Wednesday, January 03, 2007


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.


Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

Blog Archive


Contact steve dot mitchelmore at Powered by Blogger.