Literary Snobbery

By whose standards is something deemed as ‘badly written’? Sorry, this is a bit of a rant.

I just can’t understand this literary snobbery that is abound. I’ve read a great deal in my reading life and can honestly say, the idea of something being well written or badly written is pretty much an illusion.

I’ve read novels that have won awards and been celebrated as masterpieces. In my view? Tedious, self-indulgent nonsense. Boring. Couldn’t bring myself to finish it. The writer loved the sound of their own voice too heartily for my taste and emitted no emotional truth or made no social observation.

If good and bad does indeed exist in the art realms, then I would label many so-called ‘greats’ as badly written and, frankly, crap.

Then I’ll pick up a seedy paperback for a couple of quid and be blown away. The story will speak to me on umpteen levels, make me think, stick with me in my mind and inspire my own writing. Yet, the snobs will be up in arms. It’s no masterpiece they cry! But to me? The beholder… in my eyes it is a masterpiece. It meets my own criteria to be one. It is my level of greatness and ‘well-written’.

Just winds me up when someone decries something that they think isn’t ‘deep enough’ or meets whatever lofty standard they have to deem the written word relevant in their eyes.

This is one of the reasons I hate to be published. Why bother? I write because I enjoy it. Not because I think others will and that my words will bring to them a piece of sunshine. No. I write because the sunshine is simply mine. My own. I don’t expect others to understand either me or what I was trying to say. I refuse to have labels slapped on me as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

If a toddler came up to you, proud as punch, with a finger painting, would you wave it away in disdain because it was ‘rubbish’ by your adult standards? Or would you see that that was the best this beautiful little mind could create and that is awesome and laudable?

Yes, it can be annoying when spelling and grammar are not adhered to as it stalls and hinders the flow of reading. Would it make me think any less of the author? No. Why should it? None of us are perfect, like all works of fiction.

The greatest amount of the snobbery to which I allude to of late, has been directed at author EL James and her phenomenally successful trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey. People seem insanely ignorant of the uniqueness of these stories. So let’s get a few things straight:

They were not written by a professional, well rounded writer. They started off as a fanfiction that developed into its own world. They were stuck on a personal website for anyone bothered to read it and a self-publishing website. They were not vetted by publishers before being stuck up on the web. They were not written by a seasoned pro, or someone even passing themselves of as so. Erika Leonard simply had a bit of a bash at writing her own thing and then… it went viral.

Sitting there, judging someone’s first attempt at writing is just dire. She wasn’t a prolific or published writer. She worked for the BBC. It’s like you, now, going to write down a story, sticking it up on the web and then ten million people wanting to read it. How would you feel then if it was berated by people used to reading so-called masterpieces written by well versed writers? I’m sure if EL James knew that this series would create such a maelstrom, she would have probably been too afraid, as a fledgling writer to even publish it, or have been so self-conscious about everything she did, the finished product wouldn’t be so good.

Good. That’s right.

I enjoyed the stories. Yes, I think there are bits that would need revision or editing, but that’s my personal view. Do I think they are masterpieces? Well, in my view, they are. Because I enjoyed them and I liked what it made me think about (no, not what you’re thinking!). I like the fact a fanficcer has done so marvellously well. I adore the fact a new author has shot straight to the top – showing countless others that they can bloody well do it too.

The world is going to be a better place with new writers being encouraged.

No, EL James did not set out to be this amazing author. Other people liked her stuff so much that this is what happened. Not those with their half moon glasses in their stuffy libraries, clinging steadfastly to a copy of Dickens. Real people, out on the street. They bought it, they liked it. They may not think it’s up there with all the other personal faves they have, but it brought a smile and some entertainment to their lives. That is what it’s all about, surely?

Are people more annoyed with the fact that this apparently ‘badly written tosh’ is doing so well, when their idea of what is good, isn’t flying off the shelves so quickly? I mean, who the hell has the right to really judge? If another human being tried their damndest, then who are we to turn our noses up at it? I think with my heart an awful lot of the time and my opinion is, if you tried and indeed – succeeded – then why care what nay-sayers and doom-mongers have to say? It seriously cannot be that bad if so many people have read it.

I’m a bit of a mother duck when it come to protecting and advocating new writers!

I’m not for a second saying either that people cannot have an opinion, it is just when it is unconstructive I think that bothers me. Labelling something that wasn’t intended to be a serious novel (well, if you go off its origins) as simply ‘badly written’ and full of the cliche, is just wrong in my view. Say why and no, don’t bother comparing it, because there isn’t much out there to compare it to. Everyone else has been going for years. It’s only the stand out genius’ that write stunners in their formative years or with their first go at writing. Everyone deserves an even break in my book, especially those just starting out.

Right, off the old soap box now… Will provide a writing update soon. Promise!

Love you all and hoping you are all well and doing great guns,

Cat x

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura says:

    I’m with you, I can’t stand the snobbery either. I read a post the other day deeming all fans of Stephen King either adolescence, nerdy adolescence, or nerdy adults. That no one who’s ever read a “masterpiece” could enjoy such drivel. Oh it makes me so mad to hear people talk that way about FANS of a book or author. It’s the same with Twilight. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but I still enjoyed it. It was a good round of escapism…what is the big deal? I think maybe that’s what is wrong with a lot of people…if for instance Stephen King was some underground author that had only 500 fans, those fans would hold him up and non-fans would regard him with wonder and awe…but he’s not, he’s a superstar of an author so clearly the only thing to do in that case is to put him and his fans down. I just don’t get people sometimes!

    1. Cat says:

      I love a bit of Stephen King and I don’t think a person I know would consider me a nerd or adolesence. My father in law reads a bit of it too and I would never in a million years think he was nerdy! People seem to have this strange set of ideas of what is right and wrong. Really, really awful and just plain old fashioned snobbery, like most people can even talk too! Grrrr, really annoys me, especially when someone is just finding their voice or their style and some moron comes along and tells them it isn’t good enough – just horrid. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post 🙂

  2. Well said. I can’t abide snobbishness of any kind, what you say here could be applied to lots of other things too apart from writing – art, music, food…

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