Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don't Let the Book Snobs Win

We've all brushed up against snobs. They may refer to themselves as "aspirational" about things like purses or neighborhoods, and if we don't share their view of what constitutes the good things in life, they'll move on and up.

The nice thing about Aspires is that we see them coming. They, bless 'em,  wear their wants on their sleeves. The far more dangerous kind of snob is the buddy with whom we're comfortable and very much ourselves until he/she turns judgmental about the coffee we order, our preferred form of social-media communication, and, worst of all, the books we read.

I've got no advice for you about those who insist on French-pressed coffee and declare blogging is dead. I can, however, point you to Matt Haig, who defends books (and readers) in "30 Things to Tell a Book Snob (Revisited)."

Let's say a pal sneers at your Kindle and says he only reads hardback books. Haig's got a comeback: "E-books, like paper books, are as good as the words they contain."

Need an answer for the person who puts down your favorite genre be it paranormal, cozy mystery, romance, YA, or suspense? Haig's got you covered: "To dismiss a book because of its type, not its content, is book racism."

Want to put the snob who dismisses page-turners in his place? Haig does it this way: "Plot is not a dirty word. Plot is beautiful. Plot is the old criminal finding redemption. Plot is the quest to victory, or to love. Plot is the desire for action that is symptomatic of thinking and moving and being alive." 

Read Haig's whole post, I'm begging you. Why? Because you must scroll to the end to land on number 30: "The greatest stories appeal to our deepest selves, the parts of us snobbery can’t reach, the parts that connect the child to the adult and the brain to the heart and reality to dreams. Stories, at their essence, are enemies of snobbery. And a book snob is the enemy of the book."

How do you handle book snobs? 


Liz Flaherty said...

I am always too startled to "handle" them at all. Recently, an old and dear friend (who writes much better than I do) referred to romance and women's fiction as "escape" fiction, saying it lacked realism because we embrace HEAs and writing likeable people. I was offended and still am, but I don't really have an answer for her because I don't want to further compromise the friendship.

Most of the time, I don't mind being a wimp, but there are days...

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Love this! Especially the one about book snobbery being more about people with a need to be "better than" other. I tell them I read what I like, rather than what others think I should read. As for "escapist" fiction, if I want gloom & doom, I just turn on the news.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat,

Enjoyed the post about snobs - but how do you characterize people who become hostile towards you when they see you're reading (or purchasing) a book on a subject that they don't like? Are they snobs or just idiots? (Or worse?)

Recently bought a book with a philosophical/theological theme (I also have an M.A. in Theology) and a woman behind me became irate with me. I just ignored her, of course - but it seems that besides the "snobs" in the world of book readers we have to deal with all kinds of self-appointed thought police - or has this only happened to me and I'm imagining it? I find myself sometimes "hiding" a book that I'm purchasing to avoid any unnecessary and unsolicited commentary.

Many thanks for your question about MSC - yes, I did accept the position they offered me but unfortunately the class was cancelled because of low enrollment - that didn't bother me so much but I was bothered that they didn' bother to inform me. I happened to find out by myself.

BTW, there's an excellent article about adjunct teachers which you might find interested - Google "Death of an Adjunct" or "Margaret Mary Vojtko" and you'll find the articles.

- Patrick

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Liz,
We all say and do thoughtless things. I remember remarks I tossed out that caused hurt, and I'm ashamed all these years or months later. That said, to preserve a friendship, I'd let your old and dear friend know her comment stung. It stung me.

It's easy for me to lean over a keyboard and tell you what to do. I, too, am started by remarks like that. I never have a quick, witty response. In my dreams, though, I come up with something reader-oriented. "What? You don't know women with grueling jobs, and they're taking care of an elderly parent/toddler/teenager-with-an-attitude. They live paycheck to paycheck and their feet hurt. If I can help them escape their worries for a few hours, I've accomplished a lot. Those women deserve the company of likable people, and they need happy endings."

I'd want to say something like, "Hey, that's my life's work you're bad-mouthing," but I'm a wimp about defending myself, too. The defend-the-reader strategy will, I hope, make your friend think.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
I love that Haig quote, too. Here it is: "Snobbery pretends to be about books but really it is about people. It is about people trying to feel better than other people by belittling their taste."

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patrick,
I remember a student at Montclair State walked up to you on one of your visits there and said something apropos of nothing. You're probably blessed (or cursed) with an approachable appearance. Try acting remote.

Religion's a hot button. Bookstores stocked with theology and philosophy books should attract seekers, but they draw true believers, too, and you encountered one. Sigh.

Sorry your class was cancelled. I'm off now to Google the article and name you mentioned.

Lark Howard said...

Excellent post, Pat. I'm so tired of being judged when I tell "civilians" I write paranormal romance. I find myself justifying my genre because so many people enjoy being contemptuous of romance in general. I'm going to write down some of Matt retorts and use them next time someone says something like: "I only read literature," or "Reading fiction is a waste of time."

Coleen Patrick said...

Live and let live=read and let read?
I can't keep up with the snobbery. It used to bother me more when I was younger, but interestingly never enough that I stopped reading what I liked, to read what they were telling me I had to read.