It’s So Hard to Tell When You’re Being Condescended to These Days

The author of this post in the Guardian assures us that the judges of this year’s Man-Booker prize are being condescending by announcing that they are looking for books that people will “buy and read” rather than “buy and admire”.  It’s probably just me, but I actually find it slightly condescending to be told that if I read a book for enjoyment I’m wasting my time and that I’m not a sufficiently serious person.  It also strikes me as slightly odd that Ms. Bennett felt the need to point out that several of the judges write suspense fiction (I think we’re meant to read that pronouncement as a compelling argument).

I get what she’s saying, but she sort of undercuts her own argument about the false dichotomy between readability and literary merit by listing authors who are not worthy of the mantle of being “literary” by virtue of writing things that are pleasant to read.  She might also want to rethink the rhetorical strategy of grabbing hold of the fact that one of the judges said the he liked novels to “zip along” and hammering on the dreadfully unserious word “zippy” like someone playing a one-mole game of whack-a-mole.  I think we’ve all been in an argument with someone and used an ill-chosen word, only to have it seized on and waved around like its use means they just ‘won’.  It is not a pleasant or edifying experience.

Look, I don’t have a dog in this hunt, being someone who reads a lot of (shudder) genre fiction.  I fully expect the contempt of the likes of Ms. Bennett.  But I could really do without the pat on the head and the explanation that I don’t actually understand why I read the things I do.

~ by smwilliams on September 14, 2011.