Monday, August 14, 2006

No Such Thing

This weekend, the lovely and talented Tess Gerritsen wrote a blog entry entitled Legume Literature that I think anybody who loves books ought to check out. In it, she discusses the dichotomy between Important Literature and Books People Actually Like to Read. In all fairness, she phrases it in a less inflammatory fashion (and, also in fairness, I think there’s at least a little overlap in the Venn diagram of literary fiction and plain old good books), but the crux of the piece couldn’t be any simpler: Read what you like. Let others read what they like. Championing work you love is great, but don’t tear down or diminish the tastes of others in the process.

I couldn’t agree more, though I think that we all share in the blame for shaming people into hiding or abandoning outright their personal taste in favor of an ever-shifting and often-dull Canon of What is Good. To some extent, we can’t help it. It’s human nature. We talk smack about stuff we don’t like (or, all too often, stuff with which we’re unfamiliar) like it’s our national pastime. We do it to justify our own taste. We do it to establish our own aesthetic superiority. We do it because we’re bored or cranky or don’t know any better. But we all do it.

Even worse, though, is when we denigrate things we actually like out of some misplaced sense of shame. How many times have you heard someone put down whatever bestseller they’re reading as fluff or garbage and then keep right on reading? How many times have you watched an entire episode of something while thinking, “God, who watches this crap?”

The fact is, there’s a certain duplicity to each of our individual tastes, a tug-of-war between what we like and what we wish we liked. Don’t believe me? Sign up for Netflix. I guarantee that when you sit down to arrange your queue for the first time, you’ll load it full of classics and obscure-but-well-reviewed art flicks, only to find when you start getting them that all you want to do is send them back and get something, I don’t know, explosiony-er.

That’s right, explosiony-er. It’s a word. Write it down.

So here's my suggestion. Come out of your closets, people. Like what you like, without reservation and without qualification. There should be no such thing as a guilty pleasure. You’ll be happier for it, believe me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure I’ve set Rock Star:Supernova up to record…