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Bookish Pet Peeve #9: Snobby Authors

I would imagine that all of us, whether we’ll admit it or not, have a snobby bone or two in our bodies.

I struggle with book snobbery at times. I’ve written about it in one of my previous pet peeves, and I’ll admit—when it comes to books like Twilight and such—I can be a snob. But I’m not proud of it.

My friend won’t drink beer with any sort of fruit or spice in it other than chocolate or coffee. I don’t get that. On other hand, I won’t drink his go-to beer of choice, PBR. I think it’s disgusting. Snobbery is everywhere and in almost every area of life.

To me, though, the absolute worst snobs are high-brow authors. Many of them are basically your condescending English professor—if he or she had actually written a novel or two and had a large platform/audience that follows them.

Take Joyce Carol Oates, for example. I’ll put her following tweet down as possibly the most condescending, pompous tweet about literature in Twitter’s short history.

Give me a break.

Don’t think I’m picking on Joyce for one tweet. She has a long history of verbal diarrhea on Twitter.

But let’s examine her tweet a little more in-depth.

 “I’ve never read more than a chapter or two of “Mockingbird””

This is fantastic. Oates chooses to tell her 116,000 Twitter followers—many of whom certainly like Mockingbird, as it’s one of the most universally loved novels on the planet—that she’s only read a “chapter or two” of this classic novel.

Translation: “Your favorite novel is uninteresting.”

Essentially, Joyce Carol Oates is your annoying friend who always hates everything you like.

“Ugh, you liked American Sniper? I walked out of the theater after 10 minutes?”

“Ugh, you eat at Subway? I went there once but when I learned their chicken isn’t free-range I quit going.”

“Ugh, I can’t believe you listen to Mumford and Sons. They are SOOOO 2011.”

More from Joyce:

“Wonderful YA voice but Kafka and ambiguity intrigued me more.”

I love this. Who said To Kill A Mockingbird is YA (Young Adult)?

It’s not. That’s another insult. Because what Joyce is saying here is that Young Adult books are somehow lesser. It’s a backhanded compliment. “You’re a wonderful real estate agent in your little town, but you could never sell property in the big city like me.”

And even if Mockingbird was YA, how would she know it’s a “wonderful” voice because she’s only read a “chapter or two.” Can you make any substantial judgment on a novel by simply reading a chapter? Well, maybe, but the chapter would one large chapter.

And what of Kafka?

Now we’re somehow comparing Harper Lee to Franz Kafka? Um, WTF, Joyce Carol Oates?

That’s so strange. That’s like saying, “Star Wars is wonderful 1970s and 80s science fiction, but I’ve always been more intrigued by Elf and ambiguity”

So why would Joyce Carol Oates send a tweet like this?

To basically stick up her nose and let the masses know how much their (our) taste in literature sucks.

“You keep reading your cute little young adult Harper Lee books,” Joyce is essentially saying. “Meanwhile, I’ll be over here reading more important literature that you’ve probably never heard of.”

Maybe she isn’t a literature snob. Maybe she’s actually a literature hipster?

Am I off base here? Am I reading too much into Joyce Carol Oates’ seemingly neverending snobbery?

Previous Bookish Pet Peeves

#8: Preachy Authors

#7: Buying Books I Don’t Read

#6: Speed Reading

#5: The Book Borrower

#4: The One Upper

#3: The Book Snob

#2: The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

#1: Bookstore Cellphone Blabbermouth

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35 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  2. Absolutely not! What Kevin Costner said about her in ‘Bull Durham’ was spot on!

    Like

    February 27, 2015
    • Ha! What did he say? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Bull Durham. Googled it but couldn’t find it.

      Like

      February 27, 2015
      • Well, egg on my face. He was talking about Susan Sontag but it could apply here as well. Self indulgent, over-rated crap is what he said. And after reading only a chapter or two, I believe it could be applied to Oates as well.

        Like

        February 27, 2015
      • My friend served Kevin Costner coffee once. He was a very kind man, to her, Robert.

        Like

        February 28, 2015
  3. Brandon #

    I think you’re exactly on point here. I’m not sure what the purpose for that tweet was. Seems wholly unnecessary.

    I think Neil Gaiman is a good example of an author who’s exactly the opposite. I recently watched a documentary on H.P. Lovecraft that featured NG commentary, and the impression that I got was intelligent humility–he had a ton of insightful things to say without feeling the need tto draw a contrast between NG the multi-platform, best-selling author of some of the best fiction out there and HPL, the penniless pulp fiction writer.

    JCO’s tweet strikes me as the manifestation of a weird insecurity–like, “The only reason people prefer Mockingbird to my work is because the dumb plebes are too stupid to appreciate my brilliance.”

    Liked by 5 people

    February 27, 2015
    • As if I needed a reason to love Gaiman more. Happy to find out he is as humble as I (strangely) picture! Haha

      Like

      March 1, 2015
  4. Naomi #

    That DID strike me as a snobby tweet. That said, disliking or not reading some books doesn’t *automatically* mean a person is a snob. It’s OK to genuinely dislike things, even if they’re popular (I have zero interest in Harry Potter, for example, and never finished reading the series.)

    Liked by 1 person

    February 27, 2015
    • I agree. I think it’s the repeated, “LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I DISLIKE THIS BOOK/GENRE” that takes dislike into snobbery.

      Like

      February 27, 2015
  5. I think it comes down to the basic premise my father demonstrated to me. If you have to put someone (or their work) down to lift yourself up, you’ve got your priorities out of whack. I enjoyed the post!

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  6. Must confess I’ve never read more than a page or two of any JCO book – wonderfully pretentious voice, but I prefer Grisham for substance over style.

    Liked by 5 people

    February 27, 2015
  7. When I see this (again) I actually notice “YA voice.” Mockingbird was written from a YA POV; it was Scout telling the story from her perspective as an adult. She was looking back. Enjoyed your post. Have also noticed that JCO has had books on lists for prestigious awards and lost to novels she would probably snobbily say were not intriguing enough.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  8. Oops, I meant it “wasn’t” written from a YA POV. sorry

    Liked by 1 person

    February 27, 2015
  9. sally1137 #

    Bless her heart. Poor Joyce is jealous she couldn’t write iconic characters that last forever, and say everything that needs said in just one book.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  10. Can’t stand snobbery. Sometimes I think people are just plain pretentious to feel important. Self-importance is the worst kind of vanity.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  11. I don’t know about book snobbery, or snobbery of any kind. I do know that interests evolve. I can remember my grandfather sitting on an easy chair and watching news programs exclusively. At the time, this was incomprehensible to me. I can remember devouring YA books, one a day. I’ve lived long enough to remember different stages of reading preference. I realize there isn’t necessarily a hierarchy of value, just a divergence of interest. However, there is inconsequential material and there are masterpieces. Who gets to decide? I don’t know. For me, Kafka and Harper Lee both make the cut. That’s just my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 27, 2015
    • Liked this comment a lot, and would just add that literary value, like many others, is a matter of individual taste, discernment and objective.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 3, 2015
  12. Maybe she is not snobby.Maybe she just has strong opinions and it comes off that way. Unfortunately. Maybe someone asked her what she thought of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and she felt compelled to answer. With 116,000 followers, seems to she probably was asked. As far as reading a chapter or two of a book and having an opinion on whether you like the book, I do that all the time. I’ve done it with Dan Brown and I’ve done it with Danielle Steele. As far as Kafka is concerned, I read Metamorphosis twice and I am not particularly fond of either. don’t know what drug he was using but it must have been some heavy duty stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 27, 2015
  13. Stephen McDaniel #

    Took a dislike to ‘literary’ pretensions in Eng Lit 101. The premise seemed to be, if you can understand it, it’s not literature. Literary works, almost by definition, seem to appeal only to English professors and judges panels for things like the Booker. Life’s too short.

    Liked by 3 people

    February 27, 2015
  14. Refusing to drink PBR is not snobbery. It really is disgusting. Ruling out all fruit and spiced beers–maybe, as it’s a categorical exclusion. But if one has never enjoyed anything from the category, I don’t know that it’s snobbery. I avoid many beers that I find unpleasant [Bud, Coors, Keystone . . .] b/c I do not drink beer to imbibe alcohol. I drink it because I like the flavor of the ones I choose to drink. Yes, there are hops snobs and hipster PBR snobs, but not everything is snobbery.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  15. This puts a new perspective on a tweet I enjoyed at first: “Anything by Harper Lee–or Flannery O’Connor, or Eudora Welty–would be of much interest regardless of its literary quality.” At first I was thinking that it was in support of these great authors. But then I noticed how that last phrase suggests that they may not be literary. If Eudora Welty isn’t literary, then I don’t know what is.

    Like

    February 27, 2015
  16. Sometimes I read book reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, but only after I’ve already read the book. And sometimes when I’ve really enjoyed a book and find a bunch of hate-filled reviews I feel personally attacked. Like I am such an idiot for thinking this book was well done and enjoyable. Like I must have missed some glaring flaw in the writing or the plot that all of these reviewers seemed to have picked up on. Then I realized that that’s baloney and who is to judge whether or not a book is “good?” If a book moves you, touches you, encourages you, entertains you, enrages you – makes you feel or think something – then it was worth writing and it was worth reading.

    Unless it’s Twilight. (Because when it comes to Twilight I might always be a snob.)

    Liked by 3 people

    February 27, 2015
  17. misenplacememoir #

    You nailed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 28, 2015
  18. I loved this article!!

    PBR is so disgusting. I think your friend needs therapy.

    Like

    February 28, 2015
  19. Laura #

    What a lame comment to make about a terrific book. It’s one thing if you’re talking about Twilight, but TKAM has stood the test of time. Ambiguity, gag.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 28, 2015
  20. I was going to make a pretentious, vegan-referencing comment regarding a JCO story, but I probably haven’t even read one…

    Liked by 1 person

    March 1, 2015
  21. Joyce Carol Oates strikes me as one of those industry darlings whose fame is more than the sum of its parts, so to speak: someone whom everyone’s heard of but very few people have actually read. It doesn’t surprise me at all that she’s snobbish.

    Oates is a very prolific author who nevertheless has never really had a culture-defining “hit” in the vein of To Kill A Mockingbird–Harper Lee garnered more fame and appreciation from her single novel than Oates ever has in dozens of them. Might there be a bit of jealousy, there?

    Liked by 1 person

    March 5, 2015
  22. i actually go by the theory that the more reviewers, celebrities and authors like Joyce Carol Oats like something, the more i should avoid it. and the opposite too, i’ve loved many books that were despised by the elite.

    Like

    March 5, 2015

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