I can feel it in myself sometimes – the snobbery, the way I assign some book genres more value than others, the condescension I feel creeping into my mind when he says he’s reading THAT or she loved THIS.
I don’t like that about myself for quite a few reasons:
- First, it’s hypocritical of me because I read all kinds of things from romances to mystery novels to literary fiction to memoir to young adult novels.
- In a culture where art and artistic products are MASSIVELY undervalued, I need to be supporting any artistic endeavor.
- All reading is good. It helps people think more deeply, introduces us to new cultures and experiences, and keeps our brains fed.
- The labels assigned to books are marketing, categorizing, separating tools. They say very, very little about the content of the books themselves.
Books – like all art – do different things depending on their purposes, and they serve many purposes in different settings and for different readers. Literary fiction pushes into complex ideas about identity and place and humanity through often subtle plot lines and intense characterization, while fantasy novels build complicated worlds and intricate societies to illuminate our dreams and great fears. Memoirs remind us that individual stories have great power for the larger world, and mystery novels feed our puzzle-solving minds. There is no “better” or “worse” in terms of genre – there is only different.
Of course, there are better books and worse books – some books are simply better written than others – just as in all art. Appreciating craftsmanship is part of what is involved in appreciating art, and of course, we each have preferences for what we like to read. All of those things are good. Valuable. Wise.
But the dismissal of an entire genre of books simply because we think it “lesser,” well, maybe we need to consider that as an indicator of our inclinations toward other people – because of their ethnicity, because of their religion, because of their gender. All people are equally valuable – and yet, we act much more like Orwell’s characters where “some [people] are more equal than others.”
So I’m pushing aside my hypocrisy and dismissal of books that I do not think are “my” thing. I’m going back to the way I used to read – where everything was awesome if it was made of words – articles on frog species and young adult romances and complicated stories of sorrow set in 17th century France. All of it beautiful, all of it crafted, all of it loved. . . .just like us.
Do you ever hear people dismissing books because of genre? How about you? Have you ever been so inclined?