Good Evening, Bookworms!
Tonight’s blog is largely inspired by a fellow book blogger here on Word Press, a gentleman by the name of R H Culp whose blogs I am subscribed to. This afternoon, while I was at work, I was notified by email of his latest blog entry and it concerns adult readers reading books aimed at young adults, or “teenagers” as they were known in my younger days! In his blog, Mr Culp was admirably rebutting an article in the New York Times by some literary snob by the name of Joel Stein, who was taking issue with adults being seen on public transport reading such novels as the Hunger Games trilogy or the Harry Potter series. I have just responded to Mr Culp’s blog to like it and pass on my admiration for his stand against literary elitism!
As I believe I have made quite clear in previous blogs, I cannot stand any sort of elitism or snobbery to begin with, hence my immense dislike of and disgust towards the right wing of the political spectrum and self-righteous, extreme nutjobs of the “religious” variety. And I really can’t stand people putting on an act, putting on airs and graces and thinking they’re more important and posh than they really are. Also, even though other people have thought it “posh”, I don’t think my surname is posh. I have a double-barrelled surname because my late grandad’s parents joined their surnames together when they got married. I’m not posh, I work full-time and I went to ordinary state schools and then to university in Bolton, not too far from here. I didn’t have any private education or go to anywhere like Oxford or Cambridge, so let’s end this “posh” nonsense once and for all, please!
So, given all the above, you will not be surprised to learn that I take an extremely dim view of literary snobbery. Who do some people think they are? Book dictators? One of the contributory factors to the issue of people in Western countries growing up not reading many, if any, books, surely has to be that of having been told what to read and what not to read! What the world needs is more bookworms! This is the whole reasoning behind events like World Book Night, which I am looking forward to being a part of, where people will be trying to encourage non-readers or light readers to read more books. Therefore, what we certainly DON’T want is for such people to feel discouraged or, worse still, intimidated by some book snob who’s going to criticise or ridicule them for their choice of reading matter.
(I think I may have pointed this out some time ago in one of my previous book blogs, but I have always maintained that it’s hardly my bloody fault that I was an adult by the time J K Rowling created the Harry Potter series! Indeed, it was a fellow adult, one of my colleagues, who recommended the books to me!)
Anyway, there are billions of books out there in this world, in hardback, paperback and e-book formats. Fiction and non-fiction. A huge range of genres and sub-genres of fiction and equally a huge range of subject matters for non-fiction. Books to cater for various ages, books in a vast range of languages or translated from one to another, so the whole damn world has plenty of reading matter to choose from and your choices may well be wildly different from mine. You might read a lot of chick lit, a genre I don’t tend to read much of apart from the occasional read of something like Bridget Jones’ Diary. However, as I don’t get all fixated on diets and I’ve never been a shoe queen (My sister is the shoe queen in our family), most chick lit novels tend not to float my boat, but if it means other women are having an enjoyable reading experience, then that genre is serving a useful purpose. So far in my life, I’ve not really read that much in the way of either crime fiction or sci-fi and fantasy. Only the occasional book for each of those genres, and probably read for my book club at Waterstone’s, but other people’s bookshelves are filled with P D James, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, etc, if they’re crime fiction fans or perhaps Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick and Orson Scott Card if they’re into sci-fi. On the other hand, you might be a fan of spy thrillers and your bookshelves are filled with John Le Carre and Len Deighton novels. My dad read a fair few of those! Actually, I’ve got Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy lurking behind my printer here in my room!
But there is also no harm in adults reading books which may be aimed at younger readers. It’s like adults going to see “children’s” films at the cinema… I look at that in this way… When you are a kid, you can only get to see a few films because many won’t be certified as suitable for you. You can see U rated films and PG films (with your parents) and as you get older you can see 12 and 15 rated films. However, once you reach the magic age of 18 you are an adult and you are entitled to go and see any damn film that goes on release! With no actual age restrictions, books are even better than films because you can be a kid and, if you’re good at reading, you can read supposedly grown-up books and if you’re an adult you can still read supposedly teen-orientated books! I have just had another thought which Mr Culp didn’t mention but which could serve as good ammunition against the literary snobbery of Mr Stein’s article in the New York Times… What about adults with learning difficulties?!
There are many people who find reading as difficult as I find sport. To them, attempting to read a book is the equivalent of me attempting to do PE at school, and some people find it just as hard to get past even the title of a book as I found it hard to do even the warm-up exercises. I know sport is good for you and it is advised that you do some, but I have always found it hard to be motivated to do any due to the fact I am utterly shite at physical activity and found PE lessons at school utterly humiliating. When it comes to reading, there are people who have the same problems that I had with sport. They know it’s good for you to read books, they know they really should try, but perhaps they are dyslexic or have some other problem which hinders their reading progress, so they feel discouraged. Literary snobbery from the likes of Mr Stein is only going to make them feel worse, isn’t it?! Never mind teen books, some adults might only be able to manage the same sort of books that my 20 month old niece, Charlotte, currently enjoys. So, if you have some pompous twerp in a newspaper or on telly claiming adults shouldn’t even be reading teenager’s books, how’s an adult going to feel if their current reading material is The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
The other thing about literary snobs is that, even with books aimed at adults, I expect these narrow-minded book bigots to think we should only ever read certain types of book. Classics only, I’d imagine. Well, yes, I have read a fair few classics, and can count the likes of Jane Eyre, Pride And Prejudice, 1984, and Great Expectations amongst the novels I have read during my life thus far, a life which will have completed 39 years on this planet on the day I give out free copies of The Book Thief for World Book Night. However, I might add that some of the adult-orientated reads I have especially enjoyed have included Fever Pitch, Under The Frog, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Notes From A Small Island, all of which have had me in utter hysterics while reading them! I love those books because they made me laugh so much it made my sides hurt!
I can’t imagine Mr Stein laughing. I see him as the literary equivalent of one of those graceless, humourless old curmudgeons who preaches that anything remotely enjoyable is wrong! The sort of person who thinks a book is only good for you if it is seriously dull and causes you to plod through it wondering how many years it is going to take you to finish the first chapter, let alone the whole damn novel. Well, I guess someone has to enjoy what many of us would find worthy and dull, and if slow dull reads float Mr Stein’s boat, that’s fair enough, but it is NOT acceptable for him to be imposing his literary tastes and judgement on anyone else! I, for my part, will continue to read anything that takes my fancy. If a book grabs me, I’ll read it. It might be a teenager’s book. It might be a book that makes me laugh my head off. When I’m at Old Trafford, I and my fellow Reds often sing, to the tune of Sloop John B, “We’ll do what we want” and, taking the same attitude, I shall rewrite this slightly for the benefit of letting Mr Stein know my opinions on this matter…
I’ll read what I want…
I’ll read what I want…
I’m Joanne the Bookworm
I’ll read what I want!!!
That’s about it for now, so you can breathe a huge sigh of relief! Carry on reading what YOU want! Don’t let the book snobs get you down! (They can jog on, quite frankly!) Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!
Books mentioned in this blog entry:
- The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins
- The Harry Potter series – J K Rowling
- Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John Le Carre
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
- Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen
- 1984 – George Orwell
- Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
- The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
- Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
- Under The Frog – Tibor Fischer
- The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
- Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson