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Feeling embarrassed?*

Ruth Graham started it with her article at Slate: "Against YA: Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children." Graham manages to diss not only all of YA fiction, but also fantasy, science fiction, and detective fiction, as well, in favor of big-L Literature.


One of my favorite contemporary authors, Lyndsay Faye, has just responded with a wickedly tongue-in-cheek "thank you": "Slate Nailed It: YA and Detective Fiction Are for Rubes."

Faye's reply is well worth reading for insightful sarcasm like this:
"In a knockout left hook of an argument that left me reeling at Graham’s perspicacity, she later suggests, 'the YA and "new adult" boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books.' This is not merely true of adults reading Harry Potter, a terrible series touching on love, bravery, ultimate self-sacrifice, and a truly unambiguous, almost cartoonish character named Severus Snape; it is likewise true of detective fiction. When I was very young, I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at the behest of my dad, who loved The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. My father’s unabashed admiration for the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have stunted my capacity to comprehend literary fiction, razing my intellect like a nuclear winter, had a half-bespectacled, elbow-patched stranger not bashed me over the head with a first edition Finnegan’s Wake when I was a nubile sixteen years of age. If not for this vigilante illuminati (they have capes, and a lair), I would not now have To the Lighthouse and Beloved open at either elbow so I can read them simultaneously in my periphery while writing this article in praise of 'Against YA.'"

Books, again.


* Nope, me neither.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
febobe
Jun. 11th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC)
*dies*

Is that writer - the original one - serious? Oyyyyyy.

Some people just want to read stuff that strokes their ego. Look how smart I am - I read big boring hard grown-up books! Some of us, however, are secure enough in our adulthood that we don't let other people dictate what we should read...which, BTW, seems to me quite juvenile, the idea of worrying what others think or whether we're quite "grown-up" enough....

Thanks for sharing!
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 11th, 2014 03:26 pm (UTC)
Yep, Graham is serious. ::headdesk::

I love your comments. They remind me of what C.S. Lewis said in "On Three Ways of Writing for Children":

"Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
brighteyed_jill
Jun. 11th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC)
You tell 'em, sister! Also, I enjoyed this article refuting Graham's arguments, including this: "Cynicism doesn’t make you smart; earnestness doesn’t make you dumb." Seriously.
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 11th, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks for the link. That's a great one, too! I really appreciated this point: "In one of the most apples-to-bananas comparisons I’ve ever seen, she pits The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent against Dickens and Wharton. Which, for one thing: If you’re going to put classics on one side of the equation, you’ve got to put classics on the other side of the equation. The juxtaposition she’s looking for is To Kill a Mockingbird (YA) vs. Great Expectations (adult), Little Women (YA) vs. The Age of Innocence (adult). Or you can compare modern New York Times best sellers, in which case you’ve got Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars on one side and Dan Brown’s Inferno and Jim Butcher’s Skin Game on the other." Yes, THIS!
mosinging1986
Jun. 11th, 2014 03:05 pm (UTC)
Fly-by, as I don't have time to read the article(s) at the moment -

The important thing is whether a book is well written. There's crappy YA but there is also crappy "literature".
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 11th, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
The important thing is whether a book is well written.

YES! Exactly. *nods head emphatically*
(Anonymous)
Jun. 11th, 2014 06:34 pm (UTC)
Link fix?
The second link actually goes to the original Graham piece. (Unfortunately ... that does NOT need two links!) Just wanted to mention it. :-)
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 11th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Link fix?
Ack! Thanks so much. 'Tis fixed.
xjenavivex
Jun. 11th, 2014 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this.
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 19th, 2014 12:30 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! I just posted a follow-up post with more links to some excellent responses to Graham.
estellye
Jun. 11th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC)
Great response to the Slate article! I think you'll like Maggie Stiefvater's take on it, here: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieStiefvaterAuthorPage/posts/10152921459329466


Edited at 2014-06-11 07:53 pm (UTC)
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 19th, 2014 12:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, that is wonderful - thanks! I just posted about that (and the brilliantly clever piece you sent from Kathleen Hale - thanks for that, too). I'm glad to see this is sparking so much discussion and leading people to defend the genre in such thought-provoking ways.
sittingduck1313
Jun. 12th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
I'm getting the impression that Ruth Graham is one of those folks who wants to believe that Shakespeare's plays were written by Edward de Vere. Someone might want to break it to her that those plays were entertainment for us beer-swilling yokels. Perhaps we should send her a copy of the MST3K Hamlet episode so that she can get the true Globe experience. To close, here's a quote from an interview with Kenneth Hite:

As a conspiratologist, my favorite theory is Calvin Hoffman's -- that Francis and Anthony Bacon faked Christopher Marlowe's death in 1593 and Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's plays from a hideout in Verona, Italy. (Where he also apparently learned to write female characters. But that's beside the point.) But by and large the Authorship Controversy is less plausible than, say, the Loch Ness Monster -- there are historical cases of new mega fauna being discovered, but there aren't any I know of where a rich and famous person pays a nonentity to sign masterpieces he wrote, instead of the other way around. And the notion that Ben Jonson, to pick just one of Shakespeare's contemporaries who would have to be part of any cover-up, would willingly conspire to keep his great rival's secret is beyond ridicule.

A lot of it seems like a weird flinch from the notion that middle-class nobodies can make art -- when of course that's who made the vast majority of art throughout history, and especially English history, and even more especially English literature. By comparison, in all English history, there are only two hereditary peers who have written great literature. (Two and a half if you count Dunsany.) The Marlowe theory at least picks another middle-class tradesman's son, although he went to Cambridge like a gentleman.
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 21st, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC)
Someone might want to break it to her that those plays were entertainment for us beer-swilling yokels. Perhaps we should send her a copy of the MST3K Hamlet episode so that she can get the true Globe experience.

Yes, YES! This!!!

there are historical cases of new mega fauna being discovered, but there aren't any I know of where a rich and famous person pays a nonentity to sign masterpieces he wrote, instead of the other way around.

Ha! Hite makes a great point here.

A lot of it seems like a weird flinch from the notion that middle-class nobodies can make art -- when of course that's who made the vast majority of art throughout history, and especially English history, and even more especially English literature.

Another terrific insight.

I love your comments, and I think you're spot on. Thanks for this!
alitalf
Jun. 12th, 2014 10:50 pm (UTC)
Some of what I read is YA, some even written by peiple I know, like, and respect. Who would not want to find out what a friend has to say in print?

Even if not for those examples, there is a significant sprinkling of YA among what I read. If anyone cared, I'd claim to be just a big kid! Also, I am told that now I have passed 60, since I have avoided growing up so far, it is no longer compulsory.
eldritchhobbit
Jun. 21st, 2014 12:36 pm (UTC)
Also, I am told that now I have passed 60, since I have avoided growing up so far, it is no longer compulsory.

Ha! That's very encouraging news.

I'm with you 100%.

This reminds me of C.S. Lewis, who wrote, "When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
Abbie Culbertson
Jun. 24th, 2014 02:32 am (UTC)
Here's where I confess that when I first read this link after you posted it on Tumblr, I missed the fact that it was all sarcasm all along. As you can imagine, I was deeply disturbed until I looked at it again and realized that OF COURSE it's sarcasm! Then I just felt incredibly silly for ever thinking that you, Amy H. Sturgis, would honestly agree with such obnoxious nonsense. :P

I will now return to the middle grade novel I was reading. For some reason I have a big soft spot for middle grade fiction...
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:42 pm (UTC)
Here's where I confess that when I first read this link after you posted it on Tumblr, I missed the fact that it was all sarcasm all along. As you can imagine, I was deeply disturbed until I looked at it again and realized that OF COURSE it's sarcasm! Then I just felt incredibly silly for ever thinking that you, Amy H. Sturgis, would honestly agree with such obnoxious nonsense. :P

Oh no! Sorry for the initial disturbing moments there. :( Woe!!! You're right: that original piece is obnoxious nonsense!

Happy middle-grade reading! That's awesome.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 25th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
YA
Thank you!

Scorners like Ms. Graham seem to forget the high levels of authorial skill and insight required to produce effective YA, and the degree to which the resulting prose can influence the young readers' tastes for good writing in adulthood.

Also, there is no greater enemy of art than the posturing of those who aspire to it and fall short.

On second thought, there is one greater enemy (but not, I think, relevant to the present discussion): the subversion of free expression to promote dictatorial agendas
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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