Monday, March 24, 2008

"Those aren't real books."

What I’m Reading: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

What I’m working on: The grid and now the plot board for The Slayer’s Circle. (Yippee for Story Magic.)

New Words Sunday: 189
New Words today: 566

I just finished listening to a nationally renowned motivational speaker. He visited my favorite high school today to speak to the students. He did it for free. (He usually makes 15k a day speaking.) He made ten points about how to be a champion in life – ten foundations for the construction of a champion.

One of his points was to think, to exercise your brain. He stressed the point of reading – everyday.

I thought, “Wonderful! This is what we need.” He challenged the students to read an hour a day! Yes! It’s an ambitious goal, but why not? He pointed out some statistics (don’t where he got them) which indicate that a significant number of men will never finish another book once they exit high school. He said 85% of all books purchased are purchased by women.

I don’t know about those statistics, but okay -- I do think women probably read more than men.

However, it was the next part of his speech that unsettled me. He said to read something worthwhile. (Can you see where this is headed?) He said don’t read mystery/crime novels or romance novels. “They don’t count. Read a real book. Those aren’t real books.”

I was fairly outraged. I write those kinds of books! And, any book you can get a kid to read is one more book he/she is reading. How can that be bad?

I think his point was to read something you can learn from. He thinks you can’t learn from mystery, crime, & romance novels, so therefore they can’t be beneficial.

I disagree. DISAGREE!!!!!! What about you? What would your rebuttal be?



Lara Dien said...

My rebuttal would be "what makes a book worthwhile?"

Then, for every answer he gave, you can give him a reason why mass-market fiction--of any kind--is worth reading.

I am a puzzle solver. I LOVE puzzles. Of all kinds. Because they make me stretch my brain (that's where I would have been going if I'd been the one giving kids advice). No, you cannot stretch your brain on a steady reading diet of romance and mystery novels. You can certainly stretch your mind WRITING them, of course!

But the truth is, you're not going to stretch your mind if you don't want to. You can read nothing but non-fiction, and learn nothing if you don't know how to think critically to begin with. Excuse me while I kick the soap box to the other side of the room.

My point, and I do have one, is that there is a place for everything. One of those "things" is the observation of human behavior--simply being and seeing part of a community. And feel free to point out to Mr. Motivation that reading "mystery and romance" certainly fall into that category. Besides, you can only exercise so long before you have to give your body time to recover. See previous comment on vacation. LOL

Okay, the damned soap box won't stay put, so I'd better leave.

Lara Dien said...

oh, yeah, the random puzzles comment--that's what I like about mass market fiction: it gives me puzzles to solve!

Dara Edmondson said...

I hate that attitude. I learn something from every book I read.

Sandy said...

I share your outrage at that narrow minded and, to me, snobbish point of view, Macy.

I think all reading stretches the brain. Turning words on a page into pictures in your head takes effort, and you get better at it with practice. The time you spend reading ANY kind of book, including comic books, translates down the road into better comprehension of everything you read.

Plus, I am a HUGE believer that one of the most important things you can achieve is finding and developing the activities that give your life pleasure and meaning. Life is not just about being productive and accomplishing things. It's also about enjoyment. Someone who learns to love books has an inexpensive, portable, non-intrusive, and generally ecologically friendly (compared to, say, four-wheel-driving) source of enjoyment readily available at all times.

Terry Odell said...

Mystery author Lee Child spoke at SleuthFest this year. One subject he addressed was the evolution of the story--from caveman days. Early man was a small, weak opponent for most prey, and survival depended on the development of communication. Twenty small, weak men were a worthy opponent. However, there was no adapative advantage to not telling the truth -- "look out, there's a sabre-tooth cat behind that bush" is a survival technique. Making something up isn't.

However, as these cavemen huddled around trying to survive in the cave from one day to the next, storytelling gave them hope. Perhaps someone managed to outwit one of those sabre-tooth cats and lived to tell the tale. Eventually, the tale probably got embellished, and 'commercial fiction' was born.

He told everyone to be proud of what they write--it's where it all began.

Katie Reus said...

That was an interesting (ignorant) comment. Discouraging kids to read b/c it's not a genre he cares for? I'm not sure I would have had a rebuttal at the moment b/c my mouth would probably have been gaping open in horror. Reading romance is nourishment to my soul. When an author touches on everyday, real-life situations and finds something beautiful in the mundane and in normal relationships, it's hard to say that a book like that isn't worthwile. Sure, there are some romance books I read specifically for escape, but what's so wrong w/ that anyway? I don't have much to say that Lara and Terry haven't already said, and I'm too pissed to think of anything else right now. Attitudes like that annoy me to say the least.

mimi said...

Clearly Mr. Motivation has never read an historical romance (you can learn plenty from those), or a well-written mystery (I learn all kinds of things just from Dick Francis). Sounds like he's trying to buy cred by throwing stinkbombs at genre fiction.

As far as that's concerned, go read Stephen King's speech when he accepted the National Book Foundation's Medal for outstanding contributions to American Letters. Folks were *horrified* (no pun intended) that the medal was going to--gasp!--a popular genre writer. I think King's well-written response shut most of them up. Too bad Mr. Motivation isn't as smart at Steve K. Check it out here:

Chudney Defreitas-Thomas said...

that attitude is the one I , with my dad and his wife. And I'm so tired of people turning there nose faces up at Romance and mystery.
Heres the thing it takes a tremendous amount of talent to turn out a book that sparks not only someones interest but also there imagination. If you can do that then 10 to 1 that person is actually going to research whatever it was they found interesting.
As long as it gets people to read its a good thing, at least thats my take on it. And how can one person determine what a another will learn from, or that they should only learn from "real books".
I researched the history of the south at the age of 11, to see if gone with the wind got all the facts right. (I grew up in the Caribbean so the civil war was mentioned in passing and only in regards to slavery)
most people forget that what we now consider "real books" started out as genre fiction at some point and literary fiction.