O ye, of Book Snobs : What is Literature?

Its a rant article, optional read folks. By the way, I’ve been reading several books at the moment (two of them are ARCs which I try to take it slow until their publication neared) and so its a slow month for this blogger.

I recently join up another Coursera course which was from the Brown University’s Fiction of Relationship and that is why I have to read the abomination that was called “Manon Lescaut”. In one of the discussion which obviously lead on by mutual dislike of the book, I got a guy saying this to the rest of the folks and me, apparently.

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There are much longer version of that, I did rant about it on twitter about it since I gave up trying to respond to him to receive (blah blah, insert some book titles and you should identify with its values and blah and what do you think about its and blah blah people do to try to make me express my own opinion repetitively without not supplying their own opinion on that matter) and later a review on Manon Lescaut which positively bristle with my annoyance about the book but to recap about it, the real title is actually “Story of the Chevalier des Grieux” because the whole book consisted of des Grieux’s monologues with the lapse of his morality to sleep with a virginal girl who later became sexualized woman (or girl since she was like 16) who manage to manipulate him into the dark side and all doesn’t go well for her.

As a reviewer, I don’t create a bias on the fact that it was written hundreds of years ago or is classified as classical reading or study material so I could manipulate myself to worship it. While doing critical reading, I don’t open a book only to discuss the likable quality of the said book. I open a book to analyse its values, to read a phrase and understand it meanings. To have some empathy towards a book.

Is it my fault that I completely dislike the whole idea of the book making Manon Lescaut as painted whore and to have the same hypocrisy as des Grieux toward her and his complete “its not my fault” whining that she end up choosing a dark path as a prostitute to support herself? There’s already a point of view bias since the book is written with des Grieux’s POVs and a neutral narrator but never Manon herself (if you notice it, there’s not much conversation between these two except what des Grieux summarize) so the reader have to completely suffer through the whole selfish “Manon make my life a hell” monologues in a condensed form.

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I am the person who disagreed constantly with my own society about its constant relax view on female victimization. Did you know, there’s a real place where school girls go and constantly slut-shamed for having child out of wedlock and I’ve been in religious classes which always slut-shame a girl for having sex (always not the guy) and suffer a lecture about a guy receiving heaven when he repent to God even after he murder a girl and rape her corpse and recently a 13 year old got married to her rapist and the syariah court let it so that he could escape the rape case sentence. Or the fact that I seen more guys than girls who pointedly ask for a girl to cover up because they felt sinned when they see a girl in whatever clothing state she is.

So how on earth I could not judge a “classic” book when it clearly a romanticized tale for a guy who feel victimized after he completely ruins a girl’s life? It is not archaic, it happened in modern life too so why does I have to be relaxed about it now? Ignoring it and making it a small matter perpetuates these mentality even more.

Criticizing a “classic” book and its value even if its several millennial old doesn’t mean I am completely saturated by popular culture that I don’t understand the value of classical readings.

I understand it. I have my share of classic and modern classic love in literature. If I had more time in the world I would extract characterizations, values and themes and the settings etc and then I would get high school students trying to copy paste whatever I made into their own essay.

But what made it a critical reading, was the ability to read a text as it is and not to be influenced with what other readers think it meant to be and develop own views. I find the basic “its a great form of literature and the writing is stupendous” as redundant and cliched.

I do NOT amuse myself to be a great literature reader since I feel like I haven’t spend enough time to read all the books in the world to allow me that privilege of being classified as that. But what annoys me more when I constantly see certain subsets of people still judging people for what they read because its not their definition of “literature”.

I do spent enough time in my life doing several literature reviews and essays and read hundreds of journals, I do find scientific and academic articles are in a sense, a literature. In fact in academic circle, these science and maths and graphs things ARE literature.

So to these book snobs definition, a great report about how a team of people trying to treat a guy’s cancer but miraculously cured him of HIV-1 have no literary merit because it wasn’t old enough or filled with definable values nor lengthy with dragging words or bound in a book and is contemporary.

I do find the definition that say the word “Literature” and “literary merit” to be quite subjective and even the definition can be contradictory on its own.

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Technically everything is literature down from written stuff on food boxes (which are fictional and nonfictional if you know what to look for like “non-cholesterol” on vegetable products, “fat-free” on meat products and etc) to trashy novels and to my own grammatical-error filled review posts.

So what with the whole high-handedness about your ability to show off unpronounceable authors that you’re certain nobody else read and how on earth do you think just saying obscure book titles can make you are better than everyone who read Twilight everyday.

If you have the ability to read written words and understand it. By that definition you are literate and literary inclined. That mean the growing rate of literate population of the world. The nightmares of privileged 1%-ters.

If the only thing you like to read are YA fiction or romance or horror or any genres of today, then by all means just read it. In fact, there are many classical books that can be defined as genre novel today. Its just as subjective as to everything. What clearly made it more defined was its impact on the society as a whole.

Its unnecessary to label anyone just because you see they dislike the said classic book and you criticizes them for having short attention span from all the tv culture.

If you realize it or not. I don’t even care what other people read as long as they read. Even when I’m being negative in the review, I rarely target the author’s writing skills unless they screw up majorly and people think its the best art in life.

Even if I did hate books like Fifty Shades, the only thing I was negative about was the actual Fifty Shades mania that worship a piece of fanfiction that doesn’t go through worthy editing or originality for that matter. I don’t force people to throw these book into garbage -even if it deserve it. But I try my best to dissuade people to choose a better alternative than JUST focusing that one book. Don’t be easily misled by the hype machine.

You might miss out on a lot of things if you just limit your reads to the stuff people decided for you to read. That is what made you open to censorship and propagate censorship.

Let people think and read what ever they want.

In fact, Book Trust create this article perfectly to simplify and poke fun on book elitism.

So, be less judgmental okay.

And read more books and stop label other people for being less literary-inclined than you by rounding them out as passive sycophants because they/us don’t appreciate books the way you do. Because more often than not, I don’t care about whatever you spout unless you pointedly trying to humiliate me by generalizing my kind of readings to mirror the person I am…. that is when I have more than enough supply of words to make fun of your pretentiousness.

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Besides, TV or film format is one of the greatest form of realized imagination. Its powerful fiction on its own. And make great powerful emotional gifs that words can only describe.

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