I interrupt this blog for a moment of outrage.
Okay, maybe “outrage” is too strong a word, but when I saw the title of this New York Times opinion piece—“Adults Should Read Adult Books”—my first reaction was something like this. It’s no secret that I love young adult fiction and I fully intend to read it until the day I die. After reading the full article, though, it’s clear that this guy Joel Stein is just an idiot, more deserving of my pity than my anger. Still, I feel like I need to chew this thing up and spit it back out before moving past it, so here goes:
The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter.
Oh it’s on, Joel Stein. I’m sure you didn’t realize this, but people who proudly declare that they have never read Harry Potter and never will, like it’s somehow beneath them to even crack the cover, are among my very least favorite people in the world. My boyfriend was one of those when we first started dating, and upon learning this I proceeded to read the entire series aloud to him until he changed his mind. For the record, it only took about four chapters for that to happen, but by that point I was a train that would not be stopped until I reached the last sentence of book seven. It was very much a turning point in our relationship.
The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads.
I’d like to believe this is a poorly executed reference to parents reading books to their kids, but I have a sneaking suspicion Stein is actually making fun of people who learn to read as adults. Gross.I’m sure all those books are well written.
Even when he’s trying to throw the counterargument a bone, he’s still wrong. The Twilight books are probably the four most terribly written novels ever to be published.
shut the fuck up
everyone read whatever the hell you want
YA lit is badass
holy shit wow
w o w this makes me incredibly angry.
TELL ME, MISTER STEIN, WHAT EXACTLY CONSTITUTES AN ADULT BOOK?
IS IT DAN BROWN’S LATEST FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND HOW LANGUAGE AND HISTORY WORKS?
IS IT ONE OF THE CONSTANT STREAM OF PURPLETASTIC ROMANCE NOVELS HITTING THE SHELVES?
IS IT A PULPY SCI-FI NOVEL?
WOW, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT MEDIA AIMED AT ANYONE YOUNGER THAN THIRTY WAS INHERENTLY INFERIOR.
THAT BECAUSE CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS ARE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND AND LEARN FROM A BOOK, IT MUST BE EMBARRASSING FOR AN ADULT TO READ.
IT’S NOT LIKE CHILDRENS’ BOOKS LIKE THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH DISPLAY INCREDIBLY CLEVER WORDPLAY THAT CAN BE APPRECIATED BY ALL AGES.
OR THAT SERIES LIKE ABARAT AND THE OLD KINGDOM ARE WRITTEN WITH SUCH DEPTH OF WORLDBUILDING THAT HALF THE ENJOYMENT IS SEEING HOW THE UNIVERSE EXPANDS AS THE PROSE GOES ON.
I’M SORRY THAT YOU SEEM TO BE UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT A BOOK, NO MATTER HOW SHITTY THE PROSE, NO MATTER HOW FLAT THE CHARACTERS, NO MATTER HOW CONTRIVED THE WORLDBUILDING, IS ALWAYS A BETTER CHOICE THAN A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL IF IT’S AIMED AT THE ADULT CROWD.
GOOD FOR YOU.
YOU’RE A FUCKFACE.
I’LL TAKE MY ARTEMIS FOWL AND LEAVE NOW.
#THIS IS NOT TO SAY PEOPLE CAN’T ENJOY DAN BROWN/SHITTY ROMANCE NOVELS/PULPY SCI FI #BECAUSE GODDAMN LIKE WHAT YOU WANT JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE PROBLEMS AND /DON’T FUCKING CLAIM IT’S BETTER THAN ALL YA FICTION EVER/ #OH NO THIS BOOK DOESN’T USE ENOUGH FOUR-SYLLABLE WORDS IT MUST BE FOR BABIES!!!! #FUCK YOU #FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU #YOU ARE THE PROBLEM WITH ACADEMIA TODAY #YOU’RE PROBABLY ALSO A CLASSIST AGEIST FUCK AND I HATE YOU
Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
- C.S. Lewis
good fuck you
and fuck anyone who thinks they have the right to shame people for stories, and for loving stories and loving characters and loving worlds, because of the type of language that they use and the idea that it somehow lacks the depth or intelligence of the ‘adult’ (read: ‘well-educated, literate, white and historically male’) language code because it is told in a different way. because it has a different focus. because it has different goals.
this is not a ‘grown ups versus babies’ issue.
this is a ‘people who have access to a wealth of literary history, traditions, and educations who are benefiting their privilege of speaking the standard english variety in addition to their privileged position as educated members of society by decrying anything that doesn’t match that standard versus people who might not yet have had or may never have had those opportunities and privileges’ issue.
this is a ‘people who are perceived as being allowed to produce meaningful thought and people who aren’t because of nothing but society’ issue.
if people are writing stories then that’s good.
if people are writing stories that can be appreciated by people who don’t have access to the dominant literary paradigm then that’s really good.
if people who are teenagers, or second language learners, or speakers of a non-standard dialect, or learning disabled individuals, or people who don’t identify with the people and language and ideas represented by other kinds of literature, or any other kind of people want to read young adult literature, that’s good.
(and furthermore, this is just looking linguistically at the issue — i don’t even want to get into the fact that young adult books are often just relatable because they deal with themes that resonate with people, and that sometimes people who are oppressed and lack privilege identify with stories about personal identity and strength and reclamation rather than stories about people who aren’t oppressed and don’t lack privilege.)
so basically if you are ever saying that the type of language you use determines the importance or intelligence of your thoughts and stories and ideas, that its complexity or simplicity (read: conformity to straight rich white western straight cisgender dude tradition) determines a certain level of value or worth or meaning, that a story must be told only by the educated and the privileged and the ones who are capable of writing in the narrowly-defined literary tradition that we’ve come to valorize,
then you need to sit the fuck down and think about what you’ve done.
I remember reading something a while back that was aimed at men trying to “pick up chicks at the beach” and it was giving some bullshit advice about how you should bring Shakespeare with you because “chicks will dig that” and not Harry Potter because if you’re reading Harry Potter down by the beach then girls won’t want to talk to you because girls will think you’re childish.
My friends and I thought it was the most hilariously awful thing we’d ever read.
Honestly, I’m into guys who read Shakespeare and guys who read Harry Potter.
I’m reblogging this AGAIN because the first time all I got was the op’s post, and all this lovely extra commentary was too good to skip.