Sometimes we forget how isolated we are, as readers and/or writers, I think. We’ve surrounded ourselves with like-minded folks, folks who we feel a bond with because we share many of the same loves, literary and otherwise.
In my case, most of the people I talk to (on line and in so-called “real life”) are speculative fiction fans, crime fiction geeks, pulp afficiandos, western readers, horror-hounds, etc.
Basically, people who enjoy GOOD WRITING.
So I’ve gotten used to seeing posts on the old FB about stuff I like and am interested in. I’ve grown accustomed to hearing the latest snarky but spot-on slam against whatever the latest literary fad/atrocity is rocking the world’s boat. Because of that, I’ve become a little removed from the tastes of the average casual reader.
Case in point: yesterday alone, on the social medias (and forgive me for referring to them so often; they really make up a good ninety percent of my interaction with the rest of the world) I saw four different things poking fun at or dissecting that 50 SHADES OF GREY book. I’m fine with that—it is, after all, just the latest in a long line of hugely popular books that most people with taste like to make fun of, including me.
Also yesterday, a friend of mine who is NOT a writer or even a constant reader posted about how much she was digging 50 SHADES OF GREY and couldn’t wait to read the next one. A whole shitload of folks liked her post and commented in absolute agreement. They were amazingly enthusiastic. It sort of reminded me about how insulated we are as so-called serious readers. We are the minority, big-time.
And maybe we’re even snobs? It’s totally possible.
But is being a snob about reading necessarily a bad thing?
We’ve all had this conversation:
“Hey, have you read NAME OF LATEST BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL DESIGNED FOR NON-READERS BEFORE THE INEVITABLE MOVIE TIE-IN?”
“No, I haven’t read that.”
“What? But I thought you were some big reader. You should check it out, I’ll lend you my copy.”
“No, that’s okay. It’s not really my thing.”
“Oooh, I see. Not cool enough for you? Man, you’re such a literary snob. You haven’t even read it but you’ve already judged it, right?”
There’s nowhere to go with that argument. They’ve got you dead to rights. You ARE a literary snob.
Or, in other words, you are someone who has read enough that you know what’s going to work for you and what won’t. You have developed enough sense to spot crap from twenty miles away. You have a fully-functional bullshit detector.
You don’t need to be gored in the testicles by a bull to know that it’s something you won’t enjoy, not one bit.
Addendum: A couple weeks ago, my friend Jason Stuart wrote a great blog post about this same subject. Read it here: Yeah, but have you read it?
So to the fans of disposable flavor-of-the-season fiction, you’re a snob. So be it. There are worse things than being a snob.
The irony of that is that readers of what we refer to for lack of a better label as serious literary fiction turn their noses up at us genre fiction fans.
Here’s another conversation you’ve probably had:
“Hey, Mr. Lit, have you read GENRE CLASSIC THAT WAS CALLED TRASH WHEN IT FIRST CAME OUT 60 YEARS AGO BUT IS NOW TREASURED BY PULP GEEKS EVERYWHERE?”
“Uh, no. I don’t think so.”
“I’ll lend it to you.”
“Save it. I don’t read lurid, plot-driven stuff, only character-based, non-linear narrative with no punctuation and pages and pages of interior monologue.”
Seems we’re only the second tier of snobbery, us genre fans (although I should point out that I don’t dismiss so-called literary stuff the same way I dismiss flavor-of-the-season stuff—maybe I don’t know my literary place or something.)
My point is this: we are right. The lit types and the pop-trash types on either side of us are wrong. It’s okay to say it out loud, even if it does isolate you. I for one would rather be isolated with readers with good taste than roaming amongst the herds who don’t get it.