Fair warning: this one’s gonna be a rant.
I think we can agree that when we’re talking about books – online, IRL, whatever – certain ones are cooler to like than others. I think we can further agree that Twilight and its sequels fall firmly in the “others” category. In fact, I’ll go further: in the current literary landscape, if you like Twilight, you almost have to hide it. Like it’s some shameful secret to tell your priest in confession, like they’re going to put a scarlet “T” on your chest.
And for good reason. Because mention Twilight, and prepare to watch people who are otherwise nice, thoughtful, reasonable individuals start spewing comments about how those books are only for teenage girls who read fantasy fulfillment stories because they’re too stupid to understand real writers.
Not to put too fine a point on it: this is bullshit.
Hang on, I think that was too subtle. I’ll try again.
If you look down on people for reading Twilight, that is FUCKING BULLSHIT.
Literary snobbery is a fool’s game to begin with, of course, because anything you like, someone else is looking down their nose at it. Harry Potter fans turn up their noses at Twilight, Lord of the Rings lovers mock Harry Potter, people who read “real” literature scorn anything in a genre, and James Joyce fanatics chuckle condescendingly at everybody else in the world. Even if you like Ulysses you’re not safe, because the guy to your left has read Finnegans Wake and thinks you’re adorable for writing it with an apostrophe. There’s always a snobbier snob.
Yes, you say, but snobbery is silly. I like what I like because it appeals to me, and nobody’s going to tell me otherwise just because they have more letters after their name.
Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere. Because, you see, here’s the key point, the deep dark secret of books (and art in general) that no snob wants to admit:
The quality of all fiction is totally subjective.
Or, to put it another way: “good writing” and “bad writing” are all in your head. If you like it, it’s good; end of story.
I can already hear people protesting. There have to be objective measures of skill, right? What about plot? Pacing? Structure? Word choice? What about style? An enticing hook and a satisfying ending? Worldbuilding? Hell, if nothing else, what about spelling the words right?
Sorry, folks. All of that stuff only matters insofar as it creates a better subjective experience for the reader. (Now, to be clear, certain factors will make you appeal subjectively to a lot more people, which is where the delusions of objectivity come from. But fundamentally it’s all subjective.)
I’ll put this another way.
My favorite book is The Lord of the Rings. Why? Is it because the characters are deep, the worldbuilding is unprecedented, the scope is literally epic? Partly, but none of that gets to the core. The reason I love The Lord of the Rings is that it touches something inside me. Tolkien’s words reach into my soul and give me feelings that are indescribable. Reading that book is, for me, transcendent. And because of that, nothing else matters.
You can tell me the beginning is slow, the dialogue is cheesy, the plot is derivative, the morals are hypocritical, the story is racist. All those things may be valid to varying degrees, and are certainly worthy of further discussion. But when it comes to loving the book, none of that is right or wrong, it’s simply irrelevant.
I love the book because I love it. You can’t retroactively invalidate the experience of love.
I’m not personally a fan of the Twilight books. You don’t have to be, either. You can think Stephenie Meyer is a bad writer; that’s your opinion and you are entitled.
But if you’re honestly going to look down on another human being because their positive feelings are triggered by a different series of words than you? Then it’s possible you might be missing the entire point of reading books in the first place.
Okay. Rant over! See you tomorrow, kids!
..although it does ruin my plans for the night. I was going to head out to the local teenage emo hangout and stage a mock burning of Edward Cullen. But if it doesn’t make me cool, there doesn’t seem to be much point. Perhaps I’ll stay in and read some derivative and cheesy 80’s fantasy novels instead.
There was an effigy-burning and I didn’t get the invite?? :-O
Ah, this is tricky.
I for one, HATE Twilight, but mostly because it hits my pet peeves in the worst ways and certain other factors, though I will admit, it has some things going for it.
But I agree with you 100%.
This is just my opinion, what I believe. I believe Harry Potter is better than Twilight, and I can give a million reasons, again, that’s just my pov. And then, I can agree that something else may be better than Harry Potter and yet still firmly enjoy Harry Potter more….which might not make much sense. There are things I feel are horrible, yet love them anyways and that’s why we have the phrase “guilty pleasures”.
But I’d never look down on lovers of Twilight. I try my best not to. It’s just very hard not to seem like you are. If you hate the books, then you must hate the people who love them, which for me isn’t the case.
I may have my own personal reasons why I think others enjoy them, but that’s just for me and I can totally be wrong. But if I ever express these things to a twilight fan, they might get insulted.
So, it’s hard to not be a snob. As long as you love something and hate something else, you might be seen as that no matter what you do.
Nah, I get what you’re saying. I’m guilty too – I can’t stand Eragon, and I’ll catch myself being snobby about that if I’m not careful. Whatevs – it happens. I think we’re on the same page here. 🙂
Also, I love Harry Potter. *looks around to see if Harold Bloom is hiding somewhere snickering*
I read half of the first scene of the first chapter of Eragon (I admit I did get past the tiny prologue) and I stopped reading and it shall forever remain on my bookshelf.
What kind of character continues to try to hunt a deer DURING an unexpected explosion?
I kind of wish I had opened the book and read a few pages before buying the book.
But I could just be very picky lol. Yet it’s the book! The book! I honestly don’t have an opinion about the fans. That’s the difference. It’s just a hard difference to make in the middle of a rant.
Your rant = brilliance. And funny brilliance, at that! It’s the best kind, really.
Oh crap, does that opinion make me a snob??
Thanks Kristan! And you should know I make an exception for all pro-Buckley snobbery. Shh…don’t tell anybody!
You make a great point. It’s like that old saying, though: Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, hate me because I’m conceited. I would never begrudge a Twilight fan their books (I read the first one and, like you, found I didn’t care for them) and I certainly wouldn’t say they had low standards. Whatever floats their boat is none of my business.
The same rant, however, could be applied to fans of Romance in general, since the genre is looked upon by many as formulaic crap. It’s not just Twilight, Harry Potter, or YA that people look down on others for enjoying. I think it’s the level of fanaticism that is really the big trigger.
I don’t see many tattoos of Middle Earth, but there are entire websites devoted to bad Twilight tattoos. Just saying I think your rant might be a little… misplaced? Mis-targeted? Good sentiment, though.
Yeah, certainly similar logic applies to other books (and genres) beyond Twilight. That one in particular has just hit a nerve lately, for me personally.
Ah, love this! I feel kind of sorry for literary snobs. Actually, I don’t, but my point is that if someone is so wrapped up in their idea of “high art” and “literature” to read something new every once in a while, then they’re seriously missing out.
I’ve never read Twilight because I’ve been too busy geeking out over the fact that Christopher Pike has two new books out in his “The Last Vampire” series, which is basically what I grew up reading in the 90s. My bookshelf is all over the place–you’ll find Pike’s books, Isabel Allende’s, Chis Cleave’s, and even a few Archie comics thrown in. I’m not even sure if the term “guilty pleasure” would apply here. I’ve always been too busy enjoying books and the different series of words (love how you put it like that) to feel guilty about it.
Meanwhile, I’m such a nerd that when you say Christopher Pike, the first thing I think is “Oh, he was captain of the Enterprise before Kirk.” Heh. But yeah, absolutely, can’t be afraid to try something new. Hell, I’ll admit to watching the Pokemon anime back in the day.
And may I add, ain’t nothing wrong with Archie.
I think the middle road is still the best. I am against snobbery, but loving a book and simply ignoring “objective” qualities of is in my oppinion one step from being a snob. It is easy to say that the book is great, because I like it, if you don’t, well than it is your own fault. I do also love Tolkien’s books, especially Hobbit, but I would never call it the best book. It does give me something more than other books, but when I take a good book, that does not speak to me personaly, I have to appriciate it’s qualities and possibly be able to say: “This is in some ways even better than my Hobbit.”
Thanks for the insightful comment, Martin.
Certainly it’s possible to appreciate a book even if you don’t personally like it. That’s exactly the situation with me and Twilight, actually. It doesn’t speak to me, but I recognize that it speaks to others. I don’t like it (subjectively) but I recognize (objectively) that others do.
I absolutely agree that we should recognize “objective” qualities in books we don’t like (and ones we do). I think, though, that all objectivity is fundamentally rooted in subjectivity; no matter how much you base your assessment on theory or the tastes of others, it all still comes down to what people like.
Very well said, Brian. I’m pulling a few quotes from here and using them in a blog post of my own. Cheers!
Cool! Glad you liked it. Thanks Chila.
Pingback: TWILIGHT: IT’S YOUR FANG, DO WHAT YOU WANNA DO … (My take on the movie) « Chila Woychik
Ok, I know it’s 2013, but I only just discovered this and I have to say: good post! I totally agree with you – people shouldn’t look down on others just cos they have different tastes. It’s exactly the same for music as well
Agreed…read and listen to what you like. 🙂
Reblogged this on Though the Eyes and commented:
Thank you so much for this post! Too many people consider their opinion as fact.
(I’m not a fan of the books, but for different reasons.)
i just never been tried to read those books, maybe someday 🙂
and that’s really true, it’s all about taste, preference, we have to appreciate the difference 🙂
I haven’t either, don’t really think they’d be my thing. I know lots of other people who have loved them though. Thanks Yunita.
Pingback: Readers Hating Other Readers | Shannon A Thompson
I’m Shannon A. Thompson, and I was writing about this subject. I came across your article a long time ago, and I remembered it when I was writing my own. I mentioned you, and I linked to this piece. I hope you do not mind. I loved the way you expressed your thoughts on this matter. Here it is: http://shannonathompson.com/2014/02/09/the-era-of-hating-and-how-it-affects-readers/
Thanks so much Shannon! You put a smile on my face. 🙂
I have to admit, I hate Twilight. But, I can’t hate its readers. Twilight got a lot of kids interested in reading. And that alone is an amazing accomplishment. And just because someone likes Twilight, that doesn’t mean we don’t have another favorite book or author in common.
The Lord of the Rings will always be my favorite book, too. 🙂
So, I take it you like ‘Twilight’ then? Ditto. 🙂
Haven’t read it, actually. Doesn’t really seem like my kind of book. But a lot of people like it, and that’s cool.