So I have A LOT OF FEELINGS about people who use their love of very particular kinds of literature to sort of “one up” people who like other kinds of fiction. Who dictate that if you like Book A instead of Book B, you are a plebeian sheep with a grade-school education. Or something.
A little background about myself, if you will allow me.
I have an English degree with a Creative Writing emphasis. My degree doesn’t mean much, but I did what I really enjoyed. Except for the part where I could never get into any of the fiction classes, so I did poetry and non-fiction (autobiography, in particular) instead.
And oh my gracious, that autobiography class, you guys. Talk about an exercise in navel-gazing. Anyway.
My point is that I read all of the Good Stuff. Ye Olde British Literature, Romantic Poets, Shakespeare, Everything Old White Dudes Wrote Ever, Super Special Lady Fiction, Postmodern Indecipherable Bonkers Lit, Kurt Vonnegut Is Awesome, the whole shebang. I read (and even enjoyed) everything from Beowulf to Joyce. If you want to talk about how fractured language reflects schizophrenia in Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy or gender fluidity and how it relates to Irish Catholic sexuality in the Circe chapter of Ulysses, I will stand toe-to-toe with you.
But here is the thing: it does not make me Smarter Than You.
And frankly, I cannot abide by people who sneer down their noses at what other people read and act like their intelligence is superior because they read something they’ve arbitrarily decided is “real” literature.
Because you know what? I also read science fiction. And fantasy. And contemporary. And humor, and graphic novels, and non-fiction.
AND SO MANY YA NOVELS. BECAUSE I LOVE THEM.
I know this is a difficult concept to grasp, but people can have more than one interest. People can like completely mundane things and also be incredibly intelligent in a multitude of ways.They can acknowledge that something can be different and not to some preset standard, yet valuable all the same.
I’m not going to pretend I’ve never read something that I put down because the writing, characterization, world-building, or general structure just didn’t function to my standards. I absolutely have. But here’s the thing about my standards: they are mine. Acting as though everything to come out of a category is pure gold is folly, but so is hand-waving it all away as useless fodder for the brainless.
Whether you only read super high-brow literary Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction or you read pulp fiction genre fluff or you read everything, it has nothing to do with your value or your intelligence.
A wise person once said: you know who cares about what other people read? ASSHOLES.
I’ve read all the literature you’ve read. I like it. I STILL READ AND WRITE AND LOVE KIDLIT. Because it is valuable, because it is “real” literature, because it speaks to me on a variety of levels. Do not presume you are superior because you’ve taken some English courses and can have Deep Discussions About Literature. One of the concepts I currently have on my plotting backburner is a YA novel loosely based on Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. I used to write highly literary (and published) poetry about being abducted by aliens. I also write short stories about making out with hot Italian boys in the rain. I CONTAIN MULTITUDES. DO NOT FRONT TO ME.
Here is my point: if you feel the need to shit on other people because of what they do or don’t read, it says more about your insecurities than theirs. If you need to prove your intelligence by regurgitating the same tired lines people have been repeating for centuries, you are showing your ass.
Like what you like. Read what you read. Do not presume it makes you a genius among fools.
Sneering at teenagers and their fiction does not make you brilliant. It makes you Every English Snob With A Gin-and-Tonic. Enjoy.