Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EW Debate: Highbrow vs. Lowbrow Literature

Entertainment Weekly writer Kate Ward shed light on a debate that seems to be raging on in the literary world today. Apparently, "highbrow" author's are appalled at the breakdown in literature as a whole, citing bestselling authors like Stephenie Meyer and James Patterson as being on the shallow end of the literary pool. Ward quotes Time magazine critic, Lev Grossman who recently dissed highbrow, or "Modernist" authors, explaining that “The Modernists felt little obligation to entertain their readers…Conversely they have trained us, Pavlovianly, to associate a crisp, dynamic, exciting plot with supermarket fiction, and cheap thrills, and embarrassment…If you’re having too much fun, you’re doing it wrong.” In a sense, he is saying that the authors who stimulate and entertain (like Meyers and Patterson) are labeled as "bad" writers, or authors who churn out material of poor literary quality. I'm noticing this trend in Education. I teach 8th grade Reading, and after reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins with my students and making a a part of my curriculum, questions were raised whether or not schools should only stick to "literary classics"...almost insinuation that contemporary fiction is trash. I am not an author, but have attempted to create my own literature. It is a tedious and extremely difficult job to create a compelling and engrossing novel that can move readers AND tell a damn good story. Why, oh why, are literary classics and books that over-analyze and throw on layers of metaphor and symbolism book that are deemed "worthy" of literary greatness? I love the quote Ward includes from John Grisham, author of The Firm and other best-selling novels. Grisham admits that he has "read literature in the classic sense. We’ve all got those type of books on the shelves at home…I admit that I didn’t like them much. I couldn’t understand why they were said to be so good.” Even though I have five or six classic novels that I love and adore from the plethora of "classics" that were required of me to obtain my English degree, there are very few that I pick up on a whim to reread and entertain myself. There is something to be said about a novel that you can pick up and lose yourself in, time and time again. So what's your take? Are you a "highbrow" literature lover, or a "lowbrow" book fanatic? This lady enjoys a little of both, from time to time...just call me Switzerland. (Ring any bells, lowbrow fiction fans??? ;)

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