Apparently, we’re still judged by the books we read,” Krystal writes, “and perhaps we should be.” But I’m not sure I agree. Somewhere in its history, reading novels has gotten all tangled up with questions of social status, and accepting the kinds of pleasure that genre novels offer us has become — how perverse are we? — a source of shame. What is it, exactly, that those pleasures are guilty of? Novels aren’t status symbols, or they shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s the last vestiges of our Puritan heritage: if it’s not hard work, it’s sinful. Maybe it’s just that we’re self-loathing capitalists, and anything associated with commerce, as genre fiction is, is automatically tainted and disqualified from having any aesthetic value. Either way our attitude toward genre fiction smacks of mass cultural neurosis. I don’t argue — as some critics do — that literary fiction and genre fiction are merging. They have their own generic identies, their own distinct sets of conventions, and to smoosh them together would be to sacrifice some of our precious literary biodiversity. But I’ve become very suspicious of their arrangement in a hierarchy, one above the other.