Re: RARA-AVIS: Unreliable narrator

Date: 14 Nov 2005

Vicki wrote:

"If you say something is a guilty pleasure, that's not saying it's good. That's saying that you like it despite the fact that you know it's not."

My reference to soap operas as someone's guilty pleasure was not meant to say they were good (frankly, I'm not familiar enough with them to say one way or the other, but I do know Leslie Fiedler argued in their artistic favor), but to say that any genre should be judged on its own terms.

"I guess I have to sound elitist and say that some people know the difference between good writing and bad without being taught, but generally good writing is an acquired taste not shared by the reading majority."

Uh, yeah, it does sound elitist. As Tad Allagash said in Bright Lights Big City, "Taste, after all, is a matter of taste." And taste is highly correlated to socio-economc indicators, primarily education and income
(see Pierre Bourdieu). So the acquired taste argument is also a class argument -- the taste of those with the leisure time to cultivate a preference for tasteful culture is automatically superior. Why? Just because fewer people like it? Is that what makes it refined? And anything consumed by many is "common"? Wow, the Beatles must suck.

And as Kerry pointed out, a fair amount of the literary canon, especially that part we discuss here, was once considered very common. In fact, the novel form itself was once railed against as pandering to the working middle class, making literature less refined.

Too often, a bad literary novel is automatically perceived as better (a noble failure) than a perfect thriller. Why? What makes one genre better than another? Aren't there well written and poorly written books in each? As Duke Ellington said when asked about musical genres, "There are just two kinds of music, good and bad"

Now I tend to prefer more literary writing, just as I prefer punk rock to the Beatles, but I don't congratulate myself on it. Okay, maybe I do, but I shouldn't. It's just my taste.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 14 Nov 2005 EST