Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: The "Average" Reader, and What Should Be Done to Them

Date: 16 Nov 2007

MEH wrote:

"Well, I see something being an active pursuit when a person/individual is mentally engaged--but I guess that is me the academic..."

To tell you the truth, the image I was thinking of was a bunch of fans watching a football game. Not being a sports fan, I find their engagement kind of amusing (or annoying, depending upon my mood and how much distance I can get). They sure ain't passive. And they are mentally engaged, too, as they critically discuss strategy, players' history, etc. And I think the same can be said of fans of genre fiction.

"And, when you are dealing with people who like 99% or better in a given genre, you are not dealing with critical readers."

Even if completists find value in every word ever scribbled by a preferred scribe (and is that really any different from academics who want to pore over a revered author's papers, everything from early drafts to shopping lists?), I refuse to believe they find them all of equal value. For instance, I know a lot of fans (myself included) who spend a lot of time ranking the works of favorite artists. They may extend the auteur theory to its breaking point by finding great value in an author's least works (or even perversely liking the worst best because they are so odd and idiosyncratic), but the search for value is due to the way the best works moved them, and the value found is in how the lesser works illuminate the best and/or how the individul works function within the metanovel of the author's entire catalog.

For example, I doubt anyone would claim Block's pseudonymous sleaze novels are his best work, but many of us are interested in reading them. Part of that comes from the simple enjoyment of the story told. I very much enjoyed Lucky at Cards as a good read. That does not, however, mean that I thought it was anywhere near as good as, say, his Girl with the Long Green Heart or Eight Million Ways to Die.

Once read, I also found value in this lesser work as it illuminated various fields of production, to use Bourdieu's term. It told me about the evolution of Block's writing, an early work to compare to later ones. It told me something about the state of publishing at the time, how there was market for sleaze novels and how that market served as an apprenticeship for many genre writers of that day. It also revealed society's values in there being a market for sex novels and how graphic or not the sex could be in books of that day.


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