Archive for June, 2014

Literary Haters

Posted: June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

© 2014 G.N. Jacobs

Like many writers, I hope to have the last words on any subject (truly impossible – consider that we still discuss Shakespeare 400 years later). One of my pet peeves from several years using my comic book store the way early Americans used the local pub, as a discussion chamber, the childish nastiness that I call Literary Haterism keeps bubbling up occupying too much blog space for my taste. What is Literary Haterism? Well, I could be a cryptic A-clown and refer you to Justice Blackman on pornography – I can’t define it but I know it when I see it. But, that’s cheating, Literary Haterism describes any literary discussion that begins with – How could you like such filthy, juvenile, stupid or asinine reading material?

Wow! My mother, who taught me that all intellectual pursuits should be accorded the same respect, would roll her eyes. When she passes, she will spin in her grave. She was disheartened to hear from me that Pete Seeger allegedly took an axe to Bob Dylan’s amp cables at a major folk music festival in 1965 (a fact she didn’t remember from having lived through those times).

Her comment: “Both the Sixties and Folk Music were all supposed to be about doing your own thing.”

Another way to put it is to read you a sign I one saw posted in the dojo of the famous Korean-American actor/martial arts master Ban Soo Han (Kentucky Fried Movie). It read – DO NOT CRITICIZE PRACTITIONERS OF OTHER MARTIAL ARTS! As fun as Kung Fu movies where the fights with “my Kung Fu is stronger than yours” can be, in the real world it’s too much fighting over nothing.

So, when I heard of a snotty flamethrower fight over Young Adult readership to hit recently (June 5, 2014) that ultimately wasted many words (possibly even mine), I felt moved to slowly rouse from my lethargy or self-absorption from my own work to see if we can have more sanity and respect in our discussions. I have ghosts, aliens, dragons and serial killers to fictionally slay; I don’t really have time for this.

I present Ruth Graham on Slate V. Lauren Davis on I09. Ms. Graham used the slightly larger megaphone of Slate to bash adults who enjoy Young Adult novels. Ms. Davis used her megaphone to reply with F-O, let people enjoy what they like without stigma! Truthfully, both writers are right and both writers are wrong.

Ms. Davis makes excellent points about any readership being good for society, so lay off and enjoy our diversity. We live in a society where 3-5 million readers act as the test market that determines the movies the rest of us see. So, any time a Harry Potter bubbles to the surface we should rejoice that we have temporarily increased the pool of the literate who are actively part of that test market.

The operative thought for this line of argument comes from C.S. Lewis’ non-fiction giving advice to a more educated husband trying to connect to a less well-educated new wife who liked fluffier books – Start at her level and acting gently you’ll meet in the middle (paraphrased). A product of early 20th Century England that hadn’t yet fully flushed out the denigration of women for sure, but still good advice.

Even though I can’t support Ms. Graham’s conclusion that we should somehow feel ashamed for liking what we like, she did make good points about how there is supposed a progression in the things we read. Ms. Davis chose not to credit these thoughts at all. Ms. Graham made a point that YA reading material fits a certain age group and that an adult should eventually ask “is there nothing more?” I simply reject her unstated conclusion that Society should ensure age conformity among readers with rolled eyes, snickers or the completely hostile question presented at the end of the first paragraph.

Ms. Graham may be trying to remind us of 1 Corinthians 13:11 – When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put aside childish things. However, I’m sure Mr. Lewis when giving his advice about acting gently and meeting in the middle assumed that such progression of thought should come natively from the reader trying to better him or herself by agreeing to exposure to new things. This all adds up to – when did I, or anyone else suddenly possess the time or moral wisdom to be the agent of someone else putting aside childish things?

But, when we discuss my readership we find out how people with voracious minds realize that we never fully put aside childish things. I’m the guy who has A) read the Bible cover to cover twice before the age of 15, B) chewed his way through the highpoints of Greco-Roman mythology twice before the age of 30 and on and on. But, I’m also the guy that cut his teeth on Dr. Seuss (still able to teach the adult who says he wants to grow up to be a songwriter awesome rhyme and meter) and then I moved on to Batman, Sgt. Rock and The Howling Commandos. I don’t read these titles now not because I have somehow aged out of the market. Modern Batman continuity makes no sense (too many reboots that I didn’t read). As for Rock and Nick Fury before he formed SHIELD, if I can’t afford the phonebook reprints, I certainly can’t afford the very expensive back issues.

And this is where I put on my fighting face with someone like Ms. Graham – I dare you to dis Ernie Rock. I dare you to trash Star Trek (can’t defend the current trends in Trekville, but…). Do I not get credit for fighting my way through Thucydides? Or Melville? Or Shakespeare’s misfires like Merchant of Venice? I try to read everything and make no excuses for enjoying the experience, even when I don’t connect to a work.

I just want to read without picking fights over my choices and to emulate John Wayne’s last cowboy – “I do not do these things to you and expect the same courtesy in return.”

Oh, and check out this flame war from three comic book publishers here and here. It’s everywhere.