Book Snob

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Confessions of a Book Snob

I refer to myself as a book snob due to having such a difficult time approaching contemporary literature. I tend to stay in the realm of the classical cannon, Medieval Literature, and only "contemporary" authors–Pynchon, Foster, DeLillo–who I know are phenomenal and up to my standard of expectation. I bring up this topic because yesterday I finally purchased The Girl on the Train. It has taken me a year to make this purchase, every time placing the book down, and telling myself I won’t like it, but then falling trap to all of the conversations surrounding the book (then again Fifty Shades of Grey was constantly spoken of!). We tend to discuss the decline in film, but what about the decline in literature? Am I a book snob, or am I accepting the painful reality that there really aren’t many good contemporary reads available? Does anyone else feel this way? Disagree, and provide numerous examples that will have me copying down the list and enthusiastically ordering contemporary books.

  • Great topic. Shakespeare has no equal. I like some modern writing, but it's its accessibility, more than anything else that grabs me. My mom loves the poolside page turners and doesn't get my love for Hardy, Hugo, Dickens, Swift, More, Carlisle, Wordsworth, etc. Even my love of Breaking Bad is due to a fairly standard set of morals that lives in the old folk songs like Bob Dylan's "Seven Curses." I can't wait to read this article. – Tigey 7 years ago
  • There are ALWAYS good books out there, even today. You just have to find them. I found Martina Boone's series "Heirs of Watson Landing" original. I didn't want to put the book down. I recommended it to a friend, but she didn't enjoy it to the extent I did because she doesn't like stories that have a Southern setting. Every story will not appeal to all readers. Often I have purchased books that have a good summary on the back and grab my attention in the first few pages, but then I get bored halfway through. It depends on a writer's style and people's moods; many times I have enjoyed a book because I was in the right mood or frame of mind. Listening to other people's reviews of books don't always match my own. Telling yourself that you won't like a book before you've read it is the same as anything else; you won't know until you try it. – JennyCardinal 7 years ago
  • James Joyce put it well when he said that, "Life is too short to read a bad book." From the perspective of this topic, he can be paraphrased to say that, "You are statistically likely to enjoy a book that has been thoroughly evaluated over long periods of time, both in and out of its historical context, under the scrutiny of various different methodologies of aesthetic appraisal, by multiple generations of scholars and intelligent lay-readers alike who have come to the general consensus that this is, in fact, a good book." This is not to say that new books cannot meet that same critical criteria - since, after all, every book that we now consider canonical had to begin its journey as a new work in its own time - but when you only have less than a century on this earth, and have yet to read the entire canon from Homer to Pynchon (who, despite being still alive, has garnered enough praise by the likes of Harold Bloom to earn the title of "proto-canonical"), I see nothing wrong with choosing to spend your finite lifetime with works that have better odds of pleasing you. What you call "snobbery," I call "economics," which is the science of allocating scarce resources - in this case, your time. HOWEVER, partially to play devil's advocate to the point that I just made, I must contend that there is a special value in reading new works. Because "every book that we now consider canonical had to begin its journey as a new work in its own time," the onus is on us (the scholars and intelligent lay-readers of today) to decide what will be considered canonical tomorrow. This might require us to read many bad (untested) books, but that is the price that every generation of readers pays in order to document the literary achievements of their day and play gatekeeper for the curricula of future English courses to come. Because art is, by its very nature, a form of dialectic, we will never truly achieve an "end of literary history" in the Hegelian sense. It does not matter if Victor Hugo is an objectively better writer than Donna Tartt; she represents our current age in a way that his "timelessness" simply cannot. If that were not the case, then there would have been no need for anybody to ever write anything ever again after the First Folio of Shakespeare's works was published in 1623. – ProtoCanon 7 years ago