Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Self-reproachment

More fun evidence that the "literary snobs" who "look down" on popular fiction, so often alluded to by literary bloggers, journalists and "booklovers", are really straw men roaming the wilderness of the popular imagination.

The Guardian reports on a survey into "the UK's favourite literary guilty pleasure" and its blog asks for readers to be "honest" about what they wouldn't read in public: "guilty reads can apparently be anything, from an underworld thriller to a wizard's yarn, from a French cartoon to a horsey romp." Unfortunately I've never read any of these kinds of books, so I feel a little left out. I recently explained elsewhere what kind of read I seek. It seems odd to me to withhold such pleasure from oneself. So I suspect this is not what people feel guilty about! What gain then do they believe is being resisted by these "indulgent reads"? An answer might provide more interesting results to a literary survey.

Anyway it's pretty clear the people asked aren't really ashamed of reading Catherine Cookson, Stephen King or Ian Rankin. As James Wood pointed out after refusing to nominate his "Best American Novel of the Last 25 Years" (or whatever it was), people nominate according to assumptions. It's more likely they'd be embarrassed to be seen reading anything "pretentious" or "heavy", but they understand the drill. They're probably also the first to express indignation when such writers don't receive the top literary awards. It's about time the "debate" generated by this internal contradiction is disabled.

2 comments:

  1. Steve: I completely agree with your disgusted assessment of the conformist effect of the notion of "guilty pleasures." I will trying to address this very problem in an upcoming post on Harry Potter and Pan's Labyrinth.

    I've been reading "This Space" with pleasure for the past couple weeks, and have just added it to my Best of 2006 list. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Joseph. You say I've been added to your academic blog list - but I'm not an academic! (I'm open to offers though).

    ReplyDelete

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