In Defense of Popular Fiction: Why it’s OK to Read just for FUN

So… I realized an unconscious habit of mine recently and it is a habit my intellectual and literary friends might recognize and might also struggle with. I tend to need to defend my reading choices.

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I feel self conscious reading Gillian Flynn on the Metro or Sophie Kinsella on the bus. Is it on the bestseller list? If so, there’s a good chance I might be reluctant to put it on my shelf. Obviously I am more obscure and creative than that. But do I really need to be? Do I really need to prove that I am?

I think a lot of “bookish” readers, readers who read Tolstoy, readers who take the time to study literature from a theoretical stance, and readers who do nochicklitt simply use reading as a mere pastime may feel this guilt for reading something that’s more like candy: quick, tasty, and not as nourishing or as hefty as Henry James. We forget that books were originally meant to entertain.

Before TV, even radio, books WERE the pop culture it seems (most) intellectuals like to dismiss. And I am over it. There’s value in all forms of media, if you enjoy it. This comes back to an issue I’ve always had, and an issue that has come to the fore recently with authors like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, it’s the quantity versus quality argument and the popular verses smart sort of argument. And sure, there are many parts of Pop culture that I do relish rolling my eyes at, but anything popular in culture is in a sense important stephen-kingbecause it reveals something insightful about the people that choose to consume it (which this is another post for another day), but anyway I just don’t think the divide should be so pronounced because many of the books we are so taken with today in the intellectual sphere were the “popular” literature of their time (*ahem*, Charles Dickens).

 This is simply a rant and maybe I am not coming to any particular point, except that we shouldn’t (in the academic world) be so hard on ourselves, consuming the words of the Flynns, the Kings, and even the Dan Browns, is not a crime. These books are popular for a reason. So what if us literature majors like them sometimes too?

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 x,

E

p.s. I think this counts for my Monday sharing… be sure to check out the Salon article about Stephen King linked above!

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