Monday, February 27, 2012

Not a book snob

I'm generally not a big fan of "the literary novel." And when you walk in these circles, something like that can be a tough pill to swallow. What's wrong with me, you start to wonder. Why can't I read books which extrapolate these deeper themes? And most importantly, I am not smart enough, because all the other smart people like this stuff.
The smart people like deep themes. The smart people like long, pretty words. The smart people like books which go out of their way to be lofty and convoluted. The smart people like books which hold themselves to a higher standard.

And I don't.

I think it's because I go to stories to be entertained. If I want to search for meaning in the midst of ambiguity, I'll read the type of poetry that does that. I love poetry. If I want lofty and convoluted, I'll pick up my copy of Socrates (in English or Spanish) or any of my copies of Kant's work. I love philosophising. (Clearly!)

But when I read, I read to be someone different, to meet kindred souls. to be a part of their lives, to experience new things, to remember my past, to see a possible future, to be drawn into another world. To love. To hate. To laugh. To cry. I read to be entertained. And I'm not entertained by ambiguity or themes or words longer than Pinocchio's nose. I'm entertained by great stories.

And if that great story happens to have a deep theme (power and control in Elana Johnson's POSSESSION, war and capitalism in HUNGER GAMES, environmental issues in Tahereh Mafi's SHATTER ME), I'm an even happier camper.

I'm not saying this to detract from "literary" works or the people who love them. Imagine a rocket scientist who had the appropriate sense of humour and only laughed at high-brow wit. Imagine he has a colleague who giggled every time she heard the word "breast." They're both still brilliant and their senses of humour are still valid. It's the same with reading.

It's fine if you love literary. People are entertained by different things. And people come to stories for other reasons: to be educated, to improve, to see a new point of view. If that's your chief purpose, then look for the stories that will help you get there. But ifyou're into the more commercial end, that's fine too.

Any book that achieves what you need of it, is a great book.

I'm not a book snob. And that's okay. 

How about you?Why do you read? Do you read "literary" or "commercial?" Do you ever feel ashamed of what you read? Do you ever feel pressured to read something different?


E.J. Wesley said...

Man, I think I probably agree with you, Claire. I read mostly for the fun and escapism, not for whatever higher-order thinking it might induce.

That being said, I think lots of literary stories do offer both too. But there's also very little question (at least in my mind) that YA does it best. :)


Anonymous said...

Claire, you should try upmarket fiction. It's commercial fiction with enough literary elements to appeal to literary readers. It's a nice compromise and it never hurts to read a book that pokes you a little and makes you ponder. Check out Rose's Will by Denise DeSio on Amazon. People have found it highly readable. (admittedly, it's my book) and there are lots of others.

Asia Morela said...

I don't know, I could never find sense in those categories. Some "commercial" fiction makes me think and ponder like hell, while so-called classics totally crack me up! J. D. Salinger is one of my 2 favourite writers in the world; he's considered a classic, and "literary" enough I guess, yet I know I only have to read any page of his "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" on a bad day to recover my smile and good humour. He's such a laugh!

I read to be entertained. If a literary novel does that, I'll love it. If a commercial novel does that, I'll love it too. If they don't, I won't like either.

Denise DeSio said...

Okay Asia,
Rose's Will is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, ponder, and want to punch a few of the characters in the nose! If you like a good story about a dysfunctional family this is your book. I'll look forward to your reviews on Amazon! It's only $4.99. I'm a really cheap date.