Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Snobs...

Great quote by Stephen King:

There are books full of great writing that don't have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story... don't be like the book-snobs who won't do that. Read sometimes for the words--the language. Don't be like the play-it-safers who won't do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.

There's so much richness in that quote I could discuss (and probably will, in the future), but I'd like to focus on the "book snob" part right now.

Three semesters ago, one of my Creative Writing students raved and raved about a certain book called Twilight. Yes, that vampire young adult book that's sparked a HUGE fan base and movies and memorabilia. Back then, I had never heard of it before. She loaned me her copy, and I read it. And the next one, and part of the next (I still haven't finished Book 3).

I've never met a lukewarm Twilight fan - people are either UBER-fans or UBER-haters of that series. But I, myself, am a lukewarm fan. I'm not crazy about the writing, itself (I think it's too simple and repetitive and could be edited/tightened). But, I do appreciate the story and can understand the appeal of the plot: Vampire meets human girl. Vampire falls for human girl (and wants to eat her). And so on...

More than anything else, though, I love that people are READING. To me, that's the beauty of Twilight. Or Harry Potter. Or Stephen King books. Or any other highly-commercialized, ridiculously-popular, best-selling book. It gets masses of people (many who don't consider themselves "readers") excited about the act of reading, of turning pages. Which, to me, is priceless.

So, even though I teach Shakespeare and Hemingway and Dickinson, I'm certainly not a book snob. I fully respect everyone's right to enjoy any type of book he/she wants to enjoy. And, to WRITE any type of book he/she wants. Because individuality is what keeps the world interesting!


  1. I am a lukewarm fan of Twilight, despite that I plowed through the books at breakneck speed. I confess that I didn't notice the language all that much...maybe because I went through them quickly. Maybe the language was simplistic and that's one of the reasons I ripped through.

    I hear you on the book snob thing. Reading the New York Times Book Review is hard work sometimes because often I'll read a review of a book that sounds TERRIBLE but the reviewer gushes on and on about the writer and the language and in the end, I suspect the review is a showcase for the reviewer to exhibit his or her own language skills. But the point remains :)

  2. Cool! A fellow Twilight-lukewarmer! Good point, about the simplistic language probably being the reason it's a fast read. I think that's true of a lot of commercial fiction.

  3. I must say I only read Twilight at my daughter's request. I did not like it. Yes, it's repetitive. One of my chief complaints is the way Bella thinks about Edward constantly. Over and over she talks about how good-looking he is, so fascinated by his looks. I kept thinking, "Oh, enough already!"

    I found grammatical mistakes in Twilight right off the bat. I read one sentence over and over again, thinking: that doesn't make any sense. Didn't anyone edit this book?

  4. Maybe the language was simplistic and that's one of the reasons I ripped through.

    Work from home India

  5. Well, I have to say that for me, poor writing actually gets in the way of the story--if there are dangling modifiers all over the place, and the person doesn't know what a subjunctive is or misuses words...the story, however compelling, is wrecked. I've got a whole basement full of books that I only made it 1/4 through for that reason. And as far as only reading a book for the language--does anyone really do that? I mean, that's why we have poetry.

  6. I agree that there is something positive in the simple act of READING putting aside whether or not it's the best literature. It's that way with kids too. They'll keep on reading if one book in a series holds their interest. I'm not a book snob either...I'll try various genres, authors, etc...whether recommended or not.