Let’s not be lit snobs

Illuminae

Recently, I borrowed Illuminae from the library and found this note inside: “So cool! But is it literature? Is this the future of novels?”

I promptly took a photo and then crumpled the note into a ball and threw it away.

Because ugh. Who cares about these things? I doubt that authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff were writing the book and thinking to themselves, “Gosh, is this literature? Are we writing literature right now?” and patting themselves on the back.

My fiancée and I rolled our eyes. We started making jokes. We pointed at our cats and said, “So cool! But is this cat? Is this the future of cat?”

The future of cat

The note has a tone of condescension that basically says, “Gee, I see why you like this. Space is nifty, especially to teens like you! But let’s think seriously now. Is this good? Is this actually worth our time?”

Because literature = good and non-literature = bad, obviously.

As for the “future of novels” jab, that’s in reference to Illuminae’s unique format. It’s a story told through emails, interview transcripts, diary entries, Wikipedia articles, etc. These resources 1) make you feel like you’re right there, living through this cataclysmic space event with the survivors, and 2) create the intentional feeling of a historical record. It’s an objective collection of very subjective witness accounts.

So look. Whoever wrote this, I have a message for you: Stop patronizing teens (and oh hey, adults too) for what they want to read. Stop acting like the content and the format is so inferior that you have to question, “Golly, is this going to be our standards for novels now?” because you’re not reading Dickens or Twain or Joyce. No one is worried about this except for you.

I threw your note in the trash as a favor to the readers that matter — the readers who love to read, the teens who read, the adults who read, and who shouldn’t have to feel bad about that no matter what books they choose.

Please don’t be a lit snob.

5 thoughts on “Let’s not be lit snobs

  1. Desiree B

    Honestly, it was a silly question to begin with. Literature and commercial fiction are two different beasts with their own characteristics. Commercial fiction is written for entertainment. It can have a deeper message about something if the author wants (I suppose this is what’s expected from literature), but it’s meant for pleasure. That’s not to say that commercial fiction is beneath literature (or visa versa).

  2. thatboy

    I made the mistake of studying English in university while trying to finish a novel. As a result, I went through a period of self-doubt about my work – wondering if it had any worth outside of simple entertainment. Essentially, I lost heart in my book because I felt that it wasn’t literature and therefore not worth finishing.

    Now that university is behind me, I have been beginning to feel otherwise.

    1. Stephanie Carmichael

      That must have been hard. It’s difficult enough reining in our self-doubt and criticism when writing a novel. To do it when you’re surrounded by the literary greats …? Ooph.

      I’m glad you changed your mind and hope you’re still writing. :)

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