In the annals of Great Ways to Annoy Literary Agents (TM), saying you wrote your book because you couldn’t find any good books to read (or, its crass corollary: because so many books are “trash”) may not be in the top 10, but it is at least in the top 5,000. (The list is infinite, by the way – this blog may be here a while).
Let’s examine why calling most or all or even some books “trash” is akin to slowly inserting a sliver under your prospective agent’s fingernail while hitting them over the head with a wet fish:
1) The agent is currently working their gluteus maximuses to the maximus to sell books that are actually really great, and is probably having a hard time with some of them because this business is too tight to sell all of the really good books agents come across, let alone anything that could remotely be considered “trash.”
2) The agent has represented any number of incredible, awesome books that are just sitting on bookshelves waiting to be discovered by people who are overly quick to dismiss everything or lots of things as “trash” and not quick enough to go looking for said gems when in fact there are way too many good books published in a single year for anyone to read in an entire lifetime.
But let’s be honest, hmm? Avoiding the list of Great Ways to Annoy Literary Agents is not the real reason aspiring writers should hesitate before bashing swaths of literature as “trash.”
Here’s why: when a writer calls a book “trash” they have closed themselves off from learning anything from that book.
Taste is extremely personal. Amateur cultural anthropologist Nathan’s theory (that’s DOCTOR Amateur Cultural Anthropologist to you) is this: we are hard-wired to want to be a part of the “In” group. We want people to like us, and we want people to like the things that we like. When something that we can’t stand becomes very very popular some sort of survival instinct kicks in, and we want to tear that popular thing to shreds so that we are not left out of the group. And we will even turn ourselves into Crazy Raving Lunatics in order to make this happen.
Horrible Amazon reviews, irrational hatred of Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown, slandering of books as “trash”: one part jealousy, five thousand parts making taste overly personal.
People very quickly forget that every book they consider “trash” is someone else’s most favorite book ever. And what happens when writers of all people do this is they turn the book they hate into the “other.” The book (and the author who wrote it) becomes the enemy. And then they learn nothing from it.
Every popular book is popular for a reason. Sure, chance is a big reason, but if thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of people like a book and are talking about it and passing it along to their friends: the author has done something right.
It may not be a great work of literature, it may not be something that you personally would want to read, it may have some typos, it may drive you to the brink of insanity. But the author has done something well if they are published and their books are selling. If you have hopes of reaching a big audience someday you would do well to absorb and learn from what that “something” is.
In other words: sure, go ahead and irrationally hate something. It’s in your DNA! (Note: probably not true) But try and resist the “trash” syndrome, especially if you’re a writer. Not only have you probably stopped learning, but don’t forget: someone else thinks your books are trash too, and they’re no more right than you are.
I couldn't agree more!
I'm not a fan of Twilight or the DaVinci Code, but good grief, blasting them has become like an exclusive club's secret handshake- you're not a real writer unless you loath them. Far better to learn what you can from the books you don't like.
Here's hoping we all find our WIP's out on the shelves, with critics wondering why they're popular.
Joanne Sher says
I "almost" lived this firsthand. I had an idea for a novel, and before I could start it another author had the AUDACITY to write it and GET IT PUBLISHED. I SO wanted to hate her and her book (I even bought it with the hopes it would be lousy!). But it wasn't. And I now follow that author on Twitter and FB. You can learn from ANYTHING you read.
D. G. Hudson says
'Trashing' of anything other than your own work implies arrogance and immaturity.
If we as writers want everyone to read, then we can't restrict what they read.
I like your point, Nathan, that if we're on the receiving end of this type of comment, we'd probably feel it was unfair. We're not all equal judges of what's good quality, we're only entitled to select what we like and leave the rest for others. IMO, of course.
Wow. This really hits home. I have been known to express negative opinions about certain authors, albeit within my own writer's group and friends and certainly never in any public or professional forum, and now feel a bit chastised. The one thing that I would like to add to the discussion, however, is that more than anything with these authors, when I am expressing my opinion, I am frustrated. I go to writing conventions, read blogs, go to my writers group, read books, learn all these things that help to differentiate good writing from bad writing, and even more importantly, great writing from merely passable. I apply myself as hard as I can, rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite and then can't get anyone to get past my query letter, much less look at the actual product. Then, I go into Barnes and Noble, pick up a book that has just "gone platinum" and find 47 adverbs on the first page, typos throughout the book, passive voice, etc. I may be alone, but besides just calling "sour grapes", understand that some of us are merely frustrated by the fact that the very crimes that we are trying to expunge from our own writing are all over the pages of the latest best seller. I almost certainly wouldn't go so far as to call any book trash, but I make no bones about discussing among friends and fellow writers the pros and often cons of various books and writers. Great discussion everyone!
Come on–you're a lit major? Taste is all 'subjective'? This is undergraduate posturing at its worth, Nathan. Yes, one should be classy enough to not call books trash (even if they are trashy). Probably this is jealousy, in a lot of cases (even if the books are trashy). But to then move from that claim, to a further claim that 'everything is a matter of taste' is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and to surely miss the whole point of reading–the education of the sentiments, the hierarchy of values. You drunk?
BUT sometimes when I read a picture book to my kids I think to myself, "Huh?" Some of them are just not good. But then again, I have a small library in town with not a lot of newly released books. Maybe. You gotta admit that a few of them are stinkers.
Although I could be getting pickier in my old age. I keep going to movies with high expectations and I haven't see one in awhile that I like.
Maybe it's me!
Hollie Sessoms says
Ha! Love it! As an unpublished writer, I feel a bit like a jerk for criticizing successful writers. It's like that friend of mine who wasn't even good enough to play college football, but watches the pros play EVERY SUNDAY and criticizes EVERY PLAY that is made and can't believe it when someone fumbles.
How uncool is it of me to talk about Dan Brown's shoddy writing when I'm sitting in my pjs cataloging rejection letters?
Adam Heine says
I really, really, really like this post. I made a similar realization recently.
Nathan, have you read Blue Like Jazz? It mentions something like your "in group" theory, using the analogy of a rowboat.
Like, we all have this idea that we're on a sinking ship, but there aren't enough rowboats for everyone and only the "cool people" (in-crowd, important, necessary, you name it) will get spots. We don't know where the cut-off is, but we're constantly comparing, trying to make sure we're at least "better than that person over there" to convince ourselves we'll get a spot.
This mentality results in garbage like this — treating people terribly based on their opinions when, by definition, an opinion cannot be wrong.
Anyway, I think you're on to something. You may have a career waiting for you in amateur cultural anthropology.
Nathan Bransford says
You're disagreeing with the parts of my post that aren't actually in my post.
Nathan, Good call. I was a little trigger happy there–I've been reading awful undergrad essays all day. Sorry. However, writing "Not only have you probably stopped learning, but don't forget: someone else thinks your books are trash too, and they're no more right than you are" strikes me as false. No?
Nathan Bransford says
It might be a little glib. But if Steven King thinks Stephenie Meyer sucks and Harold Bloom thinks Steven King sucks and Stephenie Meyer thinks Harold Bloom sucks (she hasn't said this, but it would complete the trifecta), who's right?
I just don't get why anyone would put that in a query…some personal opinions aren't meant to be shared 😛
Note: I hope that doesn't sound like I think most books are trash 'cause I don't! I know I'm a picky reader–much of it has to do with a lack of attention span. Sure there are books out there I don't like but I don't call them trash.
There's also a division between a negative review and one that trashes the book. Reading reviews like that on Amazon or wherever make me cringe and sometimes I just want to write a scathing comment back to said reviewer. But I never do, probably for the best 🙂
Marilyn, you're awesome.
Nathan, this is a killer post – really funny and clever. The last line is just really good.
In terms of the topic, I think telling an agent in a query that most books are 'trash' is an example of really not knowing your audience.
I imagine that someone might include that in a query letter in order to try to bond with the agent about improving the quality of literature, e.g. representing their particular book. It strikes me as a tactic that is very likely to re-bound. I hope people who might be tempted to try it are reading your post.
In terms of people calling books 'trash' in ordinary conversations, I'd imagine that some of it is jealousy, definitely. But I think some of it may also be an expression of frustration – like Darin said – or sort of a hidden concern about what makes something popular, and will their own book reach people. I'm not sure I'm saying this well, but something about: What is it that people like? Will people understand and appreciate what I have to say in my book? I think that's what's hidden underneath.
B.J. Anderson says
Great post! I think its just plain rude to say books are trash or dis an author's work in a public forum. Whatever happened to good manners?!
Marilyn Peake says
Thanks, Mira! Wow, what an incredibly nice surprise to find that compliment here!
Donna Hole says
I don't put much energy in reading reviews for the simple reason that "taste is extremely personal".
I've finished books that I really didn't like because I knew there was something to learn. Either about story composition, or character building, or writing style.
There are some authors – and novels – out there I really don't like, but when I get stuck for a concept, or emotion, I'll pick up one of their novels to get a sense of the emotion or action I'm lacking. Lets face it; if they're on the best sellers list, they must be doing something right – even if its not to my taste.
Twilight isn't trash. It's potato chips dipped in chocolate and then crack. By which I mean that everyone read it and loved it while they were doing it and ate it up with a spoon. Then, afterward, feeling of regret and shame set in, and now we're all disavowing it like we didn't love it. We read it. We liked it. It's not trash.
Yes, it's all too easy to point fingers and "trash" a popular novel–but that person was once an unpublished hopeful just like most of us. Notice most of the folks pointing fingers have never had anything published but are posers pretending to be literary snobs.
We should try to keep that in mind and hope that one day our books are good enough to be published and at least discussed, if not dissed.
I like this post. I've recently started a blog reviewing books I read and one of the first books I reviewed was Catcher in the Rye. A classic, but I didn't like it.
The reason I didn't like it was because it was to analytical, and so negative. It was hard to read, without almost feeling guilty for being a part of society. However, that's part of what makes it a good book" scathing, unapologetic criticism.
If you approach any book with an open mind, you'll find you can learn something.
Going to shut up now, before I start singing the Pocahontas theme song! lol!
Billi Jean says
Nathan — cracking up, but not so much at your blog, well, the wet fish is still an image that can raise a chuckle, but have you read your comments? And I love the ones that start with: I agree….then disagree!
Maybe that would be a great next blog.
😉 billi jean
Well said, Mr. Bransford. I had the misfortune of encountering Twilight bashing at, of all things, a writers' conference. Jealousy is such an ugly beast.
Wanton trashing, I disagree with.
But nothing — even books — is beyond being trashed. In an infinite universe, the trash is out there somewhere (and some of us may even have written it).
My view on trash is that if you're going to summon it as a weapon to deride a book/person/thing
a) You'd better have an eloquent and reasoned argument.
b) You'd better be prepared to be wrong, and for one to a zillion people to hate you.
Well said. I totally agree.
The strange thing for me was when my writing mentor had this reaction to my work. She isn't a published author–just another aspiring writer, like me–but I call her a mentor because she helped me to set daily goals and treat writing like a profession, not just a hobby. I asked her to be an alpha reader for one of my first novels, and she told me it was so bad she couldn't bring herself to finish it. Very weird.
I think this is what happened: she knows all the "rules" of writing by heart and tries very hard to follow them, but when she saw me violate them, she decided my writing was bad because it broke the rules. Truth was, I knew the rules and "broke" them with my eyes wide open, careful to be sure I was doing it for a reason. I later submitted that excerpt from my novel to a university writing story contest and won first place–which probably made this girl hate my writing even more.
There's no way to win with people like this, except to wait patiently for them to come around and change on their own. I don't hate her for having that reaction, and even though we don't talk as much, we're still friends. Her opinion of my work doesn't threaten my work, and that outlook enables me to keep from responding in kind.
I want to be a writer so that I can write books that change people's lives in the ways my favorite books changed mine–I hope that the people who think my writing is trash don't make me lose sight of the people whose lives I manage to touch.
A few quick comments.
(1) Does anyone kno wwho it was that somebody earlier referred to who created a genre by declaring "everything out there written for teenagers is trash"? What was her book and what was the genre? I'd like to hunt it down.
(2) THose who are obsessed with the idea of "literary quality" might do well to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The author chronicles how he went temporarily insanne from trying to rigorously define quality in writing.
(3) I find that a very highly regarded writer of the new generation who writes in a genre I enjoy, has good politics, and appears to be a heck of a nice guy nonetheless consistently comes up with material I find unreadable. Can't say why for sure, it just seems "clunky". Like looking at a buildinbg and being able to see all the spot welds and construction scaffolding. And the prose appears to be written as much to instruct as to entertain – fine if you can do it well, Heinlein was a master. But with this writer, it just seems to impede the story.
But all that being said, I'd never call his work "trash". It just strikes me as surprisingly less well written than I would have expected.
So, I agree with your point, Nathan. And I'll go further to say that I think people who call popular fiction "trash" because it is popular are revealing their own snootiness and elitism.
There's 3 different points here.
1. Saying books are trash in a query letter: No-brainer, if you put it in, you're a moron, apply to X factor at once.
2. In general, thinking/saying almost all books are trash: When you are saying 95% of a medium is awful, you don't like the medium. Be it films, music, art, literature, car design, financial packages, headphones – If you like a small sliver of that medium and dismiss the rest, this is your standpoint: You dislike all of it, it's just that a tiny fraction is palatable enough for you to enjoy. I dislike poetry, can't get my head round it. I've found maybe a dozen ones I like. Ergo, I'm not a fan of poetry, ergo, trashing it en masse makes me look like a prat.
3. You think something is so bad you feel the need to tell someone, aka, 'Trash':
OK. This is an opinion. It seems to me the problem is you are not allowed to have a open negative opinion. If you think something is great, you are allowed any public forum to say so. To use the same public forum where 'opinions' (and remember, good and bad, they are both opinions) are stated to declare you loathed something, is deemed "trashing".
Now I do believe in the housewives adage, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say it", however, if you extol free speech you've got to expect someone to say something unpleasant once in a while. Otherwise what's the point of opinions and/or public forums? If you're not allowed to state a public opinion unless it's positive, for fear of censorship, is Fascism.
To the "I don't hate any books – they all have worth" brigade, or the "I never judge anything" crew: What?
Cynically, I think you could be lying just to make yourself look nice and fluffy in the public domain while behind closed doors you're stabbing effigies of Neil Gaiman with hairpins and throwing little wax JK Rowlings on the fire. In reality, it's probably a little personal pride that you give every book you pick up a chance, while forgetting the times you've been in the pub after a few, arguing that Clive Barker should be burned at the stake. And then when you remember this you reach for the utterly worthless statement "If it's popular it must be good." If it is true, I don't want to talk to you. Anyone who can't passionately dislike something, can't possibly understand me who does. Those who like everything or, even worse, thinks everything is brilliant and fluffy and lovely, makes me sad….and precariously close to homicide.
There is such a thing as the Emperors new clothes. Now, I don't think this is a widespread phenomenon, but it does happen. There is very little other way to explain the fact "The Sun" is the biggest selling newspaper in England, or that Doop had a number 1 single with "Doop" (not to mention 'crazy Frog's remix of Axel F). How else do you explain that the source of all evil in the world, Max Clifford, is a millionaire and not a blind, paraplegic leper like he deserves to be? Sometimes people get caught up in the hype, in the 'in crowd', and follow the same fashions, expressing pleasure and adoration in the process.
To use Nathan's anthropological argument, as much as people will knock something they are not part of in order to justify and improve their position, others will assume the likes and loves of a group in order to gain acceptance. "Peer pressure" in other words. I will state for the record that this occurs much, much less than many 'pop-culture' bashers with their pipes and their dog-eared copies of Chaucer like to think. But it does still happen. I loved the Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately, I read 'Digital Fortress' and wound up in hospital. That’s not jumping on the Da Vinci Code Bandwagon. That isn't Trashing ‘Digital Fortress’ either, that’s opinion. I'll open the "Devil's Bible" (as I like to call it) and point you through everything that's wrong with it if you like.
A mindless, unconsidered opinion, be it negative or positive (oddly enough the positive comments nark me more than the negative ones) is as useless as an articulate, insightful one is valuable.
Not only have you probably stopped learning, but don't forget: someone else thinks your books are trash too, and they're no more right than you are.
You're a genius and a diplomat, Nathan. That last clause could have gone two ways. Thanks for taking the high road. It is much appreciated.
Adam Heine says
Coming off of Andrew's point, I think part of the problem is a confusion between:
(1) Saying you dislike a book (music, art, whatever).
(2) Saying a book is bad in a way that implies good/bad is objective.
(3) Implying that another human being is worth less of your respect because they like a book that you think is bad.
I'm guessing (in a completely unscientific manner) that most people will agree (1) is okay, (2) is a good subject for discussion, and (3) is childish.
What I think a lot of people don't realize is how often we do (2) and (3) when all we meant to say was (1).
Wouldn't it really depend on what standard the book was being measured against?
The standard uncritically assumed here seems to be "someone likes it." Apply the same standard to, say, food and you justify an all ice cream diet. Apply this like-able food standard to dogs, and you justify slurping up a puddle of sweet, sweet anti-freeze from the driveway.
Don't drink that, Rover, it's trash.
You arrogant, myopic elitist! Bark!
Apply the same standard to public discourse, and you get… well, 21st Century public discourse, in which ill-considered, uninformed "trash" that nevertheless makes some people feel good competes on par with well-considered, informed opinion.
"But, reading fiction doesn't set public policy or making me fat; it's just for enjoyment!" one might protest.
The psyche can't be corrupted by trashy but enjoyable input like the law or the body can, right? I mean, if it could, we would see the corrupting effects manifest in… oh… thinking about quality in a diffuse and unqualitative way.
Joseph L. Selby says
What about rational hatred of Dan Brown and Stepenie Meyer? Are those okay?
Steve, I think it was S.E. Hinton, who wrote The Outsiders when she was sixteen because Young Adult fiction of her time didn't address anything Young Adults cared about or were actually living through.
But I don't know if this was the author that was being referred to. I think many people consider S.E. Hinton the originator of the modern Young Adult contemporary novel, though. I know I do.
Very true–and I think we could all be a little nicer to fellow writers. I prefer to think of them as members of the same crazy team, not as potential competitors who I must despise for their success (naive thought, probably). I once said that my goal was to write someone's favorite book, and I'll ignore how many people hate it.
At the same time, I have to give a nod to the "I can't find any books I want to read" camp–this can be based not on "because they're all trash" but more on "because the current trends in writing style and topics of interest just aren't my cup of tea." I find that I'm tending to go back in the annals and read older stuff because I'm just not enthralled with the stories en vogue right now. That will, of course, change, as all trends do!
Elisabeth Black says
Do people really put stuff like that in a query? How… um, irrelevant, to say the least.
Jan Markley says
Nathan: I should have had you there when I was defending my masters thesis in cultural anthropology! You could have gone all 'innovation vs tradition' on them (no wait save that for the electronic book vs. paper book debate). Also b/c I had just broken my ankle in three places, had surgery, and had a knee high cast – but that's another story).
Next time you can use the highly esteemed anthropological theory that was derived from a shampoo commercial back in the 70s, commonly known as the 'I'll tell two friends, and you tell two friends' theory of networking.
We have a simultaneous need to belong and be unique. At first we want to be part of the group of people who are reading a certain book and then we want to break away and be unique by rejecting it.
I think it is fair to say that a certain book isn't in a genre that you tend to read. I'm a bit of a literary snob but make a point of reading in other genres and recently enjoyed an urban vampire book (even though I'm still all 'why can't vampires and werewolves just get along.' I also saw some interesting plot and character devices that I will utilize at some point in my writing.
As writers there is something we can learn from everything we read.
I'm with Adam Heine, as I think people too often conflate "I don't like this" with "This isn't any good." Yet lack of quality and disliking something are two vastly different things.
Sad to say, not all books are written for you. In fact, most aren't, as they have a different intended audience with a different set of sensibilities. This is not the book's fault, nor does it make it a bad book. It merely means you are likely not to enjoy it. And that means you chose the wrong book, nothing more.
The problem with calling somethign "trash" is that it's a dismissive statement, not an analytical one. It's fine to dislike something. It's even fine to hate something with a burning passion. But neither this dislike or this hate make it a bad book – it's just a bad book for you.
Critical discourse is something different, an attempt to evaluate a book. And that critical discourse is only as good as the argument it makes. "Trash" is not an argument. And any honest critical discourse should attempt to examine the book for what it is, not for what you want it to be. You don't analyze a thriller against a set of values determined by Ulysses. It wasn't attempting to meet those values.
So, critical discourse is fine. All books have flaws (particularly since flaws are so often subjective). Certain bestsellers will have lots of them. I don't think there's anything wrong with critical commentaries pointing these out, either. But these flaws still do not make something "trash". A bestseller with many flaws has still pleased many, many readers – it has succeeded despite its flaws, a feat in its own right. And it might be relevant to figure out how it did so.
That, to me, is what critical discourse is all about. And I don't see much of that in "trashing" something. Your likes and dislikes are arbiters of quality only for yourself. If someone has a critical argument to make, they should step up and make it. And leave the insults on the playground.
Just my take.
Lisa R says
I don't think you should call other peoples' books trash in a query letter. That seems pretty obvious. I mean if you're going to do that then you better be prepared to bring it. You better be a freaking literary God. I agree with Nathan that you can deplore a book but that you can always learn something from it. There are plenty of books I hated that I learned from–even if it was "that's not what I want to do in my own work". That said, I really didn't enjoy Dan Brown's work all that much but I totally respect what he's done career-wise and did find the premise very intriguing. Also I have no interest AT ALL in anything vampire-related but I'd hardly call the vampire work out there today trash since there is clearly a huge market for it. I think that you can hate a particular book or author but still respect that they have done well for themselves or done something original or sold millions of copies–whatever it may be. I hated Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath but there's no denying his literary genius (and I learned that whole thing about the inter-chapters or whatever they were called!) Also I think the whole calling other books trash thing is a lot like the bully in the schoolyard syndrome–you need to "trash" other people to make yourself feel better.
I write a lot, and read a lot, and read a lot of "quality" and – guess what – I really enjoyed The DaVinci Code years ago on a vacation. Because he did a great job of entertaining and keeping me turning pages. Take that, High Literary Writers!
Also left a writing and discussion group 2 years ago because two academics were in it, and you had to like what they liked/dislike what they disliked, on pain of shunning, and anything with a story or entertainment value was disliked. Life is too short for nonsense – I got back some free time and they are still getting paid little to nothing to publish literary, cutting edge poetry that no one buys or reads….
I agree. I give kudos to anyone that is willing to embrace their creative side and try and make a go at it. That alone is a treasure not trash.
Fawn Neun says
Art is subjective and can't be measured.
The purpose of art is to reflect the human experience, and there are more subtle shades and perspectives of that than can be dreamed in any philosophy.
The strong use of universals is what helps grow the popularity of a work of art. (And even if it's "trash" it's still art.) I think the best instruction I've ever gotten on the definition of art was from Tom Rollins' "Skinny Legs and Well". Create something you wish to see that cannot already be found in the world. This is elevation to a higher plane, and cannot, artistically, be "judged".
Oh, you can check off demerits for sloppy grammar or messy brush strokes, but art is humanity striving for the divine, to become a creator in the world, in every way that human beings are capable of striving.
Who the hell are we to "judge" that?
Paul Neuhardt says
Having commented on Stephen King, I'll go to Stephanie Myer now, as she seems to be one of the two main literary whipping children here, Dan Brown sharing the stocks with her.
I read all four of the Twilight novels for no other reason than I wanted to be able to have a conversation with my four teenage daughters (13, 15 and 17, Lord help me).
They loved the books, while I found them mediocre, particularly the second, New Moon. What I found interesting was that we all had the same general commentary on the books.
The kids all loved the story lines, and I agree that Meyer has created an interesting twist on the vampire novel. Not amazing, but interesting.
The kids and I all agreed that Meyer spends too long on the teen angst of the protagonist Bella, and that we all were ready to slap the whiny little child and tell her to grow up already. The 13 year-old was the most irritated by this, interestingly enough.
We all agree that some sections of the books tend to drag, and she seems to have spent more time trying to boost her page count than advance her story.
We all agree that we have read better written books (including Meyer's own "The Host," another decent but not outstanding work).
What we don't agree on is the quality of the books. They all label the books as "really cool, and everyone needs to read them." I give them all a rating of, "It's not time ripped out of your life, but I've enjoyed many other works a lot more."
Now, do I think Meyer's books are quality? You bet I do. Why? Because they engaged a large audience and brought reading pleasure to that audience Are they great works of literature. Certainly not. But they were read and enjoyed by a wide audience, and that in and of itself denotes a measure of quality to them.
Okay, so the audience was teen girls. Nothing at all is wrong with that. If I thought I had anything to say that the teen girl audience would want to hear, I would be happy to write for them, and I would be overjoyed to have as many people read and enjoy my work as has Stephanie Myer.
Isn't the joy of reading what it is supposed to be about?
Lisa R says
Well said. I think books that get kids, particularly teenagers, interested in reading is a fantastic thing. I used to teach children and I remember when Harry Potter first came out I saw children who hated to read so much they wouldn't read the words on a cereal box lugging around these giant Harry Potter tomes, completely enthralled. It was very exciting. I agree with what you said about Meyers' books.
L. V. Gaudet says
Never bash the trash.
I like coffee, you like hot cocoa, and that's ok.
Yup, I'm guilty of this. Sometimes the snob rears her ugly head. Jealous? Absolutely.
Personally, I think that some of the most chastised authors are only guilty of giving many readers what they really want–good old fashioned love making, drama, over-the-top action, etc–in the purest form. Maybe readers don't have to work as hard for it–but who decided reading has to be work?
Amen! It makes me very sad when people hate on my favorite sparkling vampire. What's wrong with enjoying a book for enjoyment's sake? There is a reason we have different genres. One size does not fit all. 🙂
I don't think all "hatred" of popular authors is always irrational or jealousy. Sometimes people have legitimate reasons for disliking certain authors, and their popularity doesn't factor into it at all.
It's very unfair of you to say that hatred of Stephenie Meyer, or Dan Brown or anyone else is irrational. That completety discounts and dismisses those who have real, valid issues with what those authors (or any others) write.
Also, why is calling something "trash" unacceptable, but calling something "the greatest book ever written" is fine? They're both opinions, and both, in all likelihood, hyperbole. And both can be disputed by people who disagree. Just the same, though, that's what the author of those opinions feels. And they have every right to feel that.
It's not right to say they're wrong to call something trash unless you also say they are wrong to call something the greatest book ever. Because, in all honesty, an opinion is an opinion, no matter how exaggerated, and everyone's got a right to find something to be trash or to be the best thing ever, even if everyone in the world disagrees.
I'm with you on the 'Don't trash' thing. I've always thought it says more about the trasher than the trashee, and not in a good way, either.
Still can't get open-id to work 🙁
It's a great way to annoy a librarian too 🙂
Wayne K says
I hate lots of books, but am able to keep it to myself. My personal opinions are, well, personal. Bringing other people over to my side isn't going to happen, and it doesn't strengthen my conviction.
You say: "…they're no more right than you are".
Nathan, after having a discussion with someone I admire, I've changed my mind about something. I believed that all people's opinions were equal because everyone has a right to believe what they want… But now I realise that not all opinions are equal. People can be pretty obtuse sometimes, ignorant (I am, I admit it), and not everyone has the same information to draw upon when they state their opinion(s). Some people can't make an unbiased decision – they don't know all the facts, or all the facts aren't there to learn. But I think if you do learn and you do study, you can state your opinion, and no matter what it is, it's as equally valid as the next. But if you just state what you think and have no idea of all sides…
So who is best to state whether a book is great? Can you judge it from numbers sold? Some writers sell millions of copies, yet their writing lacks finesse and artistry. Conversely, how many writers never see their work published even though their prose is elegant and meaningful, just because they're not in the right time with the right piece? Or with work that's too deep for most markets? (My friend has this problem: editors have told her she's going to struggle to sell it even though it's great.) Not every reader wants a work of art; some just want a quick getaway from their life, or they don't appreciate the prose anyway (the standard of grammar today – my own family among them!). Mass-appeal books fill this space. Does that make these worthy of aspiring to, writing to aim for?
I believe (rightly or wrongly) that makes them lucky. They wrote a book that fills a need in a time when people want quick fixes and fast-paced plots.
So I don't agree that all popular books are something to learn from. I admire books that teach me something, that make me question my beliefs. I admire the artistry behind carefully chosen words and sentences. I admire strong characters and intriguing worlds. I don't admire action for the sake of action.
And before anyone thinks I'm a writer who's been rejected and wants to place the blame elsewhere, I'm not. I'm only just editing my novel now. 🙂
Oh, and I certainly wouldn't trash an author or tell an agent that I know best. I don't. My beliefs are mine, and I'll admit, they're often flawed through ignorance when it comes to the wider world. Honestly, even if I personally dislike an author's work, kudos to them for beating the masses and getting a publishing deal. Just don't expect me to admire their linguistic skills.
Well, now I've added my two cents, away I go to bed. Goodnight from the UK!
And I hope you don't mind this belated contribution!