Saturday, February 12, 2011

On Distinctions and What's Really Important

Scott D. Parker

"Do you know what the difference between a saxophone and a lawnmower?" my college band director asked all of us sax players one day. "Vibrato."

We all chuckled, mostly, and then reminded ourselves that at least we didn't play the French horn. I mean, really, you know the difference between a French horn and a Scud missile? The Scud's more accurate.

More chuckles. Then the slew of "How many trumpet players does it take to screw in a light bulb" jokes. We band geeks have a ton of internal band jokes that we laugh at and no one else gets.

I thought of this the other day when I polled my fellow DSDers on a simple question: What, if any, are the differences between a traditional mystery and a cozy? If you've been reading my recent posts, you'll remember my reading and writing interests are changing (or, rather, expanding to encompass more types of stories).

While I got some good feedback, Jay raised a separate, but important, question: Do we keep talking about all of these distinctions because they're real and important, or are they real and important because we keep talking about them?

It's a natural inclination. We mystery readers like mystery books so we gravitate towards others with the same interests. We create societies, we create awards to bestow, and we have in jokes. So do the SF folks. And the romance group. And so on for just about every group in the world. It helps us feel good that we fellows who like what we like.

What about Jay's question? Does the talking about the distinctions between cozies and noir and traditional mysteries and police procedurals and hard-boiled PI stories make them real and important or are they important because we talk about them?

TV Show of the Week: "Harry's Law" I watched the first two episodes last night and I have to say that I always enjoy watching David E. Kelly character pontificate in court. And I still miss "Boston Legal."


Naomi Johnson said...

Just on the basis that I prefer to read a good PI story over anything featuring cats (I'll shoot myself before EVER reading another Marian Babson book), I'd say those distinctions are pretty important. After all, what it all boils down to is what (noir, cozy, hardboiled, etc) will the reader spend his money on? And money is always important, yes?

Scott D. Parker said...

Naomi - I heartedly agree. One of the best things about the various genres (read: marketing breakdowns) is the ability to custom-fit any type of story. If I wanted a noirish tale featuring dragons and imps, I could find it. If I wanted a cozy with a murderous talking pig, I could probably find that, too. It's a bit like Netflix for books: you have the ability to channel only your favorite types of stories. Thing is, you miss other types, something I'm discovering nowadays.

BV Lawson said...

It likely depends upon the person. I'm a literary omnivore and will try almost any book. My mother, on the other hand (a retired librarian, by the way), prefers to read only mysteries, primarily those written by women with female protagonists. I've never heard her refer to any of her books as cozies, traditional, etc., so the labels don't matter as much as the author/content.