So this post is going to be about one of the biggest issues in the writing/reading world, which I imagine is also an issue in the rest of the art world. But this isn't any normal post on this issue. No. This is a post on how bad I am at having this issue.
My name is Kira Brighton, and I am a recovering book snob.
First, I want to say that yes, I do recognize that there are legitimately bad books out there. I'm not telling you to read everything. There's a line I wouldn't cross, either, and your personal tastes matter in book selection. However, when you get all up on your high horse about "artistry" and "literary fiction" and "serious works", that's when things start to go wrong. Because what you are doing isn't being a good reader. You're just being annoying.
The thing about the writing world is that you can't determine what's going to be a "classic" while you're still in the lifetime of the writer. You can't just sit down and write a classic. You need to study literature. You need to expand your mind. You need to actually write, and do it because you love it, not just to be "intelligent." And a lot of it is in the timing. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was generally ignored in its time as another book about rich people and parties. Nobody realized its merits until later generations, which is something that happens an awful lot with great art. So you can't just decide to write a "literary novel" rather than some kind of "fluff." Time is the final judge when it comes to art.
Also, there's nothing wrong with "fluff" in the first place. It's all a matter of what speaks to people.
Now, all of you know how rabid of a reader I am. I read everything all of the time, whatever I get my hands on. The librarians know me by name. I have basically a whole shelf dedicated to my holds. I have to limit myself to 12 books a visit, and I break that self-imposed rule, like, all the time. All the other college students can't understand how I find the time to read so many books, even other English majors. I read in the shower, for potato's sake. So how could someone like me be a book snob, a picky reader, an uppity fussbudget of the literary fashion?
Easily, it turns out. So here's the story of me as a book snob.
I've been a big reader since I was very little, as most of you know. I've always been a devourer of words and worlds and knowledge and ideas. By the time most kids were still stuck on picture books I was reading books with chapters and magazine articles about spiders. I wasn't a book snob back then, I don't think. As I grew older, however, I developed a complex that I think a lot of intelligent children who are mildly bullied and such develop--for lack of a better term, this complex shall be referred to as the "Popularity Sucks" complex.
Yes. As I grew older, I decided that popular kids were stupid, that I didn't want to be around them, that I was a magical individual who was too cool for cool stuff, and that normality was boring. This isn't a terrible set of beliefs to have, I suppose, but naturally, they lend themselves to snobbery--and a lot of closemindedness. Due to my Popularity Sucks complex, I didn't watch any TV until seventh grade, and I didn't discover the radio/music that wasn't classical or Enya until that same grade. Middle school opened my world view. The biggest issue, however, is that I also developed a complex about popular books.
I refused to read any books people recommended to me, or told me to read, or were popular. Especially the popular part. Remember, it's the Popularity Sucks complex. Popular children's books were entirely ignored by me in favor of... I don't even know. I read, I know I did. But I don't remember most of what I was reading, just that there was a lot of it.
For a while this worked fine for me, I suppose. I avoided many books, and read many more, and was happy. But then something happened. And that something is quite familiar to you all.
The Harry Potter series hit phenomenon level. Now, you all know how much I love Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling, and all of that. My life as a writer would not be complete without this series. It is the glory of my existence. But at this point in the story, I'm eight and have a Popularity Sucks complex. So everyone in the world, friends, librarians, aunts, cousins, parents, are telling me to read this series, and my response is something along the lines of "Nononononononononono!"
Finally, one summer, I was at my aunt's house for vacation, the adults were out, and the kids decided to throw a party to celebrate, like, the one year anniversary of the first Harry Potter movie, or something. Even though I had made myself a Harry Potter enemy, I didn't want to be all alone not watching the movie or partying. So, with a bad attitude in hand, I sat down to watch the movie with my cousins.
I kept the bad attitude until Dumbledore started talking, which is, what, two minutes in? Then it was too late for me. I had fallen in love. I scared the wits out of my parents, who don't read, when they came back to the house three hours later and I ran right at them babbling about butterbeer and wizards.
Book snobbery, 0, Harry Potter, 1.
You'd think I would have learned my lesson after that, and you know, it did open up my vision for the book world a little, but I remained stubborn for years. Any book recommended to me, I would immediately shove off. I read popular fiction, but not if someone told me to. As I grew, I matured, and I started to go back and read some of the works others had recommended me (albeit grudgingly). For a long time, I refused to move from reading children's books to YA books, as my mom and the librarians were trying to get me to do. The Chanters of Tremaris series helped me break into that in middle school, and, as you know, YA lit is now my passion.
Once I hit late high school, I began reading classics and all the books I'd refused to read because my dad recommended them. Today, I continue to attempt to expand my view with books. I know now what I do and don't like through actually reading all kinds of works (like how I don't like most historical fiction), and having tastes like that is totally OK. I've come a long way from the kid who refused Harry Potter. But still, every time someone recommends a book to me, I get a twinge inside of me that tempts me to say, "Nononononononono!"
Which is also how I didn't get into Doctor Who until this summer. That's not a book, but the same concept. I'm glad to be on the Doctor Who train these days. It's really quite brilliant.
So yes, I'm a recovering book snob, although in a less adult and pretentious way than many imagine when they hear "book snob". Still, all book snobbery is really the same. Book snobs all refuse to read books because they are "low-brow", "commercial," or even "young." This kind of stuff makes me really sad, especially when i hear people refusing to read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games because they're for younger readers, and also popular. When you do this, readers, you are putting down some magnificent works of literature, and the people who read them as well. Give everything a chance. You might be surprised.
Don't be like an eight year old with a Popularity Sucks complex!
Thanks, guys, and come back next time for a list of blogs that I follow--so you can keep up with the industry and stuff too!
What's your experience with book snobbery? Are you or were you ever a book snob?
(My mom insisted on giving me bunny ears when I was originally trying to take a picture. Here you go, Mommy. Here's your bunny ears.)
Image via collider.com.
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