In Which John Scalzi Makes a Great Point About Literature Snobbery

 Being cranky about a Dan Brown book not being high literature is like yelling at a cupcake for not being a salad; it’s really missing the point. You don’t want the cupcake? Don’t eat the cupcake. Apparently lots of people like cupcakes. They don’t care that you want them to eat salad. You eat salad, if it’s so important to you.

John Scalzi, via this post on Whatever

Really it is just an all around great metaphor and works well to make its point (and, in my opinion, serves as a highlight of what is great about Mr. Scalzi’s blog).

So here’s the truth (and I’m a bit ashamed to admit it now): I used to be all sorts of snobby about Dan Brown books.  The Da Vinci Code came out to much acclaim and fanfare when I was a sophomore in college.  Because so many people were hooting and hollering about how amazing and fascinating and great it was, I decided to give it a go.  Perhaps needless to say at this point, I was not amused.  In fact, I pretty much hated it.  I thought that it was absurd, poorly written, and all around undeserving of any of the praise it was receiving.  Essentially, in my eyes, it was garbage.  And of course, I should know, because I was an English Major full of the know about what was “Great” literature and what was god awful shit.

Except I was wrong. And I am here now admitting it.

I probably will never love Dan Brown or his writing, it really just does not appeal to me.  With that said I will also probably never read another Dan Brown book.  I may, personally, wish that people would consider trying some other material besides Mr. Brown’s, but, ultimately, if The Da Vinci Code and other novels that Dan Brown wrote are your thing, if they’re your “cupcake,” then I must honestly and sincerely say “I hope you enjoy them.”

Just like with wine, ultimately the enjoyment of a book, comes down to a subjective opinion.  Sure there are things that seem to be more universally effective of accepted as “good,” but ultimately if you enjoy those Harlequin novels and think that Nabokov is crap, that is your opinion to keep.

And for what it is worth, I love a lot of books that wouldn’t meet a lot of the standards of “literature.”  Stephen King is arguably my all-time favorite author, and he’s had many slings and arrows thrown at him regarding the quality of his writing.  I also love the likes of Mr. Scalzi’s works, and while I think they are great and enjoyable, I am sure some literary scholars could happily and easily tear apart their “quality.”

Really, honestly, when we get down to it, we should just be happy that people are reading at all.  Sure, encourage people to try something new.  Recommend something challenging that’ll make them think about some different things.  But at the end of the day, let’s just let people eat whatever cupcakes the want.  We’d all be a lot happier this way.

~ by Nathaniel on May 14, 2013.

7 Responses to “In Which John Scalzi Makes a Great Point About Literature Snobbery”

  1. I partly agree with him. And his analogy works in a sense. Reading bad literature is like indulging in cupcakes. Cupcakes are food designed to overexcite you. Colourful and overflowing with sugar. They are fine as a dessert, from time to time. But you’ll die from diabetes if they’re the only thing in your diet (replace diabetes with ignorance, in the case of books).
    I couldn’t find the quote that describes my feeling in this matter, but it goes along the lines that you should read the good books first, because you may not have the time to read them all.
    That said, I enjoy Game of Thrones and I recently read World War Z 🙂 I just try to not make it a rule, when there are so many good books hidden under layers of dust!

    • Yeah, I mean, personally I do think that there is kind of a “healthy diet” of reading and that you are not going to get the most broad or informative world views from only reading Harlequins or D&D books. However, the defining of “literature” is challenging at best, and possible impossible at worst. Too often I think we focus undue attention on the drawing of the line, rather than on the bigger discussion of “why is reading, of any kind, good all around?”

    • Actually, Socrates was against people learning to read and write altogether!

    • While in many occasions I am down with Socrates’ thinking, I feel like this is one area I’d have to politely disagree with him, even consider the fact that he’s been dead for thousands of years and cannot either acknowledge or accept said apology.

    • Ahahah! He just thought that if people would write and read, they’re oratory skills and memory would grow worse! If he were alive, I’m sure he wouldn’t apologize and would probably convince anyone who’d hear him of the futility of reading and writing! 😀

    • And, man, you really wouldn’t want to get him started on the Internet. Socrates would have nothing nice to say about that jazz.

    • “All I know is that those slaves are crazy!”

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