Scribblings of a shaved monkey with a keyboard

Chapter 2: On preposterous elistism

Well, module 2 of the course has come & gone, and I find myself disagreeing with the logic behind some of the thinking.

Already? Yep, already – I’m surprised as well, as I was expecting it to take a wee bit longer beforehand, but then I suppose it’s also good, as it encourages discussion (Or would, if I had joined the forum for the course, which I haven’t as I tend to avoid online forums)

It basically reads as:

What we’re suggesting here is you feed your writer brain with ‘health food’
just as you do the rest of your body. Again, mass paperbacks make good
money for authors and publishing houses. They are read by millions and
they can be enjoyed by very exceptional writers. But you must have a
balance in what you read.
By reading short stories or novels with a literary edge you’ll find that on a
subconscious level your writing will begin to improve. You’ll start to
examine things like characterization, plot, and probably most important,
theme, which is what most mass-market books seem to lack.
Even reading plays like A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman or
Macbeth can offer wonderful insight into characterization, which is a key
element in the short story.

To my mind, he information and reasoning behind this is essentially that if you don’t read “Literary classics” then you can’t be a good writer. I call that preposterous elitism (Or in my usual parlance: Pretentious Bollocks). I read what I enjoy. I try other authors etc on occasion, and if I like the story they craft then I’ll keep reading them.

A perfect example of this is Harry Turtledove.

Years ago I was in one of the book clubs, that send you a random book a month or so if you don’t order anything particular.

I opened one, and it was the first of  Turtledoves “World War” series. I loved it, the whole concept of it and the way he spins the stories. Since then I’ve got shelves full of Turtledoves works.

Is he considered a “Literary Classic”? Don’t know. And frankly, don’t care.

While I can understand the need for examples of story structure, pacing, characterization and overall storycraft, what I don’t like is the fact that they are somehow overall better than anything else.

But then, I have a similar ‘thing’ about most award ceremonies/awards etc like the Oscars, Bafta, and generally, anything that could be construed as essentially patting yourself on the back for no reason than because you can – I mean this as an industry thing, rather than individual.

I’m also not a fan of critics. After all, what they say is simply their opinion, and as such it cannot be right, or wrong. It’s simply an opinion formed from their own preconceived ideas, tastes and experiences. So why people listen to them when tastes differ I will never figure out.

Sometimes I think as a society we are becoming homogonised, and anything that is construed as different is viewed with mistrust, suspicion and downright fear in some cases.


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