Will someone please hand me a soapbox?
I had a lot of free time this weekend, so I was able to visit almost everyone on Parajunkee and Crazy-For-Books' blog hops. The question of the week for the Book Blogger Hop was "What book has influenced or changed your life?" Many people (myself included) listed Twilight as one of the books that most influenced/changed them. A substantial proportion of these people prefaced their answer with things like "I'm embarrassed to admit this but..." or "As terrible as this sounds..."
This really bothers me. Why should anyone be ashamed for loving Twilight, or any book for that matter? I'll tell you why - there is this pervasive attitude out there that it is "cool" to ridicule Twilight. I can sort of understand this among the NPR crowd (my favorite radio station), but I also see it strongly represented in the YA book blogging community as well.
Let me say here that I have no problem with people who do not like Twilight. There are many reasons to dislike Twilight. The writing is pretty awful. Bella is boring and weak (although I believe that she's a very strong character). Edward is controlling and patronizing. The vampires don't act like traditional literary vampires. The characters don't have sex until they're married (although I don't understand why people criticize Twilight for this...obviously teens have sex, but not all teens). The imprinting thing is freaky. The pro-life message in Breaking Dawn is a little too blatant. The ending of Breaking Dawn is a cop-out (although I grew to like the ending). The list goes on...
I acknowledge all the reasons that people commonly dislike Twilight. In fact, I agree with many of them. Yet this series of books has still managed to capture my heart and my imagination more than any other book in years, perhaps ever. I love Stephenie's vampire mythology. I like my traditional vampires too, but I love that she turned them into something different. I love that the Cullens are a big family, each member with their own personality and history. The individual characters are actually more interesting to me than the romance. Bella is rather boring, but she's so plain that any reader can imagine herself in her shoes (people argue that Harry of Harry Potter has a flat personality for the same reason). The romance between Bella and Edward is epic and all-consuming. While this kind of romance is neither realistic nor particularly advisable, I think every girl dreams of experiencing it. In the end, my feelings about Twilight are not entirely rational. I fell in love with it about halfway through the first book and nothing any critic says about it has lessened my affection for the series.
Evidenced by the responses to the Blog Hop question, I am definitely not alone in being a passionate Twilight fan. This series of books has brought thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people back into the world of reading. It has re-introduced many people (particularly adults) to the wonders of YA. And not only YA. I've always read a lot of YA, but after Twilight I became a devoted reader of all things paranormal romance. Twilight has drawn me and many other readers into the entire paranormal romance genre, both YA and adult. Any book that can foster a love for reading is magical. Anything that gets people away from the TV, from Skype, from the Wii and back to the pages of a book is wonderful. Whether you personally like Twilight or not, that alone makes the books worthy of acclaim.
But this really goes beyond liking or disliking Twilight. It goes beyond Twlight entirely.
No one should ever be made to feel that they are less of a person because they like a certain book.
Twilight fans are not the only ones who get this kind of treatment. When Da Vinci Code was at the height of its popularity, all sorts of people characterized fans as unintelligent, too eager for an easy read, etc. I personally didn't love Da Vinci Code because I don't like thrillers, but I thought it was an interesting book. You should have seen my parents speed through Paris and London, super-excited to see all the Da Vinci Code sights. It made Europe twice as exciting for them. Literary fiction or not, if a book makes someone's life more interesting and pleasurable, can you really call it unworthy?
Sometimes I think people like to put on an aura of sophistication. When I was applying for law school, I frequented forums for fellow applicants. When threads came up asking about our favorite books, the answers were uniformly things like Confederacy Of Dunces or Brothers Karamazov. I didn't respond to these, because I was embarrassed to say that my favorites were The Giver and Harry Potter. It makes me wonder just how many people fudged a bit on listing classics as their favorites. Confederacy Of Dunces was a good book, certainly, and I know lots of people love Dostoevsky, but I imagine that I wasn't the only one ashamed of appearing to have less than "law-school-worthy" intelligence (actually it was probably better I didn't say anything, because that crowd never hesitated to diss anyone they viewed as less worthy. I'm sure it would have shocked them to know that someone as unrefined as me got into and did well at a Top-20 school).
On the other hand, there are plenty of people who look askance at people who honestly love literary fiction or other, more difficult reads. These people are characterized as hoity-toity eggheads, the nerds that the cool kids avoided in school. There's certainly nothing inherently wrong with classics. They're classics for a reason. Literary works like The Iliad, Siddhartha, Death of a Salesman, and The Great Gatsby are permanently etched in my mind, each playing an important role in the development of my outlook on life. No one should be ridiculed for seeking out these types of works - for using their precious leisure reading time to grow as a person. I've never been a huge literary fiction person, but for many years the majority of my reading consisted of heavy-duty history and policy books. I liked them. I liked learning. Who can blame me?
As book bloggers, we should encourage people to love whatever book appeals to them. No one should ever feel the need to hide her face before admitting that she loves a particular book. That's not what we're here for. The book blogging community is a refuge. We spend most of our lives around friends, family, co-workers who would rather hit their heads against the wall than talk passionately about books. We should feel most comfortable declaring our love for any and all books that appeal to us in a community of our book-loving peers.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever felt ashamed about the books you love to read?