Anyone who has taken a college writing class or a college literature class know all about the whole process they make us go through when it comes to pieces of literature. And with this I mean the whole “close reading” thing…the “analyzing” thing bla bla bla. They give us these what I feel are mundane and pointless tasks with the idea that it will make us more educated readers, that somehow without doing this or knowing how that we are too stupid to appreciate a piece of writing. Because god forbid just saying “I like it” or “I don’t like it” isn’t enough of answer or a good enough of an answer…but why isn’t it. Why is a black and white, non-bullshit answer not enough, why do I need to articulate it. Some would say that being able to articulate is a sign of an intelligent person, and it’s not that I can’t but rather I don’t feel like taking the time to do so…I don’t feel the need to prove how smart I am with every thought and word. Now don’t get wrong I love reading some of literary classics especially those of the early 2oth century Im not saying they are not worth reading because they are.
I’m a writer, I’m not a critic, I’m not a publisher, I don’t have a PHD and I’m not god. So when these professors tell us to do a close reading of someone like David foster Wallace, James Joyce, mark Twain, Henry James, Margret Atwood or Robert frost it pisses me off. These writers are far better than I might ever be so what gives me the right to place judgment on the quality of their work, what it means and whether they are “worthy” or “good”. Why do I, or should I give some long drawn out explanation on the assumptions I make of someone else’s writing that has stood the test of time.
I’ve had a few professors give their take on particular works of famous writers. What these writers are “really saying”, “what they really mean”, or how it’s some sort of secret social commentary. However, often through a little searching I’ve rarely read something from authors stating that what they wrote had any sort of hidden means or intent. So basically it’s just the college professors spouting off dumb bullshit they came up with in their own minds to sound smart and fill a syllabus meanwhile wasting our time and money as students….im almost 34 I don’t have time to waste since I already know enough pointless shit and I don’t need more.
These classes, these professors are so hell bent on making the students into a bunch of hypercritical readers looking for every flaw, failed meanings, story faults and character flaw not to mention the douchebag who need to pick what is in there opinion a grammatical error. Things like this have leaked into real world reading everyday literature. Go thru amazon.com, look thru the books, and read the reviews. You see tons of reviews picking apart someone’s book, something they spent maybe years writing and stressing over. Whereas the person writing the review often has never done something as labor intensive as writing a novel. HOWEVER, the college classes they took and the English degree or literature degree somehow makes them the judge and jury of all literature and what is good or not. I just do not get it. I do see the point in reading works by the greats, I think as readers, writers and human beings they do enrich our lives and make us better people for having experienced their words and work.
I’ve written a few reviews recently and one thing I won’t do or try not to do is write something negative about a book. I know how hard it is for someone to write a book since I did it and am doing it again. What the fuck gives me the right to tear down someone’s heart and soul just to make me feel smart and pseudo intelligent like many average reviewers. If I read a book, I like it, I write a good review and suggest it to people, and I’ll let the author know specifically what I liked about it and why, how it made me feel and how it connected to me I connected to it. But if I think the books sucked and there are many I just don’t write a review that can be seen publically…..it’s just how I role.
“If you can’t say nothing nice than don’t say it all”
Most of our parents, grandparents or teachers told us this line and in this case I think it holds true when it comes to books. The exception would be a professional reviewer that works for a magazine, newspaper or a website it’s their job to be serious about literature. No offence but burger king worker person, college student person or the pseudo-intellectual are not professionals when it comes to literature. Personally, I’m going to make up my own mind on a book. I am not going to give two shits what Johnny or June smith from “who gives a shit town” says about someone’s book. If they write a crappy review on amazon.com or some other site over coffee at the local starbucks after dropping the kids off at school and spent more time being hypercritical to prove how smart they are than taking the time to give some sort of decent or helpful advice.
Why can’t we as readers just read a book for fun? Why do we as college students have to be trained to be hypercritical of everything we read and carry those BS tactics with us in life? Why can’t we as readers just read something for the experience on reading it for the joy of doing it. Why do we have to look for flaws and imperfection with everything we read? When I first started reading and carried books and books home from the library back in the day I wasn’t worried about flaws or errors; I just wanted to read a book I might like.
I started reading a book the other day by a young woman, a Canadian author and she obviously self-published her book on amazon; her blurb drew me in. She misspelled the main characters name 27 times in the first 8 pages and then I stopped counting (and no I won’t say her name or the title). Did I delete it and jump on amazon as fast as I could and write some shitty review about it so I could make her feel like shit, make her look stupid so I could feel awesome that I proved how smart I am? NO!!!! I did not and you want to know why? Because I know some overeager asshole or bitch with too much time on their hands who talks about writing a book someday (but won’t) are going to write some bitchy ass review ranting about the errors and tear down the author and the book.
I on the other hand am willing to look past those errors, ignore it and pay attention to…well…what I feel are the important things like the story as whole, the characters, the plot and look for things I like and ignore what I don’t, they won’t even make it to my notes. Why you may ask?? Well because of the hypercritical assholes out there and that, I would like to give this young woman (when and if I do write her review) something good to work with. I will tell her what I like, what she did well so THOSE things will make it to the next book she writes if there is one. I’m working on my 2nd and 3rd soon to be published books. I am not John Grisham or Steven King, who the fuck am I to tear down anyone’s writing publically (usually).
People’s perception of what is good or not when it comes to literature is often about as flawed as a hooker’s makeup after a busy night or someone’s taxes. Therefore, I could really care less what someone says about a book unless I know this person pretty well. I do not buy books from Amazon.com or wherever based on the quality of reviews and how many stars it has. Shit, I do not even read more than the first review if I read it at all. I’m not a sheep I don’t do something just because the rest of the sheep think I should or eat something because a few other sheep say it tastes good…the other sheep can kiss my ass cuz I’m over here doing my own thing.
However, usually we writers actually read our reviews and it sucks when you see people being assholes just for the sake of being assholes. I write reviews for the author and NOT other readers I try to be helpful in a genuine way and not say something bitchy like “well I wanted to like it but there were so many errors”. I remember the old days, the better days I think maybe when you would go to the book store and browse books, looking at many, reading the back covers or inside dust jackets until you found one interesting enough to buy. But now, far too many people let others make their minds up for them when it comes not only to what to buy but what is good so with a book on amazon, KOBO or wherever if you read a review your expectations are already skewed one way or the other, you have preconceived notions on the book already. It is not fair to the writer and not fair to the reader. However, I know reviews do on occasion help book sales.
I wish more readers would just read books and enjoy the journey that is a book and not get so hung up the issues in the book if there is issues (ALWAYS are). I wish in college I could read something without having to invent some hidden meaning or read something between the lines that isn’t there just to get an A or approval. I say I like a book…why isn’t that good enough? Why do I have to throw in a bunch of BS with it? Hell there is no such thing now as proper English anymore; there are tons of variations of the English language all over the world now that the world is bigger place. You have accents, dialects, and regional words, regional phrasing, varying national and international meanings of the same word and different ways in which the word can and is used in literature form other countries. So if your gunna be a prick and get hung up on the “rules” you learned in English class in high school years and years ago or when you got that English degree and you’re NOT using in your job just shut your face and read for fun and leave the reviews to someone else. Try picking up a book and reading it for the hell of it, and not tear it apart.
I’m sure James Joyce or Hemmingway would kick asses for trying to pull that same shit with their stories.