For Goodness Sake: Stop Blaming the Consumer!

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So way back in the summer, I saw an article that kind of bugged me. The gist of the piece was that author Howard Jacobson believed that when it came down to literary fiction sales “the problem is the reader”. His argument essentially boiled down to blaming limited attention spans and the consequent need to coerce readers to try more “serious” works.

Aside from the blatant genre snobbery, it will probably come as no surprise that I don’t believe Jacobson is on the right track. Saying that the “novel is in good health” doesn’t make it so. At random I can take a popular genre author like Steven King or Sarah J Maas, have a peek at their ratings on Goodreads and find it’s usually above 3.5 (often above 4 and as high as 4.69 for Maas), whereas a literary author like Jacobson will typically get below 3.5 (some as low as 2.67 at the time of writing). Now ratings aren’t everything, but this doesn’t bode well, especially when you consider the downward trend of sales. One can fairly deduce that people buying the books aren’t satisfied and won’t be repeat readers- which creates an unsustainable business model and suggests a deeper flaw with literary fiction. Remember, these were the people that invested time and money into the book, ergo don’t classify as the so-called lazy readers that won’t touch the stuff (those that might have “lazily” researched the book, its ratings and reviews, and decided they’d rather waste their time with a hefty tome that seems to be doing better).

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Moreover, the article largely overlooks some vital information. Evidence is that people are reading more, not less (opinions are varied on this, but for instance, this helpful infographic for the US shows how reading was looking like a pretty healthy habit in 2017). We also live in a world where more people are educated than ever before (again, a complex issue, but we’re generally looking at an upward trend in literacy rates). Challenging books, like classics, continue to be explored in the classroom (though of course, this could be promoted further). And, contrary to what genre snobs believe, plenty of books that are not literary fiction involve complex settings, concepts and characters (it seems daft to claim genre superiority in the face of fantasy/sci fi/dystopia, where a great deal of thought has gone into constructing an entire world from scratch). I also disagree with the idea wholeheartedly that a book has to be hard to read (or as Jacobson says “If you read me, you’re going to want to put me down”) in order to be worthwhile. There’s no reason why compulsive reading and concentration cannot go hand in hand. I personally found War and Peace quite the page turner.

Clearly, I think there are other issues at play (aka a flaw with the books themselves), however my problems with the article goes beyond that. Increasingly, I see this trend of “oh you don’t like such-and-such, you must be an *insert insult*” on the rise everywhere. Most notably, it’s taken the big and small screen sectors by storm. Don’t like the new Doctor Who? You must be sexist! Not a fan of the direction Star Wars has taken? BIGOT! While naturally you’re entitled to your own opinions on this and at the risk of starting a FLAME-THROWING-RAGE-FEST in the comments, I am not a fan of what has been done to these franchises- which apparently makes me evil or whatever. Lest we forget:

everyone i don't like is hitler

Now, being the sort of person that will just take my attention and money somewhere else, my opinion shouldn’t really matter all that much. BUT there’s something that has been done with these franchises that pisses me off no end- the fact that a lot of these constant attacks on the consumer are coming from the creators themselves. It’s almost becoming expected for there to be many, many hit pieces on fans from journalists and creators alike. Squabbles among fans are one thing; creators bashing their audience are another. I shouldn’t have to point out why this is a dumb idea- BECAUSE DUH! Why on earth OR in a galaxy far far away would anyone think it’s a good idea to go after the people with the wallets?! This not only makes the creator seem arrogant and out of touch, it seems delusional to me to expect people you’re bashing to part with their money. At the same time, it comes across as an abuse of power- using their position to “punch down” at those they ironically believe they’re punching up at (because yes, an actor/writer/producer/director in Hollywood has more power than your average Joe Schmo on twitter- a fact they simultaneously revel in and contradict with claims about power dynamics… *facepalm*).

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So to return to the original premise of this post: readers are not the problem, out of touch creators are. It doesn’t really matter if Jacobson believes people are too stupid and lazy to his read his books- it matters that any author would be foolish enough to think patronising their potential audience is the way to go. Not only will this not boost sales, it will alienate them for a lifetime. Literary fiction’s lack of popularity can be explained by an authorship that would hold haughty opinions such as these. If these are the kinds of people writing the books, no wonder people don’t want to read them. This unrelatability and pretentiousness might simply be translating into the work and distance the reader from it.

This of course is speculation- I wouldn’t presume to suggest this is the case with all literary fiction and am not trying to tarnish any other writers here. My point is that this attack on readership will not get anyone anywhere. I hate the spread of hostility towards consumers in general and really don’t want to see it infesting into the bookish world. As a reviewer, I’m used to people taking issue with the concepts of reviews– yet upping the ante to critique all readers that don’t engage with/like your work is far worse. I recently discovered a great piece of advice over on Alex’s blog which tied in nicely- consider following Franzen’s rule instead:

“The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.”

So do you agree or disagree? Are readers the problem? Let me know in the comments!

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The Need for Darkness in Books

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Since the dawn of literary criticism, there have always been people complaining that books are too dark. Explorations of suicide and mental health in Jude the Obscure and The Sorrows of Young Werther were condemned. Violence in fairy tales was wiped out for centuries and sanitised into Disney-approved remakes. Even themes of death in Hans Christian Anderson’s work were deemed too hopeless for children by the likes of Bettelheim (“The Struggle for Meaning”. The Classic Fairy Tales). HOWEVER there is one subject I increasingly see bashed in books- and that is the presence of bad parents. Now this is not the first– and probably won’t be the last- time I feel compelled to address this topic. Yet that’s because I continually see people arguing for fewer representations of bad parents. Not for more good parents mind- but to get rid of the quote-un-quote abusive parents “trope”.

This. is. not. cool.

Let me get one thing straight: it’s perfectly fine to have limits on what you, as an individual, are able to stomach. Everyone is entitled to consume whatever media or art they wish. However, one thing I think people should be clear on is that not all stories are pretty. Sometimes stories are harsh. Sometimes they are violent. And sometimes they even involve abuse. This is part of the human experience after all.

Two major misconceptions about a lot of abuse stories that I hear is that they’re somehow rare or that their portrayal is “unrealistic”. And my reaction to that is always *wow*- cos people making this criticism don’t realise how unbelievably douchy they sound when they say that. *Shocker*, but it’s kind of awful to complain that you don’t like reading about abusive parents or any other real life horror in books because (and I’m gonna paraphrase the sort of thing I hear a lot) “it’s not my experience”. Well, guess what? It’s *a lot* of people’s experience. I never talk about this on here, but I actually worked for a youth charity for a while and you wouldn’t believe some of the shocking real life stories I’ve heard. And you don’t have to take my word for it either- not only is there a wealth of personal accounts out there, we can also look at the statistics for things that can cause a bad home life. For instance, the percentage of children suffering some form of abuse in the UK is one in five. That is not a low number by any stretch of the imagination. Add in any other issue a child might encounter at home- bereavement, divorce (approx 42% of marriages in the UK end in divorce), economic problems- and you’re looking at a much higher percentage of children experiencing complicated issues. When you think about it this way, it’s no wonder that so many books feature at least one of the above.

cinder and ellaIt’s especially significant to explore such stories, as people who have experienced these situations might find such stories empowering. A great number of novels in this area are very much about discovering bravery and overcoming these obstacles. Stories like Cinderella hold sway for huge numbers of people because they are actually about *empowering* a victim to take control of their life. I actually just watched a fantastic video on how Cinderella frees herself from her abusers- which you can check out here. What can be cool in modern retellings, particularly Cinder and Ella, is the way they explore more modern issues of blended families and complex issues for antagonism towards the heroine. Regardless of the issue, it’s so important to note that there’s an educational element to these stories. We as readers incorporate aspects of that knowledge into our real lives and can learn how to face our biggest fears through books. Darkness, particularly in children’s books, emphasises that meaning is found in life through overcoming difficult circumstances. And as everyone knows, there can be no real catharsis in a story without that.

Alice's_Adventures_in_WonderlandPersonally, I believe that real life friction is a fantastic way to create that sense of tension. Far more so than defeating some faceless, evil entity, there is an educational aspect in characters defeating something more human. Unfortunately, we have to recognise that people are the ones to do evil things. It’s why I am often less drawn to the dehumanised villains (aka the Voldemorts of the world) and far more to the ones with real motivations and human flaws (eg the Dursleys). Sure, I appreciate a good Jaberwocky every now and again, but give me a Red Queen if you want me to be truly terrified.

harry potter and the half blood princeFacing such evils can be hugely character defining. A character working their way through extreme circumstances can give the individual an opportunity to grow and develop. We all know that one of the most satisfying parts of a book can be watching a character evolve. What is brilliant is watching a character be presented with choices and having to find the right path. To draw on Harry Potter again, Harry mirrors both Voldemort and Snape in his miserable background. Yet while they both go on to be baddies- a villain and anti-hero respectively- Harry overcomes his difficult upbringing and becomes the hero that saves the world. Even better, Dudley Dursley gets a redemptive story arc- he too was a product of bad parenting and yet he has to do the arguably more difficult thing of showing remorse for his actions (even if it wasn’t entirely his fault to begin with). In this way, Rowling has given us possibilities of how people can react to negative circumstances. And not only that, she’s given us a clear signpost in the right direction.

the hate u giveThis is not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t celebrate positive role models, but that there has to be room in books to explore some of the darker sides of life. I often see that it’s about balance. When you have, for instance, a story as emotionally fraught as, say, The Hate U Give, it makes perfect sense to me that the book has *fantastic* parent role models (not just the parents, but also the uncle!) In part, it’s just great to have that kind of rep in a book, but also I think it speaks to the strength of the author’s intuitive storytelling style. Too often I see books on hard subjects overladen with horror. Sometimes a novel can have no redemptive features or hint of hope- and that can be too much for a reader. So of course I’m not saying “*only darkness* in books please”- instead consider that sometimes there is a need for at least *some* darkness in books.

Phew- I know that wasn’t exactly the most cheerful topic I’ve covered, but I believe it was a necessary one. What do you think? Do you think there’s room to explore dark topics- especially abusive parents- in books? Let me know in the comments!

Why writers *need* to be readers

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seinfeld gifSo a while back, I was following an indie writer (who shall remain nameless) that said they don’t read, because, and I quote “There are writers and then there are readers”. Now, I’ve mentioned this before, because YIKES that is a dreadful piece of advice, but even more so, it then made sense to me why I’d given said writer a 2 star rating. They’d taken an exciting premise and gone nowhere interesting with it. As for their second book, I couldn’t even get past the first chapter and cba anyway because the premise was so generic and I could figure out the plot twist right away. So it made me want to talk about why it is SO IMPORTANT that writers are readers- because there is no getting round how disastrous the consequences are if you’re not. Here are some reasons why writers need to read (if not ALL THE BOOKS as a lot of us are tempted to, at least A LOT OF THEM):

floundering gifNot reading guarantees authors to make mistakes and be unoriginal. As readers we know where common mistakes crop up and have probably seen them done *all the ways*. This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever get stuck, but at least we have a better idea of how to get out of it.

squeal gifBecause books give you EVEN MORE ideas! If you think reading will make your wellspring of inspiration run dry, think again! It’s actually the exact opposite- the more you read, the more doors in your mind open and the more possibilities you’ll find.

 

boromir deathReaders know what’s on trend and what’s been done to death. Readers know off the top of their head what’s going round at the moment and what’s dipping out of fashion. They don’t have to do extensive research, because they’ve been to a library or bookstore recently- which I guess is a form of research 😉

readingSimilarly, they know how to approach THE DREADED TROPES– readers have lots of preferences and know which ones work for them, which ones to tweak and which ones to steer well clear of. But you can’t know any of this without doing proper research, which, you guessed it, requires reading.

lord of the rings writing gifReaders are more likely to write for themselves– because, as I said, readers have an intuitive sense of what they do and do not like. This will mean they don’t have to write by committee, as I call it, and will actually put together a story that they personally enjoy first and foremost.

choose books2All the techniques y’all. I mean, if you actually want to learn from *the best* writing teachers, there is nothing better than cracking open a wonderful book and figuring out just how an author achieved such brilliance. It’s literally like being able to tap into the minds of all the geniuses that have gone before- and really, what author wouldn’t want to have access to that kind of knowledge?

experimentReading more will give you confidence to experiment! If a writer wants to avoid the “painting by numbers” phenomenon that I’ve seen emerge from people following rules to a T, they should READ MORE, because it will encourage them to try different things. Even better, they might start to innovate on their own and go onto do incredible things. I always love to give advice to dream big when it comes to art- the sky is far from the limit- and if you want to go out into the stratosphere you simply have to start somewhere. Books have more than a little magic to get you off the ground.

What do you think? Do writers need to be readers? Do you have any other reasons to add? Let me know in the comments!

Reviews are for READERS

So I spent a lot of time last week talking about writing and trying to encourage writers, which almost makes me feel like I neglected the reader-y side of my blog. But *have no fear* ranty monkey is here to talk about why I think reading and reviews!

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You see, like many other people on the blogosphere I’ve noticed an ongoing problem of a certain type of author (#notall) that goes after reviewers when they get a negative review. This is obviously something that’s existed longer than I’ve been around, yet I specifically saw a video recently (that I won’t share because it names the author in question) where a vlogger described a horrible incident of an author harassing them for their 3* review. Now I’m sure I don’t have to state the obvious, but I will anyway: THIS IS NOT ON.

Still the encroachment on what reviewers do goes further than this unfortunately. Because I also see a fair number of authors, every so often, pre-emptively telling would-be readers of their work how they ought to review. Which is also NOT ON. Ultimately I hold with the view: your platform, your rules. I do not see how someone else is entitled to tell others what to do on their own site. Particularly when it comes to opinion pieces like reviews- gah! The nerve!

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Personally I have my own unspoken rules of how I like to run my blog and I see a lot of other reviewers make different choices. And whether they want to discuss certain aspects of a book, leave out negative reviews or only review certain kinds of books is *completely* up to them! It’s certainly not up to the author to determine what makes a satisfactory review.

And I say this not because I think people should avoid advice or never try to improve what they do- we’re all learning things all the time- but because I am seriously sceptical about whether someone who asks for reviews to be tailored for the author’s benefit are really looking out for the reviewer’s best interests. I do not think it is right to tell readers off for not giving a book a high enough rating, or not stating how the writer can improve, or heaven forbid “not getting it” (whatever that means)- dude, it’s not for your benefit. Most of us are trying to write reviews to help out fellow readers.

Sure, you’re welcome to write each and every review as a love/hate letter to the author– that’s your prerogative. In my experience though, most critics aren’t doing that. What motivates me personally, aside from enjoying chats about *BOOKS*, is knowing that I can help fellow bookworms out from under their crushing TBRs to figure out what they *need* to read a book and what they might want to skip. That’s why even if I gush over a book, I try to tell people what it is they can expect and point out that other people might not like it. Some of my favourite books of the year fall into this category- and that’s okay! Everyone has different tastes and is entitled to their opinion.

It’s kind of unbelievable that some authors use reviews as their personal critique anyway. I mean, it is supposed to be a finished product. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but the time for critique should be a little earlier than the publication stage. Once it’s entered the market, it’s fair game. Especially if people have parted with time and money.

None of this is to say that authors can’t get something out of reviews. My personal view is that if a review helps an author I like then that’s *fantastic*- I obviously want all the authors I respect to have a long and illustrious career (if nothing else than for the selfish reason that I want to read *all* their future books). And guess what? People still go onto read books that are negatively received. In fact, I’ve gone out and read books I’ve seen people slate (morbid curiosity/monkey-brained masochism- call it what you will). In my experience, what actually puts readers off is whiny authors who moan about reviews.

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And believe me, I get that writers poured a lot of work into it. I’m perfectly sympathetic to that. However, here’s the rub: reviewers put a lot of effort into their platforms too. No one has a monopoly on importance or conscientiousness here.

Contrary to what some writers might think, reviewers can’t control if they liked or disliked a book. Nor are they “out to get” anyone or likely to have personal vendettas against (often unknown) authors. Yet what reviewers do depend on is their ability to critique a book on its merit– and to start meddling with that undermines the whole process.

So I’ll say for the record: my reviews are for readers. Writers who think otherwise can kindly back away- I have bananas and I’m not afraid to use them!

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How about you? Do you think reviews are for readers or authors? Let me know in the comments!

The Joys of Rereading

Once upon a time there was a monkey who loved to reread. But as the monkey grew into a great ape, she began to feel like she had to devour all the other books (and bananas) in the world that she had not yet laid her hairy hands on. If she wanted to get to the top of the TBR Tower, there would be no time for diversions into Lands of Reading Past. However, as time went on, she began to get reader fatigue and was plagued by incessant slumps. The BIG BOOK DRAGON lurking in the back of her mind began to stir- “what about all the treasure troves of books you’ve read in the past?” She realised that her longing for magical worlds could only be sated by revisiting some of the old books she’d neglected. So the great ape got off her high horse, put the fears of the towering TBR out of her mind and picked up a series she knew she already loved. And she lived happily, bookishly after (until the next bookworm crisis). The End.

Okay, that was admittedly a very silly opening, but you get the idea, I’m here today to talk about why I love to reread books. Let’s get into the JOYS OF REREADING!

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carry onYou get to relive all your favourite memories! I mean, that’s one of the most obvious reasons to reread. I have to admit that sometimes I finish a really *amazing* book, like Carry On, and I have to flip back to my favourite parts and reread them straight away. It’s almost like a compulsion to get all the feels all over again!

 

hug a bookRereading a beloved book is like greeting an old friend– you get wrapped up in the embrace of familiarity. It’s easy to fall into step with a favourite novel, because you know exactly how it’s going to make you feel. You know which parts will make you laugh and which will make you cry. And sometimes that predictability can be a good thing.

 

chill slothBecause it’s incredibly relaxing to revisit something where you’re not fretting too much about how things turn out. Favourite books are like comfort food- there’s something heartening about them- like a snuggly jumper or a hot bowl of chicken soup (yes, that’s my comfort food 😉 ). It’s such a great way to destress as well if you’ve got a lot on your plate.

happy-runningIt’s also a fabulous way to get over a slump, because SLUMPS ARE FOR CHUMPS and we all want to get back on that reading horse as soon as possible. Sometimes just reading something we’ve read before can help. I’ve often found when I’m really struggling, I’ll go back to an old favourite and just whizzing through it will make me feel like I’m back on track. Then I get to feel like a CHAMPION!! (well, sort of 😉 )

1984 bookAnd sometimes you might learn something new into the bargain! Some books, like 1984, are endlessly complex. And no matter how many times I say “oh it’s too dark, I won’t read it again”, I know there is so much more to learn there that I will certainly *have to* read it again in the future. Plus, on the same note, though this isn’t the most joyful reason, if you need to do an exam on a book, there’s no revision as good as reading it and then reading it again and again…

rememberAnother huge positive is you might have forgotten most of it. Then it’ll be like reading it fresh! Sometimes I reread books and it gives me that “ah I remember why I fell in love with this in the first place” feeling. Given that you’ve read it and loved it before, there’s a solid chance the second time will be just as impactful. And if not, you might learn something new about yourself.

 

pride and prejudicePlus, you might even change your mind about how you feel about a book you didn’t like. Obviously, the danger of reading a book you did like is that you might not like it as much, but the MASSIVE PRO of rereading a book you didn’t like is you might change your mind. There’s always going to be books that we try at the wrong time or couldn’t get into when we first read them. For me, that was Pride and Prejudice– but I was so grateful to be set this for A Level because it made me give it another shot- and you know what? Now I love it! There are definitely other books in the world that I would love to reassess and give them a shot at a higher rating 😀

And that’s all for now- how do you feel about rereading? Yay or nay? Let me know in the comments!

Why Villains are the GREATEST!

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Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my favourite subjects: VILLAINS. Too often, I find myself drawn to the darker side of the story. Sure, it’s great to be noble and I love a great hero I can get invested in… yet sometimes I think the villains are a tad more fun. Sometimes I find the “Darklings” more interesting than the light bringers. Sometimes I find myself distracted by all their evilly-goodness. And I know I’m not the only one to think so, cos Trang @Bookidote wrote an awesome post a while back (which I really recommend) about why roguish characters rock! Which makes me wonder… why do we all find villains so intriguing? Let’s discuss!

i see you sauronThey provide a thrill– their terrifying ways and insane antics have a way of getting my pulse up. The more a villain gives me chills, the more likely I am to get heated over a book. Nothing makes a book more exciting than a properly scary villain. And nothing does that better than Lord of the Rings- a stroll through middle earth could involving crossing anything from wraiths, to Shelob, to hoards of orcs, to Gollum… to Sauron *shudders*.

paradise lostThey are alluring– they have to be in order to tempt the protagonist. Satan from Paradise Lost is the quintessential example of such a compelling evil character and it is Milton’s genius that he drew him thus. After all, if he were not seductive, how else are we to believe that mankind could be taken in by the literal devil? Rather than looking at Milton and screaming *SATAN WORSHIPPER* (as some are wont to do) maybe we ought to look to ourselves and wonder why it’s possible to see Satan as the hero of the story. So yeah, villains oddly attractive to the reader too.

magnetoThey can be sympathetic and that can make the story a beautiful, painful journey. I always think of Magneto as one of my favourite villains, because I feel so sorry for him, but at the same time I know he’s a complete shit- and yet I kinda want the writers to stop putting him through hell and just leave him be arghhh… So yeah, it’s another way a story can get under my skin and make me so invested in it.

carry onThey push the plot on with their antics. Because let’s face it, without something to fight against, there wouldn’t be any plot. I could literally talk about any villain here, because no story would exist without an evil force, but right now the Humdrum from Carry On has popped into my mind, because he’s certainly there to be a foil to the Chosen One (no spoilers 😉 ). Which leads us onto…

 

voldemortThey force the hero to be heroic. Usually for some personal reason like, “you killed my parents!” aka Harry Potter vs Voldemort. In turn, a personal connection can make us feel sorry for the lead. Speaking of Voldy and Harry…

 

iago othelloThey provide insight into the hero– because so often “neither can live while the other survives”. More than that, however, the best villains illuminate the flaws of the protagonist, such as how Othello mirrors Iago’s weaknesses. And thus…

 

hook.gifThey can project a possible future for what the hero might become– this is never more true than in Peter Pan, where Captain Hook represents a tyrannical patriarchal figure… the very future Pan fears becoming. All of this shows how…

 

six of crowsThey have to speak dark truths about the human soul. Indeed, sometimes it’s easier to identify with a villain, fallen into depravity and chaos, than the perfect hero. There is something *more* insightful about a baddie somehow. On one level we identify with their flaws; on a darker more primordial level, perhaps they show us what we fear we could become. Incidentally this is probably why I like anti-heroes most of all and why I fell for the Six of Crows duology.

macbeth2They create the moral questions. And really, that’s one of the ways we learn from a book. We can get lost in the psychology of a well written villain and have to find our own humanity to get back to ourselves. Shakespearean anti-heroes, like Macbeth, teach us our fallibility and our limits. It’s about knowing ourselves and identifying that little villainous voice egging us on. Learning about ourselves doesn’t stop at knowing our strengths and nothing tells us more about our weaknesses than a baddie. What they do, the lines they cross, can make us question everything- and that’s a good thing.

darth vaderThey have the chance at redemption– yes I’m one of those people whose favourite Star Wars character is Darth Vader, because he redeems himself- well, sort of… it doesn’t make up for the genocide of an entire planet… (and no, Anakin Skywalker from the prequels is not really Vader in my mind- those stupid movies don’t deserve a look in to the Star Wars universe) *Ahem* got a bit carried away there… ANYWAY redemption stories happen to be one of my absolute favourite story arcs- partly because they teach us they’re not all bad news!

So after all that, I guess it’s no wonder that a lot of us want to be “chillin’ like a villain 😉

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But am I alone in this fascination with the “dark side”? What do you think of villains? Love ’em or loathe ’em? Let me know in the comments!

Sorry, no you don’t get to dictate taste…

thoughts orangutan

That’s quite the accusatory title, isn’t it? But of course, I don’t mean *you* per se- just the *you* who tells people what they can and can’t like- this is turning into a “not you, you” moment…

na na na na naAnyhoo, the subject of taste was abuzz on the blogosphere a while back (sorry I forgot to bookmark posts!) and I wasn’t initially going to respond since I’ve touched on the topic a few times before. But then, I noticed a trend of comments on my “favourites” posts, both new and old, and it started to play on my mind again. Because apparently, saying you like/dislike something is controversial. We’re back to the primary school level of argumentation with your opinion doesn’t match mine, therefore you’re wrong, so there!

tasteLet’s start by clearing something up once and for all: you can’t be wrong about your own personal taste. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I find the “you’re wrong” comments whenever I talk about my favourites. I mean, they’re my favourites. Now, I usually attribute this to unfortunate wording- but I’ve also encountered plenty of people irl who seem to have no qualms telling me that I’m wrong about my own personal taste– somehow these *ahem* charming people know me better than I know myself- so that’s cool 😉 In all seriousness, an opinion is subjective and whether or not a person likes something isn’t really up for debate. Art speaks to the soul– and we cannot be held accountable for what we do and do not like.

There are of course plenty of things to contend with when it comes to books- and I do hold that some books are objectively better than others. People are of course entitled to say what they want, but yeah, it’s a bit daft to say “Shakespeare is crap”, even if you don’t like his work (surprisingly people do say that and my response is pahahaha I should be so crap). That said, whether something is more technically good or bad does not always affect taste. hallelujahI’ve disliked plenty of well written books- books I’ve gone out of my way to say “I understand why other people like it”- and that’s not a platitude, I genuinely mean the book has literary merit, even if I didn’t connect with it. And at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve enjoyed plenty-a trashy book. Nothing wrong with that. Books can be entertaining, lovely and make you exuberantly happy without being the next Middlemarch. I won’t pretend it’s on a literary par with a classic if it isn’t, yet I’ll happily sing its merits till my throat’s hoarse if there’s something, anything about it that catches my fancy- and I can’t say fairer than that.

obviousNor does it matter if a book is obscure or popular. I think we’ve all had the moment where we’ve been in love with a hidden gem and not understood why it’s not got *all the acclaim*. And I know a lot of you feel me when it comes to those dreaded overhyped books. Then there are the world famous hits it’s trendy not to like (I can’t tell you how many times I was told at uni that it was too obvious to like the Beatles- whatever that means 😉 ). The point is, we will ultimately form our own opinions- and that’s okay. Which brings me onto my most important point…

I don’t care if you like what I like or hate what I hate. Everyone’s entitled to hate what I love or love what I hate, as I stated in my “I don’t care, I didn’t write it” piece eons ago- I’m not going to take it personally. But I’d actually like to take it further than I did there: even if I did write it, it doesn’t matter. There will always be people to love and hate your work- that’s not only a part of life, it’s a necessary part of life. dc marvelThe world is a richer, more interesting place thanks to diverse thought and ideas. Talking to each other is how we learn; discussing even our greatest differences is how we grow and is the path to reaching common ground. Realising that other people like different things is all part of getting along like adults and it’s not worth tearing each other apart for things outside our control. Especially when it comes to whether or not we prefer DC to Marvel (I’ve probably started a comment war haven’t I…). And I think that’s a message we could all do with learning.

So what do you think? Is taste debatable? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!