Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Warning:  Today's post is a bit of a rant/question session dealing with literature-- yeah, I'm a nerd.  Read on if you dare...

For the past few days I've been a reading machine in an effort to "take a break" and get through my island fever.  

I mean I read just about all day... for three days.  In that time, I read three  fairly long books.

And I think it helped.  It transported me to a new place where I met new people (if only in my head).

Now, I'm sure the next question someone would ask would be,"What did you read?"  Well, I read what my past teachers called "brain candy," and I loved every minute of it.  I am not ashamed to admit that I read some "romance novels" by Jodi Thomas.  They were set in Texas in the 1850s, and while the storyline may not always be realistic (that's not what I'm looking for when I look for an "escape"), the settings and historical details were certainly researched.   

For some reason, it seems there is a stigma attached to "romance novels" or "mystery novels" or "fantasy novels," and despite majoring in English in college, I'm afraid I still don't understand this stigma.  I certainly understand the value of well-written literature-- the kind that can be analyzed and discussed.  I've read more than my share of Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Faulkner, and I appreciate and respect such literature.  However, I still don't understand why other writers who write more light-hearted work for the purpose of entertaining so often get snubbed and belittled. 

Do writers of thrillers, romance, mystery, and fantasy really do nothing?  Do they do less research on a subject?  Are their writing styles and diction really so inferior?  Do they not plan and draft and revise their works the same way?  I don't understand.

I also don't understand why readers of these "non-literature" works seem to be looked down upon.  To me, reading is reading.  My eyes are still moving across the page, I'm still taking in new information, and my imagination is still being put to good use.  Why is it less important when I read something with a happy ending or a somewhat predictable outcome?  Aren't so many of the "classics" based on well-known archetypes which might make them predictable as well?  It just doesn't make sense to me.  I remember hearing some of my college professors saying very condescending things about the writers of anything but the classics, and it still bothers me thinking about it.  I truly think it's those kinds of attitudes that crush young people's attitudes towards reading in the first place.

Would it not be better to teach a young person that a book is just a portable personalized movie and that they can read any kind of story they want?  That they aren't "wrong" if they don't find Heart of Darkness or Crime and Punishment interesting?  That it's okay if they want to hear a story that's not full of death and some of the terrible realities of life that are found in As I Lay Dying?  Call me crazy, but I think it would be best to start accepting pretty much all forms of writing as acceptable reading. (Note, I mean within reason... I'm certainly not pushing "mature" literature or anything of the such, and I understand keeping things age appropriate.)  It seems to be acceptable to enjoy a "chick flick" at the movies, so why not a romance novel?  It's acceptable to enjoy mysteries and thrillers, so why not mystery novels?  And "Avatar" was a very well-decorated and respected movie, so why not science fiction novels?  It just doesn't make sense to me. 

Does anyone else feel this way?  Have any of you ever questioned this?  Maybe I'm a little nutty?


  1. I agree! I read a variety of books, classic, sci-fi, thriller, romance, etc. The best books to be aren't defined by the category they are in, but by how the author writes it. How easily I connect with the characters or how hooked the plot gets me. My favorite books are those that I pick up to start reading and before I know it, I've been reading for 4 hours and don't want to put it down! Those are the best books! :)

  2. I'm a much bigger fan of genre fiction than literary fiction, especially fantasy. I have to admit, I don't find much value in romance novels, but that's my whole "emotional pornography" side coming out. But I agree, simply being a part of "genre" doesn't mean a plot can't be complex, or that characters can't be round and compelling. I think Harry Potter is a great example. You could definitely teach a whole unit on crafting fiction from the HP series. Plot development, complex characters, great use of climate and setting to communicate mood...I could go on and on.


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