Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saying it loud...I'm a book snob

This is week 9 of this series.  Next week will be the last week of this series.  I will let you know more about me in a series of succinct easy to read and access posts.  There are some things about me that I have heard regularly or wanted to say, but didn't have the guts to say.  Now, I'm going to say all of that stuff.  Hang on for the ride!

Week 2 - I am a writer
Week 3- I read for the words
Week 4- I believe in spirits
Week 5 - I love blogs 
Week 6- I'm an introvert 
Week 7- I'm a sports fan
Week 8- I don't like playgrounds

the contents of my pretentiousnessPhoto Credit: jamelah

Once a friend told me I was too smart to read a book series.  She asked what I thought about it and I told her basically that I was disappointed in the lack of character development because of the excessive action.  this was a very popular book series that I didn't enjoy.  I think I was the first person that told her something negative about the book series.  Her response was that I was too smart to read them.  She meant that honestly and lovingly, which is the exact way I took it.  Her words have stuck with me because they seem to describe me so well.  Another apt description is that I am a book snob.

I can trace my snobbery back to 8th grade when I first started reading Emily Brontë and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Mrs. Drake, my 8th grade English teacher, encouraged my love of the classics.  She had no doubt about my ability or desire to read them.  She didn't make me feel like a freak.  She made me feel special.  That little bit of encouragement grew into a flaming ball of canonical literature passion that centered very much around the wide variety of words I discovered from them and the places they lead me.  My high school teachers, Ms. Brewer and Mrs. Kinney, did their part to encourage it.  I took a class or two in the English department at Eastern Illinois University, my alma mater.  I had a super awesome assignment with a group where we pantomimed scenes from Frankenstein.  I was Frankenstein.  That might have been my favorite assignment ever in school.  But that is getting off topic.

All of those people and assignments contributed something, but it wasn't until graduate school at University of North Carolina at Charlotte that my book snobbery reached a new level, a level rarely achieved by non-university public.  (I totally made up that statistic, but it sounds true to me.)  This new level of book snobbery is placed on the shoulders of Doctora Culleton.  She taught me about literary theory, where they ask questions like "What is literature?"and "How do you define a text?" She taught me about various schools of thought in literary theory, such as New Criticism, Structuralism, feminism, and reader response criticism to name a few.  She introduced me to people like Stanley Fish, Roland Barthes, and Ferdinand de Saussure among others.  I can't tell you exactly what these theorists said individually, but I can tell you they caused me to read with questions.  Other professors of mine like Dra. Miller and Dra. Godev used the analysis of literature and language in their class to deepen my understanding of reading with questions.  After several classes from each of them I changed the way I read.  I now read not only for the words I discovered the places they took me, but also with the structure and the why in mind.  I now asked questions like, "What should the narrator know?", "Why did the author write it this way?", "Does that change the way I read it?", "If not, why not?", "If it does, then how does it change the way I read it?", and a few others.

So now not just any book will do.  I have to have a book with a convincing narrator and good sense of place.  I need to believe the narrator is there and that he/she could know all of this information.  I have read novels and see places that the narrator says things he/she shouldn't know.  It ruins the book for me because I no longer believe in the place the author has created.  It isn't just narrator and the place they put me either.  I need to not see the author at work.  There are novels and some of them very popular novels where I have seen the author at work.  I have seen their overly strong foreshadowing or their ending way before they get there.  I have seen them throw in extra characters and situations to lengthen and complicate a plot.  When I see these things, I am no longer interested in reading the book.  I don't want to see what the author is doing.  I want them to surprise me with the characters and plot twists. 

Incidentally, this also makes it a bit harder for me to write because I don't think I can live up to the standards that I have set in my head for a good novel.  I still write, but maybe that is why I can't seem to finish anything.  I can't get past the critic in myself enough to let the artist in myself stretch her wings.  Okay, I didn't mean to say that out loud.  But it is true and probably needed to be said.  It scares me to so consciously realize that about myself because I have no clue how to fix it.  I also don't think I want to fix it.  I like being a book snob and only reading what I really love.  I don't believe that everything that is published is good literature.  However, that shouldn't stop me from writing.  Yet it does.  Something in me says if I am not producing good literature, then I shouldn't bother trying.  I think I need to stop believing that.  

So, yeah I'm too smart to read that because I'm a book snob.


  1. The thing to remember (and I'm sure you know this, but it bears repeating) is you're not going to get to the levels of writing you enjoy as a reader without, well, writing a load of 'not great' stuff first. The icons of classic literature had their share of crappy first and second and even tenth drafts, I'm sure. So hang in there! The love of words is you, and you'll find a way to get the stories in your head onto the page.

    Happy writing! And reading! :-)

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I have heard that multiple times, but today it makes more sense than it ever has before. Thank you!