Sunday, May 10, 2009

Literary Snobbery...It Starts So Young

I had this really fantastic, surreal experience. I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a high school literary event held at my old high school. It was very cool - the kids were incredibly keen and incredibly focused and laughed at all my lame jokes.

But little did I know the brouhaha I would create when I referenced the Stephanie Meyer Twilight phenomenon. The cheers and boo's - the fist waving and sneering. Seriously, there could have been a high school literary rumble. And this crowd probably would have broken into the appropriate song.

Anyway - the kids asked questions about the quality of the Twilight books and my response was - Stephanie Meyer is loved by millions of people - she's a gazillionaire. A kid on the "down with Meyer" side of the debate asked why such bad writing gets bought. And I said, publishers need to make money and sometimes making lots of money means appealing to lots of people. And, swear to god, someone said "isn't that like totally selling out?"

My response was - you will need to make up your own minds about what kinds of books you want to write. Selling out, or not. And then of course, someone else yells; "what did you do?"

I said, I chose to be the best writer I could be in a genre I love and buy groceries.

But as I've thought about that talk and the budding literary snobs in attendance, I wish I had answered the quality of books question differently. This is what I wish I had said:

You know how you feel when you read something you love? That jittery, excited, revved up feeling like the world is smaller than it was a minute ago and anything is possible and someone, somewhere is thinking or feeling the exact same thing you are? That feeling is why people read and it's why other people write. Now, if you love reading why in the world would you negate someone else's reading experience? Why would you diminish their joy and their excitement? Because you don't like it? Fine. Don't like it. Don't read it. But leave it there - because everyone deserves to have that joy.


Heidi the Hick said...

Good answer, but I think the answer you gave really sums it up perfectly!

Amy Ruttan said...

Why does that always happen, you always think of something brilliant to say after the fact.

Both answers were good though. :)

Maureen McGowan said...

What a fabulous way to think of it, Molly!

Anonymous said...

I think your answer was real. Seems like there's a lot of talk about writing vs. marketability these days.

But I kinda like it that the teens raised the issue. It's a wonderful time when you can still be idealistic before reality intrudes. :) And I'm also happy to hear that not everybody loves Twilight - shows there's room for other work out there.

K J Gillenwater said...

Sadly, high school English teachers are teaching these kids to be literary snobs...and then it continues into the college years.

I know my English teacher would be a tad disappointed that I wrote a paranormal suspense book about curses rather than some genius work of literary fiction.

I think your answers were great...and maybe will shake up these kids to think for themselves about what is worthy reading material.

Sounded like they were spouting what they'd learned in their AP English class.

Eileen said...

Great post, Molly! I've been lucky and haven't had too many people acting snobby about my choice of genres. I know other people have had different experiences. I think, however, the less we can perpetuate the divisions between authors and genres, etc., the happier we all will be.

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