Genre prejudice

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Jul 15 17:42:29 EDT 2003


Charlie offered

>There's an interesting article by Dave Wolverton on this subject

and gave a web address I have now been able to see the text from.  Reading
that text has reminded me (not the first time I have been so reminded) of a
real puzzlement of mine.

One of my friends was once told scathingly by a highbrow of her
acquaintance that she "ought" to read "real literature" rather than books
she simply enjoyed, and she embarked upon a course of serious reading
recommended by said highbrow, to improve her mind or at least her cultural
standing among her friends.

I visited her about ten weeks later, and her son let me into the house just
in time for me to walk into the room as she threw a book from her with vim,
vigour and a loud cry of "Enough!"

Her explanation for this violence (it hit me in the face -- luckily it was
a paperback) was that she was bored to death with books that started with
the heroine in an unhappy marriage in an inconvenient or nasty house, and
proceeded to have the heroine not quite have an affair, not quite decide to
leave the bloke, fail to deal with a broken kitchen appliance, and finally
end up in the same house still in the unhappy marriage about a week later,
after nothing in particular had happened for what felt like hundreds of
pages.  She particularly objected, apparently, when these books were
written partly in the first and partly in the third person, and
occasionally lapsed for no reason she could fathom into the second, and
when the flash-backs to boring and it turned out irrelevant events in
previous houses made her want to scream.  Well, in the end simply made her
scream.

My serious question was then and still is, why do people do this to themselves?

What is the shame in reading for pleasure, and why is it somehow admirable
to read what one does not find pleasurable and only ploughs through out of
some sort of sense of duty -- and to whom is the perceived duty, and how
does it arise, and why do more people not do as my friend did, fling the
thing from them and simply *stop*?  Particularly if there is no reason to
suppose that the end of the book will be in any way a conclusion, so one
might just as well abandon it at any point?

What is the expectation that justifies the effort?

There may be circumstances such as work of some kind that force one to read
things even if one does not enjoy them, but what other considerations are
there that lead to such apparently unsatisfying behaviour?

Genuinely bewildered

Minnow


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