Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts On Reading Preferences

An article The Death Of Fiction in the January/February 2010 issue of Mother Jones first states, "Lit mags were once launching pads for great writers and big ideas." and then asks, "Is it time to write them off?"

Illustration: Frank Stockton

While I found the article interesting, I have to admit that it brought my mind back to those seemingly heretical thoughts I have been harboring and musing upon for a long time: my own thoughts on the subject of popular writing versus literary writing.

Not thoughts engendered and shaped and refined by learned teachers and professors of literature.

Not echoed second-hand opinions, but my own intuitive thoughts which, when revealed, so often transform bosom buddies into hostile antagonists.

My thoughts are based on my observations of simple common-folk, the general run of middle-class American citizens with which I (being one of them) usually associate.

For example:

The writings attributed to William Shakespeare were neither obscure nor elitist: at that time. In the 1500s. Around 500 years ago. Those popular works used words the people of the time understood and used themselves. Understandable words that were arranged to bring about an enlightenment of sorts, but known words, notwithstanding.

Words that were an illumination of a higher truth than that which the members of the audience were accustomed to ponder. Words presented not so much in written form to be read as is done today, but in poems to be declaimed and voiced in performed plays, words to be spoken aloud by actors.

When I speak of or write about my opinion as to what constitutes enjoyable reading, preferring Stephen King to Shakespeare, I am immediately characterized (loudly and scornfully) as being an uneducated lout. Which I am. Without a doubt.

Do I in turn step up and call out in derision, labeling my accuser an elitist snob? No. I merely sit back and wonder why these highly educated yet unreasonably-incensed castigators cannot simply continue to read whatever they want to read and, in turn, allow me to read what I want to read?

Another example:
From Beowulf:

Hwat! we Gar-Dena in gear-dagum
beod-cyninga prym gefrunon,
hu ba aoelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaoena preatum.

Lo! the Spear-Danes' glory through splendid achievements
The folk-kings' former fame we have heard of,
How princes displayed then their prowess-in-battle.
Oft Scyld the Scefing from scathers in numbers...

Ever will be
the Morlocks
and the Eloi.

No further elaboration needed.

Loyalty to a petrified opinion
never yet broke a chain or
freed a human soul.
--Mark Twain

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