Last week, Jazz ranted against this article by Steve Proulx in the online edition of Voir. It’s in French if you’re trying to link back, but in essence, Mr. Proulx is complaining about the masses all reading the same crappy books because they happen to be getting lots of hype (Harry Potter, Twilight, Dan Brown).
Jazz, and all of her readers, felt this point of view is literary snobbism and that, yes these might not be the most enriching works, but as long as people are reading something, we should be pleased.
I know this is a popular viewpoint with schools and parents, too. They want kids to read, so they don’t mind – and in fact are pleased – that they’re reading only graphic novels or the pop fiction.
While I certainly don’t think we have to be reading only timeless classics, I do think there is nothing wrong with demanding some quality from publishers. As long as we’re all thrilled to pieces that all our teenaged girls are reading (even if it is Twilight), publishers will happily keep churning out this junk.
I would rather my daughter not read anything at all than read Twilight. I don’t want to get into a whole rant again about this waste of paper that isn’t even a book so much as an excuse to sell t-shirts, calendars, posters, jewelry, DVDs, CDs, etc., etc. I’ve ranted on this before and The Oatmeal does a much better job of it anyway.
Reading is good because it exercises the brain, inspires the imagination, enhances languages skills and imparts knowledge of one sort or another.
Pop fiction does none of these things. It’s invariably very poorly written, thereby deteriorating language and language skills; it contains nothing to make you think and is filled with misinformation or non-information.
And then people treat it as fact.
- Young girls think this perverse, abusive teenaged girl/100-year-old vampire relationship is sooooo romantic and is what every relationship should be.
- Thousands of people flocked to the tiny corner of the Fairview Cemetery in Halifax Nova Scotia after the movie, Titanic, was released because this is where some of those who perished in that disaster are buried. And because one gravestone reads “J. Dawson”. That grave was loaded down with flowers, toys, cards and other gifts. The cemetery was quickly destroyed by the crowds and had to be closed and renovated.
- Thousands have recently swarmed Paris — not to see the works of art and architecture; not to sample the food and experience the European way of life. No. they came to see the cool stuff from The Da Vinci Code.
What’s appealing about pop fiction is that it’s easily accessible because it requires nothing of you. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to come across a word you’ve never seen before. You don’t have to know anything or have ever read anything before to “get” the book. Literature makes references to current or historical events, other literature, music, art, philosophy, etc., that enhance your reading experience.
Pop fiction is easy, like junk food is easy. No preparation, no skill required. It’s a full, ready-to-eat package of garbage ready for you to consume. It has little nutritional value, but it’s yummy going down.
And it’s addictive. Why would you want to chop vegetables, cook, stir, measure, think – when you can fill your belly without doing any work at all? Which is exactly why fewer and fewer people know how to cook or have any desire to cook and why we’re an obese and disease-addled nation.
The mass-consumption of junk fiction, junk TV, junk movies, junk music, junk everything creates a snowballing effect of greater and greater demand for junk. Publishers can’t even be bothered publishing literary fiction anymore because there’s no money in it.
Good, thoughtful, important works wallow in slush piles because publishers would rather make millions from the easy stuff than work to promote the difficult stuff.
Humans are naturally more inclined to laziness than to industry. If something easier is offered, it’s jumped at. It’s easier to take some pills than to follow a healthy lifestyle. It’s easier to get a new relationship than to work at your old one. It’s easier to complain about schools and society ruining our kids than to do some hard parenting. It’s easier to let Oprah tell us what to think, who to vote for and how to live than it is to do our own research and make up our own minds.
And so, we become a nation of addle-brained seagull-like idiots who will swallow whole any piece of crap fed to us by the media, by politicians, by corporations — because we don’t know how to think for ourselves anymore; because we have no imaginations anymore; because it’s just too much effort to go against the popular stream.
Why can’t we say, “Stop feeding us this garbage! We want good, original movies again, with real actors, written by real writers. We want appliances that work for more than 3 months. We want technology that isn’t designed for the landfill. And we want to read books that are fun, but still well-crafted and worthwhile. It IS possible. Quality was important once.
I love a good mystery novel and it’s a very popular genre. Which means there are hundred of crappy mystery novels published and consumed every day. But if you look around you can also find some really good ones – especially the ones published in the UK. So why would I want to read the 48th poorly written, but best-selling book in a series about a cat who solves crimes when I can read a well-crafted, engaging book about a fully-developed human character who explores various aspects of the human condition while solving crimes?
Is that cultural snobbism? Is it wrong to make judgments about what we are being offered for consumption in not only the cultural fields, but also in all other areas?
Are we obligated to just keep accepting junk because it’s “better than nothing”? And before you tell me we just have to let every person decide for themselves what they want to read/watch/eat/listen to/etc., I just want to point out that this mass gorging on junk precludes individual decision- making. It, in fact, erodes our ability or desire to make decisions; to think; to work our brains.
Junk just requires us to open our maws and let the sluice slide in.