Friday, July 27, 2012

Reading Trendy Books

This morning while perusing some of my favorite blogs, Ava at Writability had this awesome post about how people today are judging readers for liking "bad" books. She noted that it's sad that we're making people feel ashamed for picking up a book and reading it, just because that book is a current trend. It got me thinking so much, that I felt like I wanted to write a post of my own.

One person's derivative garbage is another person's literary heaven. Just because you don't like something does not mean it's ok to make fun of people who do. Being an art major, I've been trained to see that most everything in life is subjective. Besides, it's just common sense that people are going to like different things.

For instance, I love realist art - art that looks like things really look: Rembrandt, Mucha, Paul Calle, etc. I also have a taste for some abstraction, but not a lot. But there are people out there who LOVE it. I'm not one of them, but I don't make fun of those artists who create it, nor their collectors who buy it. Give me a choice between Mucha and Hoffman, I'll pick Mucha every time. That doesn't mean that the avid collector of Hoffman is bad, or wrong, or an idiot, or a mindless slave to current trends.

Alfons Mucha

Hans Hoffman's "The Gate"

Seriously, just because I can't stand pears doesn't mean I think the rest of you who eat them should be publicly humiliated, all the trees burned down, and all the seeds destroyed.

Books are art in their own right. They come in different packages, and appeal to different audiences. I LOVE to read and re-read the Twilight and Harry Potter books. Why? Because I connect with the main characters, the books get me out of my head and transport me to a different world, and the characters and world feel real. I don't even see the writing, all I see is the movie playing in my head when I read them. (We won't talk about the actual movies that were made, though. Those are COMPLETELY different. I'm a little more forgiving of the HP movies than I am of Twilight. When we borrow the Twilight movies, it's a night full of popcorn and laughter and witty repoirte with the tv, much like MST3K. That says more about the movie's director than it does about the book's writer, just to be clear.)

In fact, I didn't buy or read the Harry Potter books for the simple reason that everyone else was and I didn't want to jump on the band wagon. I flat out refused just because soooo many people were raving about it. And then some crazy lady in Bountiful wanted to ban them because they had magic in them. Well, that got my attention. Ban?? I figured if they were ban-worthy then I should probably check them out, and immediately went and purchased all four books that were currently in print. I started reading Harry Potter out loud to my then third-grader, fell in love, and never looked back.

So, hey, THANKS!! to that crazy lady out there. (FYI, she's not crazy for not liking the books. She's crazy for thinking they should be banned because of magic. Common sense or not, banning anything because it has magic is just crazy-talk.) I now have seven books in my collection that are well-read, well-loved, and have been a source of enjoyment and family time as we read together.

The Twilight books I bought because I saw the movie. And laughed at the movie. I thought it was soooo bad, yet there was something about the story that called to me, so I went and found the books. And they transported me out of a world of post-partum depression and into a world where the main character also had pain, and made choices similar to choices I would make and I connected with her in a way that made me feel free when I read the books. Is Stephanie Meyer a great writer? I don't know, I couldn't even tell you what words she used where. I just know that she's a fantastic storyteller. Even though sparkly vampires are so weird. But that's ok. I'll take them because the characters felt real to me.

Other authors I love: Avi, Jane Yolen, Meg Cabot, Jane Austen, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Tanya Huff, Barbara Hambly, Holly Lisle, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce, Dennis L. McKiernan, Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, and many many others. (The Princess Diaries, Summon The Keeper, and Junie B. Jones are other books that I also get lost in and re-read and re-read over and over and over again.)

When I write, I want to create that same feeling for the reader. I don't want the writing or the prose to distract the reader from the story. I want the characters to feel real. But since everything is subjective, there are going to be people who won't connect, who will find it boring, or who will find the characters completely unbelievable for reasons varying all across the spectrum. That's just human nature. Some people have never felt depression or lost love, or if they have, they've reacted to it completely differently than I would or in ways completely foreign to me. Therefore they react to books and literature about these things in a completely different way than I do. And that's ok. It is impossible to please everyone. And when writing, I think the most important thing is to write something you want to read. That's why I'm writing, at least.

People do the same thing with food. And religion. And clothes. Everyone has different opinions and different "feel-good" points. But when it all boils down, making fun of people for reading popular literature says more about the person poking fun than the person doing the reading. In fact, anything that can get a person to not only pick up a book, read it, AND enjoy it, is pretty incredible. Especially if it's my 16 yr old daughter who has so many other things she'd rather be doing than sitting somewhere with her nose in a book.

So will Twilight still be around in fifty years? Will Harry Potter? I don't know. I hope so. Will Great Expectations? probably... Are they the same? Absolutely not. Throw a couple of vampires into Dicken's world, and then I'll probably enjoy reading it a lot more. That being said, for those who claim that the "Trendy" authors can't write obviously aren't seeing their bank accounts. They can write, and write successfully to a lot of people. For those who don't like the books, that's ok. Not everyone will. But it's not right that the readers who like the books get judged and embarrassed when caught reading them.


  1. Well said!!

    People are always trashing the Twilight books AND their fans. I don't know that I'd call myself a fan, but I like the Twilight books. I admit that I like the first book best - it kept me up all night reading because I couldn't put it down. It would be totally silly of me to not like them because other people like them!

    It's kinda funny ... once peer pressure was people in the same school or job or neighborhood. Now people can feel peer pressure to agree via the internet - peer pressure to people they've never met! Totally crazy!

  2. Yeah, no kidding! I'll admit, some of the anti-humor is kinda funny. But some of it is just mean. And I agree with you about the internet peer pressure. My how the world has changed!