunctional families and then the author details books that are about dysfunctional families but are not well-known. Well, click the link and see for yourself, dear reader.
The article got me thinking about my genre kryptonite. What genre or sub-genre of books do I have a weakness for? Instantly, the answer came to me. I have two genre kryptonites and these are books about the Jewish experience and books with a sad and tragic story.
Books about the Jewish experience tend to captivate me because their culture has so much to offer. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying that Judaism is a religion that has went through a lot and it has shaped their people in ways that are totally different from how other religions shaped their people. I also find it interesting when the main character in a book is struggling with his Jewish faith and his object is to try and reconcile his beliefs with his culture. The whole process of character development in books about the Jewish experience just fascinates me completely. Here are my favorites among such books:
- The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith – Tells the story about Alex Li-Tadem and his quest for inner peace in a world that is unfair towards him as he works by mooching on the fame of other people by collecting and selling movie memorabilia.
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon – A detective story set in a fictional Jewish city in Alaska that details the investigation into the death of the Tzadik ha-Dor, the potential messiah of the Jewish people. Our protagonist, Meyer Landsman, tries to solve the case as he also tries to reconcile his religion and culture with himself.
- Everyman by Philip Roth – The unnamed protagonist of the novel, a literal everyman without any extraordinary attributes, ponders about his own mortality, as he gets bogged down by various sicknesses, and the many misdeeds that he committed against his wives, his children, and his friends.
- The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – The book’s main protagonist, Leo Gursky, struggles against death and being forgotten as he also tries to evaluate the life that he has led: a failed writing career, losing the love of his life, and being estranged from his son. Plus he also has to deal with the trauma of losing his whole family in the Holocaust.
My other genre kryptonite, books with a sad and tragic story, also captivates my interest. I just tend to lean toward books with tragedy and despair than books with hope and happiness. I just find the former more realistic and more profound. Here are some of my favorites:
- A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood – A story about a gay man in midlife crisis. Incessantly moving and profoundly mundane, the tragic nature and life of the protagonist, George, is explored in an almost poetic manner. The nitty-gritty of a life that has capsized after the death of George’s lover is deftly written.
- Man in the Dark by Paul Auster – Man in the Dark is about a family that has just experienced a huge and traumatic tragedy and has caused our narrator to develop insomnia. As an escape, our narrator creates a world that is no less tragic in his mind and this causes him to open up and to confront, with his family, the tragic event that has recently occurred.
- Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe – About 15 reformatory boys who were evacuated during the frenzy of WWII-era Japan into the mountainous and remote regions of the country. They are abandoned by the villagers when plague broke out and the children were forced to create a community of their own. They enjoyed a brief moment of piece and childish joy that was soon quickly squashed by death and by the shadow of the adults that decided to return.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Tells the story of George and Lennie, two farmhands dreaming to own and to tend a farm of their own. They decide to work and to save for their dream which is soon squashed due to the tragic nature of fate.
- No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy – A bloody tale about the brutal and violent side of man as it tells the story of Llewellyn Moss, a boy who accidentally runs into a drug deal gone wrong and absconds with 2 million dollars. He is pursued by Anton Chigurh, a nihilistic assassin, and Sheriff Bell, an ageing and obsolete agent of the law.
There you have it, folks, two of my genre kryptonites. I tried my best making my summaries as vague as possible and I hope I did not spoil anything for anyone who wants to read the books. Anyhoo, dear readers, I hoped you liked today’s Hooliganism and I am very much interested in learning what your genre kryptonites are in the comments section. Till next time.