Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, June 27, 2014

The latest in literary feuds with book shame on the meanness menu

You would think that with all of the great books out there that are being turned into decent movies lately that most of the book folk would be as pleased as punch,especially when those books are from the young adult section.

With all of the concern about kids taking an interest in reading despite the techno distractions all around them, having a book like The Fault in Our Stars,which is not a vampire/bleak future warrior type of novel, make a big splash at the box office be something to celebrate,right?

Well, sadly that's wrong because one of the writers over at Slate saw fit to denounce the fact that grown-ups also like the book and that too many "mature" people are reading YA literature,oh the horror! Look, too much of any genre at any age isn't good for your brain but insisting that it's wrong to enjoy a well written book just because you're not the intended target audience is ridiculous. It's a sign of good writing that a book can be appreciated by more than one section of the audience and since many educators encourage parents to read with their children, isn't it great that they both can enjoy the same book together?

"What about those people without children who read these things?" I hardly think that reading a young adult novel is the worst choice out there for entertainment and yes, it's okay to read for fun. The author of the Slate article says that adults only read YA for " escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia", standards that you could apply to many genres,let alone "grown-up" ones.  Not to mention that these books are written by adults who work just as hard at their craft as their counterparts on the other side of the book shelves and it's insulting to try and shame any of their readers due to your own prejudices:

 I find it upsetting that someone sees fit to shame adults about YA books when teenagers are being harassed by censor happy citizens who don't want them to even read the books meant for them such as Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-Time Indian.

Even when a student was handing out free copies of the book(as part of World Book Night) in a location nowhere near her school, the local cops were called in to stop her! No one went to jail but with this kind of literary policing going on, should we be so worried if an adult reads a teen lit book?

Plus, there are a number of classic titles that can easily fall into the YA category such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn and The Catcher in the Rye yet they are normally shelved with the adult fiction. Does that make those books and their readers more or less mature? Why is it that those books are given the benefit of the doubt as to whom they are suitable for and not others(and don't give me that "stands the test of time" argument because those standards can and will change as time goes on)?:

This type of bickering is also happening amongst the adult literati as well as Vanity Fair put out an article in a recent issue about how many "serious" critics are displeased with the acclaim being given towards Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

While backlash against a popular book is understandable,particularly if that book has won a huge literary prize such as the Pulitzer(which The Goldfinch did) and sales numbers are no guarantee of quality, there is a truly bitter note running through most of these negative reviews that makes such dissenting opinions questionable at best.

Between the New Yorker review that claims" Its tone, language, and story belong in children’s literature”and The Paris Review saying that “A book like The Goldfinch doesn’t undo any clich├ęs—it deals in them,” along with The New York Review of Books lamenting ‘Doesn’t anyone care how something is written anymore?', they all seem to be competing with each other to see who hates this book more. One of the constant slams against The Goldfinch is calling it "children's literature" as if they were attempting to insult the author's mother in a snobby version of the dozens.

Snobbery and envy appear to be at the heart of some of this discord, with the New Yorker reviewer saying upon the announcement of The Goldfinch winning the Pulitzer: “I think that the rapture with which this novel has been received is further proof of the infantilization of our literary culture: a world in which adults go around reading Harry Potter.

 Plus, the NYROB reviewer adding in when asked about her write-up of the book: “Everyone was saying this is such a great book and the language was so amazing. I felt I had to make quite a case against it,” Way to act professional and mature, folks.

Look,folks, I get the need to be taken seriously and for good books to be appreciated in their time but being petty and peevishly personal with your opinions like this does nothing to aid your argument. Granted, I just recently read Donna Tartt's The Secret History and plan to read The Goldfinch later this summer(along with Tartt's The Little Friend which is considered to be her sophomore slump) and yes, I think she's a good writer, the kind that I wish I had read sooner.

 The Goldfinch may not live up to the hype but do you really think that sneering about it's lack of literary merit in your far from humble opinions will change anyone's mind about it? True,misery loves company but if you really want readers to take you seriously about this, perhaps not acting like the stepsisters ripping apart Cinderella's dress before the ball would be a good idea:

*Sigh* well, I don't intend to let all of this fuss spoil my reading plans. Part of my Fourth of July celebrations for next week include reading both The Fault in Our Stars and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, not to mention that I'm more motivated to read the rest of Donna Tartt this season.

Book shaming is not cool,folks and while I may not like what other people read, it's not my place to act all high and mighty about my literary choices. Sometimes, you need to be a little immature in order to accept the big serious and doing so thru pop culture is not a bad thing. As for the you book shamers out there, just remember that you're not above a little scrutiny yourselves in this department and that the tables can be turned on you when you least expect it, so mellow out!:

1 comment:

Thaddeus said...

Shaming in general, is lousy and a no-class thing. I have had book trends and styles that I really don't like, but above all, it's just important that people read something.

The only book -shaming I might support is: only reading non-fiction, shaming other people's reading habits, or only reading one type or style of book...