Elitism was Tam Lin

Kyra Jucovy klj at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Mon Sep 11 17:29:23 EDT 2000

On Mon, 11 Sep 2000, Ven wrote:

> On Monday 11th Sep Sallyo quoted
> > 
> > >You make really good points about Pamela Dean expecting everyone to know
> > >all the literature that she does. I agree, it is elitist.
> > 
> > 
> > 
> then said
> > <vbg> I think DWJ is elitist too. I'm all for elitist. I'm not all that
> > bright, but I'd rather reach up than squish down in my reading.
> I don't think we mean the same things by elitism here. What I 
> meant was people brandishing their knowledge like a keep out sign 
> to exclude those not in the know. I did get that feeling at times 
> form Tam Lin (I'm not sure it was intentional). When DWJ mentions 
> something people might not know, like the books Tom sends in 
> Fire and Hemlock, its like she's saying "Hey, take a look at this," 
> not "this is something you ought to know, and you must be a bit 
> thick if you don't". I owe a lot of my knowledge of literature, history 
> etc to books that encouraged me to find out more about things. 
> However the approach in Tam Lin (and I'm a bit sorry to be using 
> this as an example, there are far worse) made me feel a bit 
> squashed.

Hmm... there are certain elitist aspects of DWJ books that do make me feel
uncomfortable in similar ways to how Tam Lin made me uncomfortable,
although obviously not in the same quoting way.  A good example that was
recently mentioned, I think, is the treatment of Halla in _Power of Three_
- I have never once managed to read that book without feeling quite
uncomfortable about this - everybody meets Halla, immediately thinks,
"She's stupid," and then basically hates her for the rest of the book.   I
never really feel like I get to know Halla quite as well as I would like
before making that judgement, although I'm pretty sure that, just as with
Tina, if I met her in real life I would take that exact attitude towards
	The same thing applies to my problem with _Cart and Cwidder_ - I do
get uncomfortable with Moril's treatment of Brid - he seems to spend quite
a lot of time thinking about how much she overestimates herself, is
conceited, etc., when a pretty significant part of the book to me is Moril
doing the exact same thing.  I'm glad that the book ends with Moril
realizing his mistakes, but I wish that he had maybe applied that lesson
to his earlier thoughts about Brid a bit.  I think maybe part of my
discomfort with both DWJ and PD on these issues is that they hit a little
close to home about my own attitudes about these things, but even so, I
sometimes worry about it - would DWJ condescend to me because I'm stupid
compared to her ;-)?  Oh, well, at least neither of them manage to nearly
reach Piers Anthony's level of badness in _Macroscope_.

> Being friends with non readers? Kyla and Lizzie both touched on 
> this. Its great having  friends who read the same kind of stuff as 
> you do (whyever else am I on this chatlist? ;-).) but I think you can 
> miss out if you base friendship solely on this kind of common 
> ground, let alone judge people by it. I guess it was part of my 
> growing up process when I learned first that a person didn't have to 
> do higher education to have a lively mind and secondly you didn't 
> have to have "everything" in common to get on with someone. EG 
> I'd no more turn from my mate Sid because he doesn't read much 
> than he would from me for not knowing my punk and heavy metal 
> music! Though we do have common interests, thats not where our 
> affinity is grounded. On my soap box, it not what you know that 
> makes a better person, its what you do with it.

	While I would absolutely never say that higher education is
necessary or in any way important in making friendships, etc., I do feel
that some sort of affinity is important...  I'm speaking from a very
personal place here because for the first eighteen years of my life I felt
practically all alone in the world except for my family.  This mostly
wasn't that bad - I am an introvert, after all - but when I look at the
quality of my life in high school compared to now, in college, it makes a
difference.  There were lots of likable, intelligent people around me at
high school, but none of them _were_ as interested in reading, in thought,
etc. as I was, and that _did_ make me feel lonely.  I was shocked to find
how many people here at Swarthmore were actually interesting and pleasant
to talk to.  It sounds pretty stupid now, but before I came here, I
honestly thought that my family was pretty unique in the world.  And now
that I have people my own age aside from my brother I can just talk to or
hang out with when I am feeling stressed, instead of just having my
homework, my parents, and Ethan, I really think it made a big difference
in my life.  So, yes, I do think that reading, that an intellectual bent
make a difference to a person.  Again, I'd like to repeat that this has
nothing to do with higher education (or the number of quotes a person
knows, or the impression they give you in the first month you know them) -
I think that a person can be interested in the life of the mind and an
person with whom I enjoy spending time no matter what they choose (or are
able) to do with their life - however, I do think that those last two
things are correalated for me.  There are lots of people whom I consider
to be good, kind, wonderful, admirable people whom I really cannot look
upon as friends - friendship isn't just about admiration, it's also about
wanting to spend time with a person ;-).


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