Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cross-Genre Appeal of John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe

One of the first things I noticed about John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café was that people were labeling the novel differently respective to genre. I thought the book was a great piece of mainstream fiction, with strong characters, plot, and theme. My friend Sarah said it was a first-rate work of science fiction, while my sister and her friends listed it on their blogs and Facebook pages as fantasy. Were we reading the same book?

I looked up “magical realism" (the author's label) and while many scholars disagreed about the definition and proffered several complex literary definitions, most critics defined the term as a genre in which magical or supernatural elements intrude on realistic settings or are made part of real-life (historical) fiction. The latter, more simplified definition seemed to fit John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café perfectly. John Lennon, a real person, is put into a setting that is historically accurate for the year 2006. The book’s fictional plot takes place within the context of these realistic elements.

The more I reflected, however, the more I began to believe that people’s ability to see the novel as belonging to other genres was a further argument for regarding it as cult fiction. Vonnegut’s fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five, involves a protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, traveling back and forth in time. Vonnegut’s work, originally labeled as science fiction, is now viewed as solid literary fiction. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, a work of literary fiction, certainly contains an element of the absurd that challenges a reader’s concept of what is normal and real. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a classic cult favorite, has been labeled as science fiction, horror, and literary. This, of course, tallies nicely with our definition of cult fiction: that which moves people profoundly, albeit in different ways. Because cult fiction almost always challenges perceptions and is iconoclastic in nature, themes often (though not always) have a subjective element to them.

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What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
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