On Readers, Reading, and Literary Snobbery

As you might have noticed, a lot of my recent posts revolve around books and reading. It’s not so much because I am a writer and reader myself, but because I often encounter blogs and articles online featuring subjects that prod at my “This is not okay” meter, and I feel the need to rant. Thanks to this wonderful invention of a blog, I can do that, and you all are forced to hear me out. Muahahahah!

So let’s get to it, shall we? Today’s rant is about literary snobbery and should have an alternate title (which unfortunately did not fit into the title field):

You Are NOT What You Read! (unless you want to be)

BooksIf you’re a reader dating back to pre-Kindle days, you have personally encountered this before. People. Copping an attitude. About your reading preferences. Steamy bodice ripper cover? *scoff* She must be a desperate middle-aged housewife who needs to get her jollies through book porn. A literary classic? Pfft… snooty intellectual. Probably couldn’t find a G-spot with GPS navigation and turn-by-turn instructions.

My experience on the subject is graphic and emotionally painful. One time I went into a bookstore, stood in line for ten minutes while lovingly hugging my selections to my heart (as one does; don’t judge) only to reach the cash register and have a sweaty, pimply-faced boychild clerk look at my books and mock, “Romance, huh?” Yes. Romance. Stories about two serious, consenting adults getting into a relationship and, yes, even having sex. Amazing, mind-blowing, change-your-life-forever-because-it-lasts-more-than-five-minutes-and-actually-MEANS-something sex. Though I can understand your lack of understanding, as it is probably a foreign subject to you. *smh* (I didn’t actually say that. I just blushed scarlet, paid for my book, and never went back there again.)

These days the discrimination is more virtual. Readers no longer flaunt their beautiful, beloved covers in public, so the public has taken to mocking our reading selections on the very open forum of the Internet. No genre is safe from ridicule, though Romance and Erotica still take the brunt of it, with Young Adult a close second.

I think that is a tremendous shame. We read books to escape. To taste of the exotic, the exciting, the forbidden. We read for the familiar, and for things that we couldn’t have imagined were possible. It’s meant to be a mind-opening experience, a conversation starter, and a way to bond with people, share ideas and dreams. Instead we are forced into solitude, mocked for our preferences, clumped together and stereotyped–and the more we band together, the worse it gets! We become the weirdos who have nothing better to do than hold book club meetings and sniff old books in libraries.

If it only came from non-readers of the world, I could understand. They don’t know any better. For whatever reason, they have never been initiated into the club; never felt the joy and rapture of meeting a new character and following their life’s story to its satisfying, bittersweet end. But, my friends, my kindred spirits, we ourselves are just as guilty of this crime. We judge others for reading what we do not, for not reading what we enjoy. Instead of celebrating our differences, we deride each other for them.

Why?? What business is it of ours? What impact could someone else’s reading material possibly have on us? It’s not like an erotica reader is wearing a leather bustier underneath that twinset. A mystery/crime reader ins’t secretly an undercover detective. Young adult novels don’t make anyone immature, horror readers don’t have corpses of dissected animals in their basements, and fantasy readers don’t spend their free weekends at Renaissance Faires, okay? We are people, just like you. Boring, ordinary, normal, every-day people who have day jobs (hopefully) and families, and, sure, some quirks to go along with the package, but who doesn’t? So just give it a rest!

And then you have the pillars of acceptance, those who scream up and down that they love and read every genre, and to each their own. But in the privacy of their closest relations, they’re secretly whispering, “How can they read that?

I don’t get it. Maybe I’m missing something, or maybe I am just too self-involved to give a decent rat’s behind about what someone else is reading (unless they want to talk about it, in which case bring it on). I can argue the pros and cons of just about anything (thank you college Philosophy class), and I do, on occasion, indulge in a proper intellectual discussion about them (note the “proper” in that sentence, meaning, state your arguments, then listen to the other side, consider their point of view, and respond accordingly). But to spend my precious time and brain cells wondering about what kind of person would choose to read *insert genre*, and debating the merits of them? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a flying f*ck. I have better things to do, thank you, and not enough hours in the day to do them as it is.

You’re reading? Fantastic! Are you enjoying the book? Even better! Do you vary your steady diet of *insert genre* with other selections? Beautiful. Keep up the good work. 

That is all there should be to it.

Why is this concept so difficult for people to grasp?

SONY DSCAbout the Author: She reads. On occasion she picks up stuff she’s never read before. It works for her most of the time. Oh, yeah, she also writes. Her books are multi-genre and include romance (yes, you read that right), fantasy, sci-fi, and horror/thriller. Though she does not currently depend on book sales to pay the bills, it would be nice if they could pay for the small stuff, like hot chocolate, or books, or that new computer she now needs because her old one ganked. You can find her books at any online retailer of your choice. Give ’em a read and enjoy. Thanks for supporting her literary efforts!

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15 thoughts on “On Readers, Reading, and Literary Snobbery

  1. Lisa M. Green

    I have to disagree on one note. I am a fantasy reader, and I have, in fact, been known to spend a free weekend or two at a Renaissance Festival. 😀

    Just saying. Don’t judge. 😛

  2. Rose Shababy

    This post reminds me of when my kids were young and I required them to read for half an hour every night before bed, and my husband protested because they were reading mangas. I told him who cares, as long as they’re reading weird as well as looking at the pictures!
    I’ve been known to mock romance novels and their formulaic plots a time or two. You’ve reminded me of my own words and definitely put me in my place, so to speak. You’re right. Who cares, as long as they’re reading!
    Great post!

    • Alianne

      Romance has had a bad rap from the start. I’ve read series that were very formulaic, to the point where you could just change the character names and you’d be reading the same exact thing. That’s why I don’t like never-ending series. BUT there are authors out there doing a fabulous job of keeping things original. They are well worth reading =)
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Amos M. Carpenter

    Loving the rant, and you make some great points.

    The other day on the train to work, I was reading something on my mobile (it’s kind of sad that everyone does that nowadays and there are no longer normal conversations in the train, just everyone engrossed with their favourite gadget… but who am I to diss that when I do it as well?) when I happened to notice a young lady shifting around in her seat (I was standing in the aisle diagonally behind her… pure conincidence, promise!). She then glanced around her surreptitiously (I made sure I was staring right at my mobile) and continued reading. I just couldn’t resist glancing at her kindle, and, boy, did my ears start glowing! (And no, I am by no means a prude.)

    I completely agree with what you ranted about said, but I admit I had to concentrate very hard on not judging that lady (and it took a while for some of those rather… graphic images to fade from my mind).

    “Read and let read,” I say. 😉

    • Alianne

      *gasp* For shame, Amos!!! Just kidding ^_^ I gotta ask, though, were you judging her because of what she was reading, or because of your own reaction to it? You don’t have to tell me, just think about it 😉 I was on the bus one time and heard heavy breathing from the seat across from mine. it was coming from a small speaker. I wasn’t trying to look, but the man in the seat shifted and tilted his phone my way a bit and I saw he was watching porn. Right there on the bus! In the middle of the day, without even the courtesy of headphones. Yeah, I judged him plenty. There were kids on that bus. And little old ladies with rosaries. *smh* What is the world coming to?
      Thanks for reading and sharing your story!

      • Amos M. Carpenter

        I think it was a combination of what she was reading, that she was reading it in public, how she was obviously affected by it, and… well, the unexpectedness of reading very explicit stuff right there on the train. 🙂

        Enjoyed reading your post, it just happened to make me remember that particular episode. Your guy on the bus is quite a different story – I had no right to read that lady’s Kindle over her shoulder, so I can’t blame her for anything, but watching something where others can see it and might be offended… hmm, I’d consider that inappropriate. Not sure whether I’m applying double-standards there.

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