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Contemporary Books Are Not the Devil

I am totally pro-updating this all the time. Mainly because it's not like livejournal where it clogs up your friends' friends page, and I know that when I'm trying to slack off, which is most of the time, I'm delighted when people post frequently, and more often than not annoyed when they don't. "The last entry is STILL the one from yesterday?? What could they possibly have to do other than update this??"

Let's make today's topic Contemporary Books. I used to hate them, and have only as of late begun to entertain somewhat lukewarm feelings for them. After reading a series of trashy novels when I was 11 (no one should read The First Wives Club or A Will of Their Own), I swore off anything written after 1950, believing it all to contain gratuitous sex and bad writing. Yes, I was slightly pompous. And yes, I am slightly still that way, but I have transmuted it into a much more socially acceptable form.

This decision meant that my teen years were spent reading clichéd works like Jane Eyre, Little Women and House of Mirth. I said my favorite novel was either Gone With the Wind or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (this was after the inevitable-at-16 phase of thinking Jane Eyre was the greatest book of all time). I was pained to discover when I got to college that these books were the favorites of many people, some of whom I considered morons.

Books become classics for a reason. Usually it's because they have something timeless to say about the human condition, etc etc, but that's not what I got out of them when I was 16. I didn't read House of Mirth or JE with an eye to the subjugation of women and/or the servant class. I wanted a love story, and I wanted something inoffensive. Not to be all quotey and say when I got to college I put childish things behind me, but I did realize that A) Contemporary literature has value, and B) By reading something outside my comfort zone, it made me think about why that comfort zone was there, how I felt about the way that book represented the world, and it enabled me to read something that maybe wasn't watered down by years of film adaptations and pop culture references (ok, maybe there aren't that many references to HoM, but still).

I do remember having something of a dulled moment of epiphany (I suppose I could also term it a 'calm moment of realization that didn't make me go "!"') when I was pondering how literature can show us how the world works and how other people think, and I realized '...I am only aware of how people in Dickensian England think.'

Which is fine if you want to squirrel yourself away from the world, but I like the world. I'd like to be able to understand it better. So a book no longer has to Stand the Test of Time for me to read it. It makes choosing books harder, as who knows what's just sentimental idiocy written specifically to find a place in women's book clubs (hint: if it's Nicholas Sparks, that's probably a safe bet), but that's also kind of a fun part because it forces you to learn to be more discerning.

In conclusion, hurray for contemporary literature! In all its diverse and occasionally crappy forms!


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