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'Junk' Mail

September 09, 1990

I didn't think it was possible, at this late date, for any so-called scholar to write a book called "An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction" (Book Review, July 29), thereby discrediting his own scholarship and insulting the many fine writers in genre fiction.

Doesn't Thomas J. Roberts know that Ursula K. LeGuin is one of the finest writers in the United States? That she, Robert Silverberg, Brian Aldiss, J. G. Ballard and Stanislaw Lem, for instance, are among the finest writers anywhere, and surpass in sheer imagination and skill the works of John Updike and Joseph Heller? Not one of the science-fiction writers above would be capable of writing anything as dull as "Something Happened," and taking 13 years to write it.

Forty years ago, Raymond Chandler was being feted in London as a writer of distinction, regardless of genre, while snobbish American academics were either ignoring him or ghettoizing him. Doesn't Roberts know that Georges Simenon was nominated for the Nobel Prize and is far deeper and more original than Hemingway, who won it?

Doesn't he know that Chandler, Hammett and Cain were recognized by some of the greatest European writers more than 50 years ago. Finally, is there one mainstream writer who has written anything as original as Clive Barker's "In the Hills, the Cities" or "Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament"--or, for sheer relevant storytelling ability, Stephen King's "Apt Pupil"?

ARTHUR ROSS

ENCINO

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