In Praise of Older Genres

André Alexis’s kidlit for grown-ups

Literary fiction has a lot to learn from genre. I discovered this myself when I started moonlighting as a children’s author. Genre I define as a form of writing that follows certain unbreakable rules, and kidlit is one. Like a lot of genre publishing, not only is kidlit going strong, but it is liberatingly versatile and form pushing despite its rules. It also bubbles over with something literary fiction often lacks: story. In The Hidden Keys, another instalment of his ambitious quincunx, André Alexis delights us with a literary novel playing dress-up with genre and offers the best of both.

Alexis explained his quincunx project in a 2015 blogpost for Quill and Quire. “I’m obsessed with storytelling, with all of its ins and outs, its rhythms, graces, failures, byways, irreality and, of course, its traditions.” To explore his obsession, he has taken as his narrative template Pier Paolo Pasolini’s...