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!