#3 In 2012
From Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day, I’ll be recapping the top 5 posts from 2012 on 101 Books. 101 Books will return live on January 2nd, 2013!
Today’s post, “How To Know If You’re A Book Snob,” was originally posted on June 8.
#3 In 2012: How To Know If You’re A Book Snob
At different points in my life, like maybe right now, I’ve confessed to being a book snob. For the longest time, I gave up fiction…because what can you learn from fiction? I was a nonfiction snob…and a contrarian, too.
These days, as is obvious, I’m all about fiction. But now I fight back my snobbiness in other ways—like my disdain for the Twilight series or my love of the printed book.
So, yeah, I tend to have snobby reader tendencies. And since I can speak from authority, I came up with this short, marginally helpful guide, to help you determine whether or not you, too, are a snobby reader.
Here are the signs.
You think it’s your job to tell everyone what the book “really means.”
For example: Oh, my poor child, it’s preposterous to say that The Great Gatsby is an indictment of upper class mores of the 1920s. Have you even read the book? Can you even read at all? Do you know what words are? Letters? Can you pronounce syllables with your mouth? Does your tongue move? Are you a living, breathing human being, or do you have gills or hooves? Do you type with a beak? Are you a pigeon?
Seeing as you have an amateurish view of Gatsby, I suspect that one of the above must be true. Here’s some birdseed. Enjoy.
You read other reviews before you develop your own opinion.
Oh, I understand why. You need to make sure the literary world agrees with your opinion before you decide on your opinion. Literary snobs must stand united! What will everyone say when you say how much you hated Mrs. Dalloway? Or, good heavens, what will they do if they see that John Grisham book in your front seat? But, come on, you can do better than that, right? Close your web browser and answer this question: Did you like the book or not? Explain.
You turn your nose up at mainstream books or other genres you don’t like.
My name is Robert, and I’m a recovering book snob—still in rehabilitation, of course. If you buy your books from grocery stores, I judge you. If you’ve read Twilight, I judge you. If your idea of “good fiction” is Danielle Steele, I judge you. If you’ve never read The Great Gatsby, I judge you. If you only read nonfiction, I judge you. I’m sorry. I’m working on it. But feel free to judge me for you judging you. That should be real healthy for both of us. Remember, I’m a recovering book snob. Cut me some slack.
You quote famous authors in casual conversation.
Wife: “What do you think about the new shower curtain I purchased from Target?”
You: “Well, dear, you know green of any shade hurts my eyes. But it’s like Faulkner said: ‘Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.’”
Wife: “Did you just quote Faulkner in a discussion about shower curtains?”
You read James Joyce in public places.
My one-year-old son likes to do this, but very few people can get away with it—me, included. At last count, 12 people on earth thought Finnegan’s Wake was a comprehendible, classic novel. Ten of them were literature professors and book critics. The other two were Alex Trebek and the dude who wrote the Clif Notes for Ulysses. Unless you’re one of those 12, don’t read Joyce on the subway. Or in the mall. Or at lunch. Or in the church lobby. I like James Joyce, but Joyce attracts pretentious book snobs like hot dogs attract heart attacks.
I’m sure this list could go on for pages and pages.
But the bottom line here is…don’t be a pretentious book snob, okay? And, if you are one, like me, the first step to recovery is self-awareness. Just admit it.
Simply say, “I’m a book snob, and I promise to become more sensitive to the literary choices of others.” You’ll come around.
In the meantime, don’t make direct eye contact with Twilight readers and reduce your Faulkner references to once a day. Deal?