RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 09 Jan 2009

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    On Jan 7, 2009, at 10:35 PM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

    > Now Kevin, at least, you seem to be basing your judgements upon
    > actually
    > having read a few of these books, but are you reading them as would
    > their target audience? Wouldn't these exaggerated, cliche,
    > stereotypical bad black men resonate differently in that different
    > cultural context? Basing my assumption more on friends I know who are
    > big fans than any actual sales figures, isn't the primary audience for
    > this genre black FEMALE? And isn't the emphasis (again, based on chats
    > with fans, not having actually read them) of these books more on the
    > black women who love men who have embraced these stereotypes than on
    > the
    > men themselves? If so, it'd make perfect sense that the men would be
    > exaggerated stereotypes, just as bad boys are exaggerated in all chick
    > lit.

    I'm beginning to think you're right. Just as there's a surprisingly large market for gay male erotica among women, so too does a lot of this stuff seem to be aimed at the romance market -- or at least a very uncritical target audience. I think I was mislead by the settings, which had me hoping for some gut-level homegrown, possibly hip-hop version of THE WIRE. I got Fabio in blackface instead.

    And yes, I'm fully aware of the echoes of previous cultural debates in my gripes about urban fiction. But I want to make it clear -- I'm not against the idea of this stuff (just like I wasn't against much of the dumbed-down "neo-noir" stuff I railed against a while back) and I don't want it banned or, er, white washed. But I would like it to be better written. And less impressed with its own existence.

    Even a cliché, in the right hands, can be an intriguing, captivating character. But cardboard is cardboard, regardless of cultural context.

    Plus, I still think "urban fiction" is one of the dumbest and most meaningless euphemisms I've heard since "African-American." Just the other day, I heard a Fox announcer discussing African-Americans who were born and grew up in Europe, apparently unaware of how ridiculous he sounded.

    I dunno. Maybe this stuff will evolve, or more likely it will serve as a training ground and its better writers will move on to bigger and better things, just as lesbian pornmeisters like Westlake and Block moved up to the big leagues.

    Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site New Issue Sort of Up

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