Being a Snob

I recently read this article, in which the writer claims he does not read Stephen King because his tastes are more refined. I was offended, not only because I am a Stephen King fan, but because I don’t think an author deserves to be slammed simply because not everyone can be William Faulkner or James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway. And to be honest, not every writer wants to be a literary figure whose works are studied in college classrooms for years to come. What bothered me the most about the article was when the writer was talking about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon:

The writing is at times so weak — so pat, so lazy — that I no longer imagined that King was attempting anything other than getting his story from Point A to Point B, even if he was doing that none too quickly. At times, the novel read like not very good YA fiction.

I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon quite a long time ago, and while I don’t think it’s Stephen King’s best book, I would say that it is far better than most YA fiction out there, if it was labeled YA, which it is not. I don’t think much YA fiction is all that good (and I read it a lot), but even so… people enjoy it. Its intended audience enjoys it. And that’s all that counts. (I personally don’t think the article writer reads a lot of YA fiction. Not classy enough for him, perhaps.)

Stephen King writes because he loves it. He can’t do anything else but write. After he got hit by a car and nearly died, he didn’t think he would write again, but he did. Not to make money (he already had plenty of that by that point in his career), but because he loved writing. And that is the reason all writers should write. It’s great to be a writer who is world-renowned years after his or her death, like Marcel Proust or Pearl S. Buck. It’s great to be a writer like J.K. Rowling or like Stephen King, with works that aren’t literary, but that have a huge audience. And it’s great to be a writer whose works only get read by two or three people on the Internet… just as long as you love what you do.

There are always going to be people like the guy who wrote that article, and ridiculously intelligent literary critics like Harold Bloom, who think that anything that’s not in the “Western Canon” is garbage. But there’s no reason to be a snob about what you like. People are like that about music, movies… pretty much any form of entertainment. If it’s not obscure or it’s not a classic, then it must be terrible. I like all kinds of books and music. I don’t care whether the author or artist is unknown or not. If I like the creation, then I like the creation… and that’s good enough for me. As long as the artist put love and care into it… then it’s good enough.

7 thoughts on “Being a Snob

  1. What a lot of these snobbish people tend to forget is that all the ‘classics’ that they revere so much were the popular fiction of the day when they came out. Is every book that comes out today brilliantly written? No, and not all of the books written 100 years ago were brilliant either.

    There are quite a few books coming out now that will be forgotten in 20 years, but there are also plenty of books coming out today that are well written enough to stand the test of time.

    (And quite frankly, a lot of the ‘classic’ books don’t really stand the test of time and should probably be retired in favor of more recent books that people living today can actually relate to.)


    • True. It makes it seem like the only books that came out “back then” were the classics, or that literature was generally “better” back then, but what about all the other books that were published that we’ve since forgotten about because they weren’t big hits and didn’t go down in history? I never thought about that.


    • “all the ‘classics’ that they revere so much were the popular fiction of the day”

      Good point.

      For example, some Hollywood movie directors like Hitchcock and John Ford were always considered “popular” filmmakers, usually “genre” filnmakers (thrillers, westerns), not worthy of serious critical consideration. It took the French critics in the 1950s and 1960s to make the case that these directors (and others — I just took those two as examples) were major cinematic artists. They had figured out how to work in popular forms (as Shakespeare did also, for another example), and their films had all sorts of subtexts that nobody had noticed because the films had not been taken seriously.


  2. I think it’s important to judge writers not with one rubric, but to consider 1) their body of work and 2) what they are trying to accomplish as a writer. King isn’t ‘literary.’ He’s never claimed to be. What he is: a writer with an uncanny insight into human nature, particularly the elements that prompt irrational fear in readers. He’s also great at dialogue and interesting characters.


    • Right. Some writers were never literary and never wanted to be… and some writers never wanted to be widely known and read.


  3. I was just watching an episode of the old British sitcom Open All Hours, and one character was very pious, always disapproving of everything (he even disappoved of eggs because they remind people of the reproductive cycle). As he says, “It’s a great burden, being holier than everybdoy else. But I enjoy it.”

    So it is with snobs. They get great enjoyment ot of it. There have been a few critics who slammed Dark Knight Rises, and I know they enjoyed the feeling of putting down the movie that so many people are prepared to love. And they got a lot of attention and reaction for it, too, which is also part of the point.

    I’m like you. If I like it, I like it. I don’t care how “high” or “low” somebody else thinks it is. Why should that matter to me?


    • I think so, too. They make themselves feel better by making fun of what everyone else likes. Just like bullies.


Comments are closed.