Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The book snob reappears. Oh joy

Would you care to compare bookshelves? Should I hide my library record for fear that you’ll think it’s pedestrian or too middle-brow? Did you just shudder at my Betty Neels collection?

Yes, I’ve never read Ulysses and only read The Hobbit, but have read every Harry Potter book.

I really dislike book snobbery. If you want to plow through The Fountainhead or have Jonathan Frazer on your night stand, good for you. Let's all keep our eyes on the books in front of us!

I mention this because the can of worms surrounding Harry Potter continues.

The Guardian weighs in: “When Harry met sexism/ Critics just won't accept female fantasy writers, as the latest round of JK Rowling-bashing shows”

Rowling will be giving Harvard's graduation commencement address in June, which apparently has some people’s knickers in a twist.


Writing in the university paper, the Harvard Crimson, student Adam Goldenberg rips into Rowling as "a flash in the pan", "a petty pop culture personality" who "tricked parents into letting their kids read books filled with sex, murder, and homosexual role models". Furthermore, "writing bedtime stories is lame".

If having sold 375 million copies of a book series is a flash in the pan, I’m sure there are plenty of writers who wish they could also be a flash in the pan. Meanwhile, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that Rowling explores some dark themes. The series is about the epic fight against evil therefore there is murder, betrayal and violence. There’s also love, loyalty, and bravery. And what’s wrong with having homosexual role models?! That comment is raising multiple red flags for me.

And for the kicker, writing bed time stories is lame. What?! I'm more convinced that if you want raise a child who reads throughout their life, you have to engage them while they're young. Those bed time stories are sparking children's imaginations and their love of reading. Would we prefer they were playing video games or watching television?


“Speculative fiction - whether that is historical epic, space psychodrama or telepathic warrior quest - has always been about infinite possibilities. Why is it so hard to imagine a world which acknowledges the importance, multitude and sheer brilliance of its women writers?”


It’s a shame that people are so eager to pigeon hole books and the people who read them. Take the label chick lit. It seems like it’s used to dismiss books like oh, that’s chick lit. Unfortunately chick lit isn't the only genre sneered at, you can add science fiction and fantasy to the occasionally sneered at group. That's unfortunate -- there's good and bad books in all genres. To me, it's not the genre but the individual book that matters. Is it a well told story? Does it have rich, complex characters or compelling dialog. Most importantly, at the end of the day am I itching to get home so I can read another chapter?

When intellectual snobbery raises its ugly head, no one wins.

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