Books of Shame and Guilt
Do you read books you are slightly embarrassed about? Would not dare open in public or let others know you indulge in that genre?
I am not saying that these books might be bad, or poorly written, but for some reason, on any normal circumstance would never get past your front door, much less have a place in your reading pile.
My guilty pleasures run a mile high – from epic fantasy tomes ( Terry Brooks, Sara Douglass) to circumspective high brow romance Georgette Heyer novellas. They represent comfort reading – like a large slice of warm chocolate cake and a mug of cocoa and marshmallows, served in the snuggly warmth of a fluffy blanket on the couch…. in the middle of the week when everyone else is at work.
At its best these guilty pleasures whisk you away, suspending any belief or brain cells you may have had, relaxing your usual literary standards, and quashing your normal cynical authors voice into a contented squeak; whilst your intelligent brain quietly melts out of your ears.
I own all but the latest Wilbur Smith books – devouring them incessantly when I first discovered them. In truth, I was totally in love with one of my friends older brothers – who collected and read these novels. The family had recently emigrated from South Africa and in my deluded state believed that if I knew more about where they had come from (as obviously Wilbur Smith was an undisputed historical expert on the matter) then perhaps I might have had a chance to be ‘seen’ as more than a daydreaming 15 year old school girl.
I understand that there are both readers and authors who would consider “genre” fiction potentially lower in ‘quality’ than literary fiction. This has been a topic of discussion amongst our own Write Anything writers in the past. But I think that depends more on the author than the genre. If its poorly written fiction or poorly executed literature – it still has the same outcome – readers who struggle to grasp the meaning and message.
For parents and educators of the young, finding age appropriate material can bring the worst literary snob out. Many will lean towards ‘literary’ texts to encourage an expanding vocabulary or a broadening of the mind. Most readers are then likely to either be bored by inappropriate material because they don’t understand it, or they simply skip it. I remember as an 11 year old feeling left out as I was the only one who hadn’t read Lord of the Rings. I think I got through the first chapter and was so bored with it, I didn’t pick it up again till I went to Uni – and totally loved it then. I wonder now if those other 11 year olds had been told that they aught to read certain books as a mark of intelligence and if they had actually enjoyed or even understood most of it?
English classes at school is usually populated with dreary and out of touch texts like Jane Eyre; where as something perhaps more upbeat and culturally appropriate might serve the outcome of literature being accessible for teenagers. I say – bring in guilty pleasures for kids – Harry Potter, Sweet Valley High, dare I say it….Twilight?
I also wonder if there really is such thing as a guilty reading pleasures. The literacy rates in most countries are dropping substantially. Our society is bombarded with dribble passed off as entertainment on the television, internet, and video-games. I would suspect in the near future that if you were able to read a book without pictures, you may be hailed as a near genius.
Image courtesy of Flicka