I’m reading a really great book. Actually, its the third book in a trilogy. I read the first two books each in three days, and now I’m on the third. This trilogy is not what you’d call literary fiction. But, its got amazing characters and an engaging story. A friend of mine recommended that I read the books. When she asked me what I thought, my answer, I’m ashamed to admit, was, ‘Well, the writing isn’t that great, its kind of junky.’ I hastened to add, ‘But the story is really good so I’m loving it.’ Her answer? ‘Oh, funny. Only you would say that.’
Have I been a participant in book snobbery once again? Although as the perpetrator this time?
I’ve written before about this book snobbery, which is a condition where one judges others by the quality and genre of the words that they read. I was first really confronted personally by book snobbery when I was ‘judged’ by someone who tossed off the titles of arguably classic yet intimidating (and possibly mind numbing) tome by another book-lover, and who most certainly was horrified by my love of British Chick-Lit.
And here I was, doing something that I’d hated myself: clarifying or quantifying the value of a book.
I was at a literary festival (The Toronto Word on the Streets) in Toronto in September, and I was talking to one of the authors that I met about my son, who is a huge reader. I was bemoaning the availability of good reading for advanced tweens who don’t like vampires. I mentioned that my son loves James Patterson, a very prolific and commercially successful writer. And this author, who himself is extremely successful and commercial, made a face and said something to the effect of, ‘But, his writing. Meh.’ And I thought, ‘But the kid is reading…’
Sound familiar? Yep, book snobbery at work. And almost word-for-word what I said to my friend about the novels that she recommended to me. Am I a hypocrite?
I’ve always said that I like to read from a variety of genres, styles and authors. In fact, I really like to alternate my literary fiction with lighter fare. So, why did I feel the need to deride a book that I actually was enjoying? I’m not really sure. My friend is more of a paperback gal, so I wasn’t trying to impress her. Was I being a snob or just honest? And if it was the latter, which I’m 99% sure it was, did I need to tell her that I thought her new favorite book was sorta badly written?
I truly believe in self-reflection and improvement. And so, I will try not to judge a book by its innards. But, rather, I will rate it by how it resonates with me. How it makes me feel, engages me, and lives in my imagination. The words will become the vehicle, and not something to critique. Especially, because I’m pretty sure I can’t do any better (and we all know, if you can’t do, don’t critique. Right?