Stay with me while I set this up, because I'm really pissed off:
UT's Michener Center last night brought Denis Johnson last night to read. He's the author of a book of short stories "Jesus' Son", the novels "Resuscitation of a Hanged Man", "Angels", "The Stars at Noon", and more. He's got Faulkner Awards and National Book Club awards. He's taught at UT's MFA program which is pretty prestigious (I mean you really have to be something special to get in, there are like 6 seats and 2,000 applicants, because acceptance supplies a grant that covers the entire tuition.) Recently, Johnson's novella "Nobody Move" was serialized in four issues of Playboy and from this he read for forty minutes.
Now, I just finished editing Out of the Gutter #5: The Revenge Issue, with Matt Lewis and it is going to press in the next few days, but I couldn't hear any difference between what we or any writer on Crimespace is doing and Denis Johnson's work, but he doesn't get dismissed as a pulp/suspense/thriller writer. He gets academic approval and literature status. I've read his short stories in" Jesus' Son" and I don't understand how L.A. Weekly quoted it as "In a world of predictable fiction, Jesus' Son is a point-blank godsend."
A student after the reading asked me what I thought and I was in a daze and said, "It's just pulp fiction."
and he said, "Yeah, but it's good Pulp Fiction."
and I said, "Then don't bill it as anything else than pulp fiction otherwise he's slumming."
and he got all defensive, "Yeah, but the voice is raw and real."
and I told him to go to a soup kitchen six blocks over and steal their stories.
He turned away and the entourage of MFA's slipped off to a closed party with Denis Johnson.
So here is the question, what with Tin House and others using genre sponsored contests to exclusive writing programs, have any writers here been able to cross the line or even want to into the fiction/lit shelves of the bookstore? Have they been able to get grants or lit based awards? Or are they stuck in a genre section? Who is in charge of labeling and pigeon holing novels?
Just note, I'm not attacking Denis Johnson personally, it's just the shorts I have read of his were more like character studies and impressionistic forages into degenerate portraits, but not completed stories.