On Not Being A Stuck-Up Reader
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On Not Being A Stuck-Up Reader

The Collapse Of My Literary Snobbery and Learning The Value Of Contemporary Works

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On more than one occasion, I've been accused of being "high-maintenance." This quality somehow seeped into my education, and in my growing love for the English language, writing, and literature, I developed quite a severe level of "literary snobbery" which only recently succumbed to better sense.

In high school, my AP English teacher announced to our class that she never read much "commercial lit." She explained that "commercial lit" meant recent works written for entertainment, and that she enjoyed reading more literary, artistic works. Well, I decided then and there that I needed to adopt that mentality.

Goodbye to The Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogies beloved during my previous school year. Never would I finish the Harry Potter series. Thank goodness my parents never let me read Twilight, for my scholarly mind would have been irreparably damaged with the written swill of literary commoners. These and any other contemporary works were well beneath my academic standards. Only the "classics" for me from then on.

When I got to college, this mentality only worsened. The more literary works from the past couple of centuries I read, the more I loved them. I admired the complexity of language and challenge for analysis that the works I read presented. I came to love the works that would have once bored me and found beautiful passages in almost everything I read which convinced me that no writers today could possibly compare. I wouldn't touch a book from this century.

I only became increasingly entrenched in my reading prejudice as one professor I respected said that he wouldn't read anything from a writer who is still living. "I might get to those once I finished all the works of dead authors," he declared. "Amen!" I shouted in my head. "Nothing today is very good anyway. It's all fluff with no complexity or challenge. Authors aren't artists like they used to be." Like most judgmental ravings, I later found these thoughts to be incredibly ill-informed and ignorant.

This semester, I am in a class in which we have read 21st Century works. At first, I was (shall I dare say) disappointed that we weren't reading more "challenging" works and instead were reading the "simplistic" contemporary works.

My opinion quickly changed. In these books, I saw that current writers are writing important, thoughtful works that comment on today's society. Cloud Atlas is one book in particular that rocked my misconceptions to their core, as I saw David Mitchell weave complex plots with parallel details and themes across hundreds of years and numerous characters, incorporating a variety of genres. In each one, his writing style and dialogue paint an image of the time he describes.

Cloud Atlas is just an obvious work to point to that showed me how wrong I was about current literature. I don't love everything about the book, obviously, but it accomplished a great deal in knocking me off my pseudo-intellectual high horse. Sure, some of today's books are garbage, but that happens in any century. I knew better than to judge a book by its cover, but only recently did I learn to not judge a book by its generation.

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