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View Diary: Contemporary Fiction Views: Sometimes, a happy ending fits (27 comments)

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  •  Many readers become book snobs accidentally, IMHO. (4+ / 0-)

    Now, bear with me here. First, that condescending judginess easily goes both ways. When you feel the chill air of someone looking down their nose at you, they may be sneering just as hard at their own failings, when they look in the mirror.

    Some people do play petty games of one-upmanship. Others, the games play them.

    This doesn't make snobs likable. But I can understand it, especially when it comes to books. There are so many books. We who devour them, we all want some kind of menu, some sense of which are delicious, which are nutritious, which are just fat+sugar+salt. So we ask our friends, we read experts, we figure out systems of deciding what to taste next.

    I don't see how we can avoid this. There are such gems out there. I want some way of spotting them.

    But two forms of flawed information contribute to the snobbery. The first is, how easily we read the experts, parrot their opinions, and believe we can reliably judge for ourselves. Now, you may be immune to that. Many people mistrust "experts". But with so many books to choose from, it's very tempting to rely mostly on second-hand opinions of what's good.

    The second flaw in our information is, the experts are all doing this to each other, too. So there are fashionable books, that everyone decides to read at once; and there are unfashionable books.

    The unfashionable often includes several whole genres, and anything with a whiff of lowbrow about it. I was surprised, reading an interview of Chomsky (who almost always thinks for himself), when he said he knew not to read Stephen King. How could he know that, without reading first?

    But we live in a far more open-minded critical world, as far as books go, than prevailed half a century ago. And each of is free to choose, and read, and think for ourselves.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Wed May 01, 2013 at 01:22:50 AM PDT

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    •  Outside a short story in The New (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, Limelite, RiveroftheWest

      Yorker and his Entertainment Weekly columns, I haven't read Stephen King either. It's not because of genre snobbery.

      At first I was afraid to after reading a Peter Straub story that seriously bothered me (about a psycho killer who found his calling as a decorated soldier). I realized how powerful a genre horror could be if used by a master. Later, after that initial reaction, I just got backlogged with other books.

      But one of the books I'm trying to finish now is NOS4A2, written by King's son, Joe Hill. It's very, very well-written and is character-rich.

      •  It's reasonable to not read King on reputation (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, bookgirl

        alone, if you are squeamish about horror. Chomsky's implication was that King was beneath him.

        We do rely, to some extent, on the recommendations of friends and experts who we trust (based on experience). But we should keep our minds open, and be willing to try anything for ourselves. I try to make this an aim of my reading: to keep trying new authors, new styles, new genres, new countries.

        You wrote a good diary, for making us think about how and why we read. Limelite wrote an interesting diary on that a couple of years ago: How Should One Read a Book?

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Wed May 01, 2013 at 08:07:58 AM PDT

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