Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sunday Salon #5 -- Book Snobbery
This Sunday, I'm in the middle of reading several books, including the second book in Sharon Lathan's Pride and Prejudice follow up, Loving Mr. Darcy. I started reading it down at the beach yesterday, and sure enough, could hardly put it down. I'm also reading The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer, and Good Luck by Whitney Gaskell. Each one is really good, so I suppose I'll soon be picking them off one at a time.
I've been thinking...
As for the real musings of the day, I wanted to post a few of my thoughts about a thing I call "Book Snobbery," if only to get them off my chest. This week, another great book blogger was targeted with a slightly nasty comment about the book and review she'd written. The short of the comment was that the book she enjoyed, wasn't a true piece of "history" and should be changed to "historical romance." Come to find out, this commenter also had a "BA" in English and wanted to drum up readers for his more "accurate" novel. The entire experience of reading that comment really set me off, in a bad way, as most of my career I've had to defend reading material. The strangest part of all this defending is because it usually comes from other readers! For instance, when I was in graduate school, getting my MA in English (Cultural Studies), there was always an air of superiority going on if you were reading the essays of Michel de Montaigne, or one of a number of famous, British classics. Now, it's understandable to resent someone else if they are reading something that is conceived easier than what you're currently struggling through; however, it was when someone would turn their nose up at your admitting to enjoying lighter, more bestseller fare. Another for instance here would be the Harry Potter novels. One of the last two came out right as I was finishing up my degree and getting ready to move home. OF COURSE I had it ready to be delivered to my house on the day it came out. OF COURSE! A few people would own up to reading something like Harry Potter (mainly because we had a HP scholar teaching in our department, who was highly respected), but a portion of my classmates made fun of such trivial reading material. Forget me mentioning that I'd read The DaVinci Code over one of my school breaks!
My point here is that people like to categorize books, and often do that in a way that then denigrates the readers of those books as somehow not very smart, not as advanced, or as with the case of the blogger above, not as educated (which is ironic, because she is very educated). One of my YA lit. professors when I was an undergrad was a published author, and yet admitted to hiding his YA fiction reading material when he traveled. Parents of my students constantly question my choices of novels and plays. On one end, Don Quijote is considered by a parent to be too hard and not applicable to their lives (for AP?), while on the other, The Scarlet Letter is too amoral and teaches adultery to young adults. Okay, so parental concerns are a bit different than snobbery, but you can see where my sensitivity over book defense starts. Sigh.
So, here's my question. Why the book snobbery? Why judge the YA readers, or romance readers, or folks who enjoy vampire stories? Doesn't reading allow us a wide range and variety, and who can say that just because someone enjoys children's literature or bestsellers, that they're not well read or "smart" in some way? Let's not even get into the historical "fiction" debate. Sigh. In the end, I just can't wrap my head around the way people use a person's reading materials and choices to judge them. We all have our likes and dislikes, and as a person who loves to read a wide variety of books, I can't see why people use their book snobbery to tear someone else down.
Have you ever felt snubbed or judged by someone because of what you were reading, or because you loved a particular book?