Q: ... how would you describe the kinds of books you steer clear of?
A: Anything described by the author or publisher as fantasy, which to me says, “Don’t worry, Reader, Death will be absent here.” In his brief introduction to “Slow Learner,” Thomas Pynchon says he takes serious writing to be that in which Death is present. I agree.
I guess the likes of, oh, Mervyn Peake haven't contaminated his bedside table, then?
It always strikes me how readily people assume "serious" writing automatically excludes writing that performs no speculation about life — or death, for that matter. Or, rather, that the absence of such speculation automatically negates the possibility of the work being serious.
Some of this I blame on the easy association of SF&F with so much lowbrow claptrap, but since when is that an excuse for any avowed literati to not do their own homework? And just so you don't think I'm pandering, I'd say it cuts the other way, too: that there's plenty of literary work that isn't all moping and navel-gazing, or the mere confirmation of cultural prejudice.