On concern trolling & the policing of reading or why I’m not talking about that book with you
I love reading, I love books and I usually love talking about books. But right now I am tired. I am tired of hitting “hide post” or scrolling furiously past yet another concern trolling article.
It seems to me that every few years whenever some new book takes the world by storm we get another spate of these kinds of articles. Some articles are written to point out the problems with the popular book du jour’s writing, content or genre and conclude with a dark vision about the death of literature, or with worry about the future of writing because of the overwhelming popularity of a particular genre or book of the moment. Whether it is Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (one of the first books I remember being discussed in hushed judgmental voices by adults during my childhood), or Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Twilight, Hunger Games or, most recently, Fifty Shades of Grey, the tone, content and audience of these articles in essence remains the same.
These posts are often shared by well-meaning folks who have never read the book but are amazed people would buy and read such trash or who want to warn folks away from buying such corrupting filth. In some instances there is true intellectual curiosity about why that particular book could ever be so popular, but those are the exception. Over the years I have given up talking about popular problematic books with people who are talking out of a position of ignorance. A person doesn’t have to read a book or watch a particular movie to form an opinion but they are not satisfying conversational partners. More often than not these conversations degenerate into negative and ignorant comments that assign moral and ethical characteristics to the readers of the “problem” book.
As a librarian, I wish people were more willing to trust readers. Readers can be discerning and appreciative of a book’s flaws and still enjoy the experience the book gave them. Readers are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. In my long experience reading genre fiction (Sci-Fi, Mystery, Fantasy and Romance), readers are by and large able to recognize risky, dangerous and bad behavior for what it is, even when that behavior is performed by the protagonists. As long as there have been stories, we’ve had problematic ones. Personally I think it is preferable for people to explore dark topics & dangerous fantasies through fiction.
I personally read and enjoy reading critical articles and posts that call out problematic aspects of books I’ve read. Reading critiques of story structure, writing style or content help me become a better reader but I am just not going to get on board for another round of “Bash this Book” by those who haven’t read it because too often it turns into “Bash its Readers.” So if you want to talk books with me right now, tell me about books you are reading and loving. Tell me why you love them, I would love to know. But trust me to make my own reading choices.