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NYT: "Adults should read adult books"

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1timspalding
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 9:59pm Top

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction...

"The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads.

I’m sure all those books are well written. So is “Horton Hatches the Egg.” But Horton doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing."
Thoughts?

2keristars
Apr 10, 2012, 9:47pm Top

I think Stein is a blooming idiot.

3_Zoe_
Apr 10, 2012, 9:51pm Top

I think this guy lost all credibility when he said that watching children's movies is okay, because that's a medium that doesn't require you to use your brain at all, but reading books is supposed to be educational brain work. Complete crap. It's too bad that no one ever told him it's okay to read just for pleasure.

Choosing to read a light novel instead of watching a children's movie doesn't actually take away from your "serious reading time". It takes away from your "mindless movie time".

4felius
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 9:54pm Top

I wonder if we were on the same plane?

If it's acceptable for adults to watch comedies or action movies, then it's acceptable for them to read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Are they brilliant literature? No. But they're a good read, the equivalent of a popcorn movie - something quick and fun in between the heavier stuff. I read The Hunger Games on the plane, starting it as I left Hobart and finishing it shortly before I landed in San Francisco. I read Catching Fire on the way home. I didn't waste any great portion of my life doing this.

Obviously he's trolling. Successfully. ;)

5timspalding
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 9:58pm Top

>2 keristars:

Snort. I hear you. And, well, I recently re-listened to the Hunger Games. (Interesting idea, but often incompetently told.) At the same time there's something foolish and decadent about the everyone-read-YA trend of the last decade. Young adults are cognitively capable and should want to read adult books, so if they don't I'm afraid the adult books are falling short in a basic way. And if you're an adult and you mostly read YA, I'm afraid you're really missing out too.

Anyone feel anything other than "he's totally wrong"?

6Madcow299
Apr 10, 2012, 10:00pm Top

Well, I can appreciate the frustration that most adults don't challenge themselves, nor do they read enough "good literature" nor do they engage educational material that would stretch them mentally so they can grow. That said, get off your high horse about it. Encourage reading by promoting books you love, feature them in your column, tweet them, whatever. However, don't hammer people because their tastes do not match your own.

7eromsted
Apr 10, 2012, 10:04pm Top

Anyone feel anything other than "he's totally wrong"?

For myself, I agree with him entirely. And naturally you wouldn't find me recommending young adult books to anyone else because I haven't read any in a very long time. But I have no interest in shaming other people about their reading habits.

8MerryMary
Apr 10, 2012, 10:12pm Top

I am firmly in Madcow's camp. Moo to you, Mr. Stein.

9LolaWalser
Apr 10, 2012, 10:16pm Top

You can't use "should"s on adults, and people are free to do what they like, goes without saying, but for my part I'm astonished by the number of so-called adults who read kid stuff--frequently. Not by accident. Not because they are watching what their own kids read. Not because their head exploded and they must live on fluff for a week or so. Because they LIKE kiddie stuff.

That, I don't quite get, and if I were sociologically minded at all, I'd look for theories explaining the increasing infantilisation of certain Western societies etc.

Or, everybody's lives are getting to be so dreadful people en masse are secretly wishing to return to the womb. Or at least kindergarten.

Or--I think this may be my favourite--the relentless selling of youth in consumerist cultures as the highest, nay, only good, has permeated down to reading habits. "I'm reading Harry Potter, I can't really be 44!"

Speaking of which, it would be interesting to see a demographic breakdown of adult readers of kiddie stuff--men/women, age decades. From LT, the impression I get is that it's mostly women, twenties through forties.

And, although LT's not the best test tube for this, probably Americans much more than others.

10keristars
Apr 10, 2012, 10:16pm Top

5> At the same time there's something foolish and decadent about the everyone-read-YA trend of the last decade.

I think this is a more interesting point to debate than Stein's op-ed.

Because...there is something interesting going on with the rise of YA books/popularity. I suspect it's partly because those of us who grew up with YA as a "genre"* are continuing to read these books as we settle into adulthood, because they're enjoyable. Those of us in our late 20s to mid 30s are the first group to have really grown up with YA as an accessible section in the bookstore, from what I can tell.

But there's also a lot more YA being published, so it's not necessarily just the older readers, unless that's a chicken-and-egg thing. The target audience - young people in their teens and early 20s - have to be reading this stuff, too. And, of course, it's this same age group that gets so many advertising dollars.

YA-demographic has the time to read and the money to spend on YA books, I guess is what I'm saying, which leads to more popularity as more people hear about them and take a chance. Older adults will read them, too, to know what's going on in pop culture with the youth. You don't really see as much with teens reading the popular books in the adult crowds, that I can tell, and that's partly because it's harder to identify with them IMO. Adults can identify with books for YA, but not necessarily the other way around (and not always - I couldn't stand Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution, which is rather popular with teens).

I am saying all this as an adult who continues to read MG and YA, so I'm clearly biased. I do have strong preferences in my reading that make MG and YA more suitable for me (I can't handle certain themes due to triggers, so I am a lot more wary of "regular" novels which are more likely to contain them - plus, I am single and not interested in having children or being married, so many "regular" novels that feature domestic life of that kind really need to have something else to pull me in, and not have the domestic bits be a major feature of the synopsis).

But even though I read lots of MG and YA, I do try to keep variety in my reading, so there's that. I'm reading Tristram Shandy right now, and a book by Sarah Vowell, and I've got some nonfiction about language and archaeology on tap.

I found it interesting recently to discover that a novel I really like by Daniel Handler is considered "YA" these days. Just because the narrator is 18? Because the primary action is in high school? When I first read it, it didn't have "YA" anywhere near it, and now it does. So the interesting part is how fluid the "YA" label can be.

 
** i'm not sure what word to use here, but YA isn't really a genre, but that's kind of the word that fits best with what I'm thinking.

11_Zoe_
Apr 10, 2012, 10:21pm Top

I suspect it's partly because those of us who grew up with YA as a "genre"* are continuing to read these books as we settle into adulthood, because they're enjoyable.

I don't know. I didn't read much YA between the ages of 14-20 or so, and picked it up again later. I think the difference is largely in the post-Harry Potter publishing industry: suddenly YA books are allowed to be much longer, which allows for more depth.

12JoLynnsbooks
Apr 10, 2012, 10:21pm Top

A little afraid to express my true feeling, but I agree with >5 timspalding: and >6 Madcow299:. I enjoy revisiting a favorite childhood book every once in awhile, but for the most part I would prefer to read more mature works. Perhaps it's because I'm in my 50's, and have a little more 'life experience' to relate to. Not expressing myself well, and definitely not trying to criticize other's tastes (all reading is good) but I do feel we should stretch ourselves a little more than we do. Agree that people who only read one type of book are missing out on a lot of great reading.

All that being said, my guilty pleasure reading of choice is a good (coherently written) cosy mystery.

13AnnieMod
Apr 10, 2012, 10:21pm Top

Women should read only books about women.

Both arguments are more or less equal. Any book can give you something -- YA has their lessons and for an adult, they may be the glimpse into the innocence sometimes.

14JoLynnsbooks
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 10:24pm Top

> 7 eromsted = You've expressed how I feel completely.

15AnnieMod
Apr 10, 2012, 10:24pm Top

>11 _Zoe_:

And to explore some different topics. The YA books when I was growing up were a lot less diverse and a lot more sterile (in some ways - Indians were scalping cowboys and all that in some of them but that's still kinda... different)

16LolaWalser
Apr 10, 2012, 10:25pm Top

#13

Really, innocence? Sexy vampires and dystopias with children killers?

17timspalding
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 10:29pm Top

I suspect it's partly because those of us who grew up with YA as a "genre"* are continuing to read these books as we settle into adulthood, because they're enjoyable.

Right. And I suspect that might stem from two things.

First, it's neoteny—the stretching out of childhood. 20-30+ today isn't the "adulthood" of a few generations ago—people marry and have kids later, continue living with their parents for years and, well, your generation isn't dying in any wars unless you chose to enter the military. As you say, it's not surprising that 20-somethings aren't reading about the trials and tribulations of a stage of life they're not actually in.(1)

Second, the books have changed. For example, my wife's publisher told her recently that, if she'd written her first book today it would have been marketed as YA. YA isn't "Horton Hears a Who." There's YA out there that's really only for 12 year-olds. And there's YA that's not.

they may be the glimpse into the innocence sometimes

YA is not exactly all about innocence these days...


1. When I was younger I thought it was all about age. Now I realize it's stage-of-life. For example, we have a ridiculously young friend, but she has two kids, a husband, a dog and a mortgage so there's no imbalance between our interests and concerns.

18keristars
Apr 10, 2012, 10:30pm Top

11> I don't know. I didn't read much YA between the ages of 14-20 or so, and picked it up again later. I think the difference is largely in the post-Harry Potter publishing industry: suddenly YA books are allowed to be much longer, which allows for more depth.

Good point. I was judging from my own experiences. I still read the shorter ones!

I read a lot of different things as a teenager, but plenty of it was YA. And so many horrible first-person trauma narratives about teenagers with Problems.

Which is now making me think that there are two types of YA - one type is meant for young people to identify with and so on, while the other simply has primary characters who are young adults. In very, very broad strokes.

19nemoman
Apr 10, 2012, 10:31pm Top

Thinking in terms of universality, I think that any author who can command a demographic that spans 12 to 90 has hit it out of the park. I am 60, yet I can still read Azimov's Foundation Trilogy with pleasure.

20AnnieMod
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 10:33pm Top

>16 LolaWalser:

That's the topic at the top. Under it is a typical teenager usually -- with the choices made out of inexperience and the innocence of the last days of childhood. The genre itself helps - with the convenient deaths sometimes, with the choices made by someone else -- keeping the appearance of innocence for a little longer

>17 timspalding:
Did I mention anything about YA being about innocence at all? I said glimpse.

21timspalding
Edited: Apr 10, 2012, 10:34pm Top

Yeah, some examples would be useful here.

And what about science fiction? Isn't YA today often just the second-coming, the mainstreaming of nerdy old science fiction?

>19 nemoman:

Is the Foundation Trilogy YA? (I haven't read it.) I just re-read Ender's Game and am re-reading Speaker for the Dead. YA?

22keristars
Apr 10, 2012, 10:33pm Top

"Innocence" - yeah, lots of YA is "dark" and all, with the heavy themes, but that's always been the case. There's plenty out there that is fairly light. I can't imagine that Maureen Johnson's books would be considered dark, but she's very much a YA author. (And also one that I think I would have loved in my younger years, but whose books now feel a little too young for me - in the same way that books about people my age with kids and mortgages are too old for me!)

23timspalding
Apr 10, 2012, 10:36pm Top

but that's always been the case

What's the always? I don't think you can really identify a genre before mid-century, at the earliest.

24keristars
Apr 10, 2012, 10:42pm Top

I was thinking of The Catcher in the Rye, which is often cited as being one of the first definitive YA novels (at least that's how it was in my Children's & YA Lit courses at university). Salinger's mid-century, but I don't think we can go back any further than that for YA - the rise of the phrase as a label coincides with the rise of teenagerhood, iirc.

25MerryMary
Apr 10, 2012, 11:18pm Top

I am a bit troubled by the label "infantilization." YA, as someone pointed out, is not Horton Hatches the Egg. I don't really think reading YA is attempting to return to the womb - or even kindergarten. Kiddie literature and adolescent literature are two very different things.

I don't even think YA readers are trying to return to their teens. Perhaps they are looking at stages they've already passed through, looking for a deeper understanding of that weird creature known as "adolescent." Perhaps they're looking for fun or stress relief. (Both worthwhile adult pursuits).

Young Adult literature is young, yes, but not infantile. Simpler in some ways than "adult literature;" but there is surprising depth in some of the better titles. My professional life among teenagers began in the 1970s, and I am amazed and delighted by the strength and independence of many modern protagonists. We really have come a long way from the heavy-handed morality plays of the '50s and '60s. There has been some backsliding (Twilight, anyone?), but there are plenty of strong intelligent characters who find their way through the plots without resorting to being bailed out by the all-powerful adults.

I really don't like the idea of being judged infantile or developmentally delayed because I enjoy certain adolescent titles. If adults are missing something if they only read YA, they are also missing something if they never do.

26tardis
Apr 11, 2012, 12:04am Top

Sigh. Category romances are "adult" literature. Would Stein be happier if we all read those instead of Harry Potter?

I'm 54. I don't always (heck, hardly ever) read to expand my mind - relaxation and distraction are more important to me. I refuse to deny myself a good story just because some literary snob thinks it's too young for me.

As far as I'm concerned, an adult book is a book that an adult is reading.

27brightcopy
Apr 11, 2012, 12:30am Top

Yeah, a large part of it is just a publishing gimmick to get kids to read more (which I think is great). Lots of these books would have just fell in the spectrum of adult books in previous years. Not every adult book tackles "adult" themes (ones where you kind of have to be an adult and experience certain realities to really get it) or is written in dense enough prose to scare off YAs. Normally, there's a spectrum in the writing of any category of books. A big part of what YA is doing is snagging a subset from each of those categories (with the bulk from fantasy/paranormal/scifi).

Thirty years ago, Harry Potter could have been published as an adult series and I don't think anyone would have been surprised. (Okay, so the first or second book might have been beefed up a little.) And as has been mentioned earlier, Ender's Game is one of the most popular titles with YA for quite some time. If it was written today and YA would slapped on it, by Stein's dictates we'd all have to skip it because we're all grown up. Shame.

Personally, I grew up in an era where YA was generally dreck (well, IMO). It wasn't anywhere near the quality of today's. So instead of reading YA, I just generally picked from the scifi/fantasy section of the library. You know, the grown up books. These were the kind of books that interested me far more than the mainstream fiction or non-fiction. And they still do. I wonder if that's due to something intrinsic in my brain, or because it was trained by reading genre at a young age. Bit of a chicken and egg. But it's funny that the hot YA should come from that genre. I wonder if there's something deeper going on there.

28RockStarNinja
Apr 11, 2012, 1:13am Top

I don't think what you read should make much of a difference to anyone except you. That being said, the thing I can't stand is people who try to say that a terribly written book is good just because it's popular.

As for the YA vs. adult book, I honestly don't know what there is to say that hasn't been said already, but here's my thoughts. I remember when I was in high school, 2000-2003 and YA was really becoming it's own, or at least a bigger (read: more profitable) genre, but I never really got into it. I started reading more adult themed books at around 9 or 10 because there wasn't yet much choice between kiddie books and adult book unless I wanted to read mysteries, sci-fi, or fantasy stories. So I started reading things like Wuthering Heights and Gone With the Wind. I feel like for the most part YA book are either not as well written or just not to my taste.

I don't think I made much of a point, if any, but that's what I have to say.

29reading_fox
Apr 11, 2012, 4:43am Top

#25 " If adults are missing something if they only read YA, they are also missing something if they never do."

This. ^

One of the more frequent themes in YA is coping with responsability, facing the consequences of your actions. This is something everyone ought to read and learn from, whether the setting is an urban fantasy, cheesy SF or just in High School, the principle remains.

Beside growing up isn't about not having fun, and far too many 'adult' novels and ideals are stodgy rather than fun. I'd much rather be in touch with my inner child than seen as continually 'improving my mind'.

Lastly of course, well written YA is readable on many different levels, teenagers will get one thing out of the plot, but others will experience something much more profound going on in the background. Terry Pratchett is a prime example of this. Often labelled as YA or dismissed as "just fantasty" he makes some profound social comments.

30andyl
Apr 11, 2012, 7:23am Top

#21 Is the Foundation Trilogy YA? (I haven't read it.) I just re-read Ender's Game and am re-reading Speaker for the Dead. YA?

I don't think the Foundation Trilogy is technically YA although eminently suitable for a 12 year old.
Ender's Game has been published as YA, although it was originally published in a SF magazine, and then as an adult novel.

31bostonbibliophile
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 7:28am Top

#7, me too. YA as a genre didn't exist when I was a teen the way it does today so after you were done with middle reader chapter books like harriet the spy the choices were science fiction, Sweet Valley High or fiction written for adults (which is not all highbrow either). I started reading adult fiction in middle school and never looked back. I don't care what other people read and I thought Stein's article was hilarious and deliberately provocative, and therefore not really worth spending so much energy on ripping apart.

32Bookmarque
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 7:35am Top

Oh LolaWalser of #9. Where is the like button? I think you hit it precisely. I don't get the YA phenom and have zero interest in reading any of it (insert current trend). Looking at my catalog, you'll see I'm not a Book Snob, but I don't understand the constant adherence to YA lit among adults. Once in a great while, yeah, I get it, but as a constant diet? I think there are too many books being ignored for this stuff and that makes me sad. The more older lit I read, the more I realize the new stuff is just repackaged and reformulated old stuff, but lightened and processed so that our relatively undeveloped intellects can grasp it. I feel duped and silly when that happens because I didn't recognize it either. I'll stop now because I'm rambling. But there it is; I don't get the fascination with YA lit.

33Morphidae
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 8:05am Top

Because there is often hope in it which is sorely lacking in a lot of literary fiction. We need more hope. Or at least I do. Current literary fiction is often filled with miserable people in miserable lives being miserable. Life is hard enough without adding to it.

And I don't read fiction for educational purposes. That's why I go to college and read nonfiction. I read fiction for emotional uplift and comfort. That isn't something you can usually find in current adult literary fiction. Classics are sometimes good for that though. I'm currently reading and loving My Antonia.

ETA: That being said, I don't read a LOT of YA, but probably at least one or two a month out of an average 20 books. Heck, every couple of months I read a children's book just so I could say I've read it.

34Bookmarque
Apr 11, 2012, 8:11am Top

Oh morph. I'm sorry you see the adult lit landscape as so bleak. I need to think on that a bit and do a bit of analysis of my own reading. I also find it interesting that you confine learning to a certain stage of life and circumstances and that smacks to me of thinking of learning as work. Strange indeed. I could be wrong with this assessment, but it seems typical enough these days. Sigh.

35Morphidae
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 8:32am Top

I'm 46 years old and am currently going to college. I don't call that confining learning at all. If I weren't going to college, I'd probably be reading more nonfiction. I just don't use my fiction reading for "educational" purposes.

36Bookmarque
Apr 11, 2012, 8:33am Top

You said you don't read fiction to learn. That you read it for entertainment / escapism. That to me is confining learning to a certain area of your life; college. Outside of that or non-fiction, nothing. Or do I still have it wrong?

I guess what I mean is that fiction is relegated to entertainment only these days and that sort of makes me sad. Like fiction can't and shouldn't do anything but.

37_Zoe_
Apr 11, 2012, 9:40am Top

It's not uncommon for me to read a novel about an interesting topic and find myself wishing that it were non-fiction instead.

And I do think that learning can be mentally taxing. After a day of reading and discussing scholarly books and journal articles, my mind is tired. This doesn't mean that I don't like learning or confine it to one aspect of my life; when I'm well-rested I read heavier books for fun. It's just a matter of how many hours in the day I can spend doing the same thing at an intense level. And I do think I learn more in, say, 6 hours of heavier non-fiction reading than in 12 hours of reading classic novels.

Basically, while reading novels can be educational, there are other types of reading that I consider more educational. And I don't see why it's a problem to focus some time on learning intensively and then relax for a couple of hours at the end of the day, rather than learning at a moderate level for a longer period of time. Of course, every novel can be educational at some level, and everything we do in life can be a learning experience, but there are more and less effective ways of learning.

38Bookmarque
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 10:05am Top

I didn't use absolutism in my posts, Zoe. I know you like to read it into things, but it isn't there. What I'm baffled about is the totality of YA in some people's reading. The focus on it in popular culture. Also the fact that fiction reading has been basically dumbed down to entertainment only, with the idea that learning something (even non-intensely) is work and not fun at all. That challenging one's brain is always taxing; that's what mystifies me. That's what seems to come across in people's consumption of YA as a constant diet. Not the once in a while thing. Ah, I guess I'm not being clear enough.

Ok. I've thought about this a bit.
I think the YA focus in popular culture echoes the idea that fiction = entertainment and entertainment does not equal learning which is work. Learning is not fun. That's about as clear as I can get. LT people aside, this is what I see as the popular culture idea of reading.

39keristars
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 10:17am Top

Bookmarque: What do you mean when you use the word "learning"?

I've learned plenty from recent YA novels - about history, about relationships, about the "human condition". It's just that they're labeled YA. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is an example - I think that it could easily be a regular A novel, except that it's a first-person narrative with a teenage girl as the main character, which in turn lends itself to certain plot elements which I think are more common in books targeted to teens than to adults - but that's mostly because of the narrator. So theoretically, it all depended on how the publisher thought it would sell best, and that is YA. (There is also Hope at the end, which I wouldn't have necessarily expected in an Adult version of the novel.)

But would this count as "learning"? Does it not count because, duh, it's about WW2 and internment camps in the USSR, and historical fiction of that type will always be educational?

(Should probably add that I've suffered clinical depression since I can remember, and I'm also on the autistic spectrum, so reading any kind of book that involves social relationships is "learning" to me. But I'm reluctant to add this, because I'm sure that it'll be another mark in the "immaturity = YA enjoyment" column.)

40Bookmarque
Apr 11, 2012, 10:15am Top

is that one popular keristars? I don't know, but I've never come across it before. If it really is smart, then I bet it isn't popular. At least not like some of the others.

eh, I'm not getting across so I'll just leave it. back to your books people.

41keristars
Apr 11, 2012, 10:17am Top

39> It's nominated for all kinds of awards. It only came out last year, and I read it via Early Reviewers.

42_Zoe_
Apr 11, 2012, 10:27am Top

I can certainly understand the impression that lots of people are reading exclusively YA. I guess my life experience is just strangely limited, so that I've never actually met any of these people.

In many ways, though, it makes sense for the most accessible books to be the most popular, and I don't really see this as a problem. Reading the whole Hunger Games trilogy just isn't a big time commitment, so of course more people will end up reading that than some heftier tome. Someone who regularly reads heavier material can give The Hunger Games a try without thinking twice, while the converse doesn't hold.

And I'd rather see people actively reading books, however easy, than passively watching television.

43Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 11, 2012, 10:45am Top

I can certainly understand the impression that lots of people are reading exclusively YA. I guess my life experience is just strangely limited, so that I've never actually met any of these people.

Well, to be fair, lots of people aren't really reading much of anything at all.

44TLCrawford
Apr 11, 2012, 11:00am Top

Steven R. Donaldson and J. K. Rowling both wrote about giants and magic but I doubt anyone would call Lord Foul's Bane YA after reading it. Is there anything more (or less?) to the label YA than marketing?

My favorite writer when I was a YA started writing serials for magazines market to adults, they had the money to buy them, now his stories are considered YA if they are considered at all. I don't know that reading A Princess of Mars as a teen is any different from reading The Hunger Games but, at my age, I am not interested in reading either.

45barney67
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 11:15am Top

I first heard about the Hunger Games from my neighbor's son, a very bright kid who was reading it for school. He's 13. He is a also a huge Harry Potter fan, having read those books since he was…well, however many years it has been. But his mom, a highly educated engineer, read them too. I thought that was because she was screening Harry Potter for her kids, but no, she stood in line like the rest and devoured the books as soon as they were released.

I never saw the attraction. Adults reading YA does hint at arrested development. And I don't like the idea of children saving the world. There are a lot of dopey movies like that. But that may be because children are the target audience.

I had a high school teacher tell me she didn't think much of Harry Potter. She asked me if I knew any YA lit to teach her classes. I didn't know any. When I was in high school, many years ago, another English teacher said something like, "Thank God for S.E. Hinton. Not great, but that's all there is." That was in regard to teaching the lower level classes, not the honors and advanced kids—as high school freshman we were reading the usual, Shakespeare, Sophocles, The Odyssey.

Tolkien said The Hobbit was for kids, while Lord of the Rings was for adults.

To whomever said it: Catcher in the Rye is definitely not YA. It's an adult book that is probably too sophisticated for most teenagers.

Kids are maturing later, if they are maturing at all. Maybe it is all part of a general dumbing down to appeal to them.

46brightcopy
Apr 11, 2012, 11:21am Top

As far as people reading YA exclusively or nearly so, as a genre reader (sf and a little f) I can understand that. Books within a genre often have a lot of similarity in writing, even when the setting and plot vary a lot. I don't just mean the quality of the prose, either. It's a little hard to put your finger on, and it isn't always universal. And sometimes it's chicken and egg. Your book gets stuck in a genre section because it has certain features and/or your book has certain features because it's written and influenced by other books in a genre.

So while there are occasional pieces of mainstream fiction I like, I find it much harder to get interested in a random book picked out of it. I might love it, but it's awful hard to tell. But if you pick a random book out of the scifi section, that likelihood goes way up. (I may hate it, though.)

I can see YA being the same way. After all, LT has spent a lot of time on "if you like A, B, C, etc. you might like X" logic. To some degree, genres are a more generalized recommendation engine.

47SaraHope
Apr 11, 2012, 11:40am Top

I think that generalizing about YA lit is really tough and leads nowhere productive. The range of YA lit is wide -- some of the books are more appropriate for 13-year-olds while others are meant for the older end of the spectrum -- and the quality and sophistication of the writing varies a lot also. I'd consider a lot of YA I've read better written and more compelling than, say, an adult bestseller like The Shack (which admittedly I did not pick up of my own volition, it was a book club selection).

When I think about why I read YA (which accounts for a relatively small fraction of my total reading, which is comprised mostly of crime and general fiction), I think the biggest reason IS that the books tend to be shorter, easier, and with a few exceptions, lighter in subject matter. Sometimes after I've read something dark, tough, or more demanding, I'm in the mood for lighter fare. Therefore, I have to agree with Stein that there's a material difference, though it's more subtle than just YA versus adult. As someone else pointed out, I don't think Stein would suggest that the typical adult romance novel is much more demanding than a YA novel (I read both romance and YA and can confirm that both are popcorn reading, and I do not say that in a derogatory way).

That said, I also think YA lit presents interesting story possibilities that are only possible with a young protagonist. Teenagers are just different from adults, in ways that can make them interesting characters. In most scenarios they simply don't possess the same power over their lives as adults, and of course they are not fully developed yet -- literally, their brains aren't fully grown. We don't hold them responsible for the same things, or in the same way, as we do adults. We have different expectations for their decision-making abilities, self-control, and emotions. And their lives are changing so dramatically. Therefore, a teen character faces a different (and arguably more interesting) set of problems and challenges than a character who is a middle-aged, middle-class guy experiencing a mid-life crisis or just general malaise (why books featuring such characters are always considered meritorious, I'll never know).

48Morphidae
Edited: Apr 11, 2012, 12:17pm Top

Bookmarque, I think the problem is that you do seem to be working in absolutes.* I never said the only place I LEARN is in college and reading non-fiction books. I said that is where I usually go for EDUCATION, i.e. learning something specific about a specific topic. Nor did I say I don't learn from fiction. I learn plenty.

Recent fiction reads:
Slammerkin by Emma Donogue - prostitution and 1800s London, servant culture in rural England
In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien - Vietnam, veterans, PTSD, mental illness
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis - Black culture in 60s Detroit (aimed at YA at that)
Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow - 1920s Era in NYC and New England
The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark - how mob thinking works

I could go on. However, my MAIN focus on novel reading is, yes, entertainment. I don't go into a novel expecting, "Oh! I'm going to learn something!" I go into a novel expecting, "I'm going to have a good time!" Learning is a bonus. And I don't find learning work at all. I learn something every day and love it.

Now, this Intermediate Accounting class I'm taking is hard work and anyone who says something different is nuts! Heh.

*ETA: Or maybe I should say you seem to be reading into my words your own conceptions and not what I'm actually saying.

49krolik
Apr 11, 2012, 1:26pm Top

The OP link by Stein is a bit short and glib but clearly, given the responses, it touches a nerve.

I agree with Stein, broadly speaking, for both books or films. (It's become a conversational short-cut between my wife and me, when talking about whether or not to see a certain movie, to ask: "is it for grown-ups?" This question eliminates not only explicitly kiddie fare but lots of action films and baby-boomer TV remakes, etc.)

But I also think MerryMary (>25 MerryMary:) makes a very good point. Nuance is necessary. (I still happily push Charlotte's Web on French intellectuals.)

Also agree with Morphidae, about the dreariness of much of what passes for "adult." (I'm glad, though, that you're into My Antonia. Excellent stuff!)

50bostonbibliophile
Apr 11, 2012, 1:34pm Top

There's so much good and bad in YA and adult books. What puzzles me about adults reading YA is that so much of today's YA is so dark and angsty; personally I had enough of teen angst as a teenager that I don't need to relive it when I open a book. The last two YAs I read (Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and the Hunger Games series) were all whiny teen angst in between the deep themes and historical detail etc. etc. If you want to read coming of age, there are a lot of great coming of age books written for the adult market lacking this quality! The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Asta in the Wings and Me and You come to mind.

51monohex
Apr 11, 2012, 1:39pm Top

I think one can read both YA (or "light") and adult books and still be a well-rounded reader. Reading a Star Wars novelization doesn't detract from the poetic translation w/scholarly & historical analysis of The Epic of Gilgamesh which I might be reading at the same time.

52LolaWalser
Apr 11, 2012, 2:05pm Top

Maybe "adults should have higher standards than children" is closer to my feeling than the OP title. It's all true about nuance and that there's superb writing for children and horrible junk meant for adults. I always forget the genre wastelands... The whole "YA as genre" is new to me. Now I'm wishing it's been called something else--easy lit? Like easy listening? Without condescending implications about the age/maturity of the reader inherent in the "YA" label.

53Morphidae
Apr 11, 2012, 2:09pm Top

>51 monohex: Exactly! I'm reading A Midsummer Night's Dream plus the sonnets, My Antonia, Wicked Bugs - nonfiction about nasty bugs, Dragon Wytch by Yasmine Galenorn (urban fantasy) and Conspiracy in Death by Robb (i.e. Nora Roberts!) - mystery. Oh! And the Bible. I am bound and determined to be able to say I've read it from start to finish and I'm almost done.

I recently finished Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Life on Air - biography of David Attenborough, Rose: My Life in Service, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and also have read Soulless: The Manga, Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs and the Riddlemaster fantasy trilogy by McKillip.

I'm a very well rounded reader.

The most important thing to me is that I ENJOY what I'm reading. If you aren't enjoying it, what's the point? That is unless you have to read it for some reason such as for school or work and even then if you have a decent author it shouldn't be that much of a drag.

54inaudible
Apr 11, 2012, 3:13pm Top

Glad Stein said it because I've certainly thought it. I used to work in a library, and a good portion of my colleagues only read YA novels. It was unsettling.

55bunnygirl
Apr 11, 2012, 6:40pm Top

I think it's just a symptom of "YA as marketing category"--like Tim and others have noted, there are lots of books that came out in the past 3 decades originally marketed to adults that are now being reprinted as YA (especially in science fiction and fantasy.)

I'm wondering if what kept The Art of Fielding from being marketed as YA was having POV scenes from the viewpoint of the middle-aged college president, as I've seen plenty of contemporary/realist "YA" written in the 21st century with protagonists between 18 and 21--adults, albeit teenage and slightly over teenage adults. It makes me wonder what non-adult teenagers are reading those.

56letterpress
Apr 11, 2012, 8:53pm Top

Can somebody please explain to me what it is that makes The Book Thief YA?

57nemoman
Apr 11, 2012, 11:22pm Top

I am puzzled by the term YA which did not exist when apparently I was one. As I posted above, the Foundation Trilogy in my mind is YA, not just because I read it as one, but because of its language and plot. Much of Heinlein and Asimov were YA in my mind. I primarily remember Heinlein's awkward treatment of male-female relationships. At the age 12 - 15, I also read books like King Rat, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and Ian Fleming's James Bond books. These latter books were easily distinguishable as mainstream adult fiction.

58Tigercrane
Apr 11, 2012, 11:24pm Top

I've been reading some YA these last few years because it seems like that's where some of the best fantasy is appearing. The adult fantasy genre right now is a bit stale, in my opinion -- too much vampire/werewolf/supernatural romance. And I wouldn't say Harry Potter or the Hunger Games are light reading. They deal with some very mature themes as they progress.

What's funny about that is I didn't read much YA when I actually was in that age group. YA back then was all realistic "social problem" stuff -- drug addiction, pregnancy, illness, abuse, etc. It was depressing in the extreme, and I felt like being a teenager was depressing enough without getting extra helpings in my pleasure reading.

59nemoman
Apr 12, 2012, 12:06am Top

Perhaps what we are groping with here has a musical analog. Take pop music for example. Yummy... Iv'e got love in my tummy... Is virtually unlistenable now (arguably even when it first charted); however, the power pop of Big Star, or even the shimmering pop of ABBA can still strike a chord. Maybe there should be separate categories of literary YA and pop YA, to distinguish writing that may be timeless versus that which is of the nonce. On the other hand sometimes we like to wallow in complete schlock, sort of like an occasional splurge on junk food. Why be judgmental? As long as one's literary diet is not confined to junk food, adult onset literary diabetes can be avoided.

60thorold
Apr 12, 2012, 3:41am Top

>59 nemoman:
Exactly. There's nothing wrong with "YA" as a marketing label, or with adults reading books labelled "YA", as long as we don't find ourselves in a world where young people are confined to reading the books that publishers or teachers pick as being "suitable" for them. Growing up involves reading unsuitable books and forming your own tastes, outside the herd.

Still, there's something wrong if we start treating Ian Fleming as "adult" - if ever there was a grown-up with the world-view of a fourteen-year-old, it was James Bond...

61prosfilaes
Apr 12, 2012, 6:08am Top

I've read a lot of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout, "adult" books, and while I enjoy those authors, I hardly see how they are so much more sophisticated then Harry Potter. Lexile measures are clumsy tools at best, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a 970L and the only Hercule Poirot www.lexile.com had listed, Cards on the Table, was a 630L, which seems about right.

I think his claim that these books don't "have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing" is simply bull. I read a lot of mysteries and science fiction and previously fantasy, and none of those genres tend to have a huge depth of language or character. Harry Potter, especially the later ones, can play in that respect with a lot of the better adult fiction I read. I imagine that little of what I read would really meet Joe Stein's standards, but then he'd have to walk away from "Adults Should Read Adult Books" and go to "Adults shouldn't be reading books for recreation".

I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids.

Because that's the way to go. Dismiss a book because its marketing label instead of anything else. Way to make "judging a book by its cover" a example of a deliberated decision.

Let’s not pump Justin Bieber in our Saabs

As opposed to what? I removed the generalization I was going to put here, but a good amount of the music we listen to today was written for a young adult audience. The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Elvis, none of them made their names selling to a post-college crowd. What is "adult" music? Do we have to listen to classical, or does sufficiently old music magically become "adult" even if it was written as "young adult"?

62dcozy
Apr 12, 2012, 6:29am Top

Here's something I wrote on another thread where "YA" books came up:

_____

YA," it has become evident, is a confusing term. It's probably crystal clear to librarians, and perhaps publishers, but those of us outside of those fields may be surprised to learn that, as XXX suggests, young adults are "tweens, younger teens, mature 9-year-olds; . . . ((they)) are children."

The source of this confusion is that professions—not just librarians, but all professions—tend to employ a certain amount of jargon, and to use some everyday words, such as, in this case, "adult," to mean things they don't normally mean. In an effort to clear things up I wrote to a librarian friend in Southern California to see how she understands the term "YA." She replied:

"YA stands for 'young adult,' and generally refers to material written for kids 13 through 19. It's much, much more sophisticated in content, subject matter, and even writing style than traditional children's material. I'd say--for me, anyway--the dividing line is the content (adult themes such as sexual orientation and activity, drug use, violence, etc.) and writing style/language (profanity, cutting edge formats). It's not always clear cut, though, and designating a book YA does not imply censorship: sometimes we've reassigned a book from juvenile (3-5th grades) or JR High (5th to 8th) to our YA section because of profanity, adult themes, or explicit scenes of violence and sex, drug use."

So for my friend, YAs are a bit older than XXX takes them to be. (This is not to say, of course, that XXX is wrong. The libraries she is familiar with may use the word differently.)
_____

When one says that YA books are just as—or more—satisfying for Old Adults as books intended for that hoarier demographic, exactly what sorts of books are they championing: books for mature 9 year olds? Or books for 13 year olds? 19 year olds?

I wonder if the term young adult (which is used in part to describe what we used to call children) came into being so that adults who would feel embarrassed about reading children's books could feel instead that they were reading books for adults, albeit young ones. Or so that publishers could market their children's books to a broader segment of the population.

Kind of like the "adult" covers in which some of the Harry Potter books were bound.

And although I know this thread is about older adults reading young adult books, what really appalls me is the notion that young people are only interested in books about other young people, that they couldn't enjoy or understand OA books. When I was a young person I wanted nothing more than to grow up, and it was often to literature that I turned to find out what grown-up life was like.

63prosfilaes
Apr 12, 2012, 6:44am Top

#62: When one says that YA books are just as—or more—satisfying for Old Adults as books intended for that hoarier demographic, exactly what sorts of books are they championing

The article says “The Hunger Games.” Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. I don't think our discussion has deviated that far from that line.

64andyl
Apr 12, 2012, 7:12am Top

#61

I think introducing Lexile measurements is a red herring. Of Mice And Men by Steinbeck is apparently 630L. The Hobbit has a higher Lexile than The Fellowship of The Ring and The Two Towers.

65prosfilaes
Apr 12, 2012, 7:35am Top

#64: Whether or not you find Lexile measurements accurate, they match my analysis in this case; most Agatha Christie books use less complex language then the later Harry Potter books. I've got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The ABC Murders open in front of me, and it's clear that HP is written in longer, more complex sentences, and has vastly more complex characterization going on.

66_Zoe_
Apr 12, 2012, 7:57am Top

I imagine that little of what I read would really meet Joe Stein's standards, but then he'd have to walk away from "Adults Should Read Adult Books" and go to "Adults shouldn't be reading books for recreation".

I think he came pretty close to the latter statement anyway, which is one of the main problems I had with the article:

I appreciate that adults occasionally watch Pixar movies or play video games. That’s fine. Those media don’t require much of your brains. Books are one of our few chances to learn.

67dcozy
Apr 12, 2012, 8:10am Top

So what ages were The Hunger Games, the Twilight books. and Harry Potter intended for?

68oldstick
Apr 12, 2012, 10:24am Top

I read My Sister Lives on the Mantelpieceand really enjoyed it. It was only later that I found it was a YA book (I think it won an award) Then I read a review of the third book in my own trilogy where the reviewer said it was an ideal book for a young adult. I hadn't written it with any particular age range in mind. In fact, the first two books were intended for much older readers. I think in that case she meant the sentence structure was easy to follow and the dialogue was natural. Is there an underlying thought that young people today do not have the stamina or vocabulary for literary works?

69keristars
Apr 12, 2012, 10:25am Top

IIRC, Twilight was originally written with an adult audience in mind, but the publisher bought it as a book for young people.

Of course, in the revisions after being signed, Meyer adjusted elements to make it more "YA" (I think she toned down some of the violence/sexual things and extended it to a multi-volume work, which has been a trend in YA for ages.)

70andyl
Apr 12, 2012, 10:34am Top

#65

In that case.

However longer sentences, more adjectives, adverbs or whatever else Lexile measures does not say anything about the complexity of ideas and emotions expressed in the book, it does not attempt to measure complexity of characterisation, use of literary devices or anything like that.

Critics of YA fiction being read by adults aren't just arguing from a simplicity of text position but that characterisation may not be so subtle, the characters may be more black and white and not painted in various shades of grey, that the use of literary devices in the text are either hamfisted or obvious, that the language used (the words themselves not the sentence structure) just isn't deep and rich enough.

Making a purely textual complexity argument does not rebut any of those arguments.

As I pointed out above Steinbeck has a significantly lower Lexile than a lot of and I doubt that Joel Stein would want to throw his work out as not being an "adult" work. I'm not sure what he makes of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time - a book that won the Whitbread (in the novel category, not children's book; as well as going on to take the overall book of the year) yet it is now marketed as a YA novel (there is a children's edition - which I think has had the word "fuck" edited out).

71rockinrhombus
Apr 12, 2012, 12:03pm Top

The term YA came about largely because tweens and teens didn't want to be seen browsing beside the picture books and early chapter books. They want their own area and thus the name.

I think Joel Stein, who is a funny man, wanted to stir something up, which he did very well.

72Cecrow
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 1:07pm Top

Veronica Roth (author of YA bestseller Divergent) has a good take on the subject, on her blog:
http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.ca/2010/06/shame-ultimate-time-vampire.html

73prosfilaes
Apr 12, 2012, 3:23pm Top

#70: Critics of YA fiction being read by adults aren't just arguing from a simplicity of text position but that characterisation may not be so subtle, the characters may be more black and white and not painted in various shades of grey, that the use of literary devices in the text are either hamfisted or obvious, that the language used (the words themselves not the sentence structure) just isn't deep and rich enough.

Again, where's the evidence for that for the books that adults are reading? Steinbeck's not relevant here; nobody is arguing that there's not more sophisticated literature out there. But looking at my bookshelf shows me a lot larger pile of "adult" books that lack the subtlety and shades of gray of the later Harry Potter books then books I could compare to it. God knows how often the quality of Dan Brown has been trashed. Looking at the top ten authors (because a lot of the books adults read are series), there's four modern (in the Elizabethan era), clearly non-YA authors; I won't say anything about Neil Gaiman, but Stephen King has taken a lot of flack over the years, Agatha Christie is hardly known for the depth of her writing, and Nora Roberts ... well*. Going down the list, we have James Patterson, John Grisham, and Janet Evanovich in the top twenty as "adult" authors not known for subtle use of literary devices.

*In her In Death series, we get a creepy murder, soon to be followed by several more, with our requisite 2.5 sex scenes with the main character (Eve Dallas)'s impossibly hot, impossibly rich husband**, at some point Eve will compromise her morals and let her husband illegally hack into databases to find information for her, and this will all end with Eve Dallas and the perp going to hand to hand. After 34 novels (and a few short stories), it's pretty predictable.

** The NYPD once had a bombing threat against a notably historic NYC building that was owned by him. They didn't have the manpower to cover all of the possibilities, but fortunately the Radio City Music Hall was in their top three. But don't worry, working his way from abject poverty to one of the richest men in the universe seems to be something he did in his spare time, as he always has time to work as a consultant for the NYPD whenever Eve needs him.***

*** Sorry; rant mode off. They're fun books, but so not great literature.

74SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 12, 2012, 3:44pm Top

Stein's just being childish.

75brightcopy
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 4:03pm Top

#73 by prosfilaes> I think it ties into a pitfall that critics and authors often fall into. They attribute literary gravitas only to a certain style of prose and model of character-driven narrative. It's a shame, really. Like castigating haikus for not being sonnets.

(By which I mean that he ignores those examples you gave where so many "adult" novels don't fit such a mold and are actually surpassed by many "YA" novels.)

76eromsted
Apr 12, 2012, 4:34pm Top

As I said way up above I agree with Stein as to my own reading interests. Another way to put this is that I enjoy literature and not mere fiction, though defining what makes literature is not simple. I've always preferred reading literature to analyzing it so I lack the words to draw the distinctions as well as I would like.

But to be a bit less vague, to me literature has two characteristics. At the level of sentences and paragraphs the author is doing interesting things with language. I read the first few pages of The Hunger Games and keristars' suggestion, Between Shades of Gray, on google books and both fail for me on this score. Of course many books aimed at adults would fail as well.

The second characteristic of literature for me is that the work adds up to something more than it's plot, characterization and setting and communicates something that can't be simply boiled down to themes. Again, many books aimed at adults don't pass this test either. For instance, I found The Kite Runner to be a very effective melodrama (made me cry a few times) but in the end rather lacking in substance.

So books aimed at adults need not be literature. But are there YA books that would qualify by my standards? There I'm less sure. I think there's good reason to have novels aimed at young readers that focus primarily on captivating plots, engaging characters and interesting settings because the additional elements that make literature will often go over their heads or simply produce frustration. I know I got more out of reading The Brothers Karamazov in my thirties than I got out of reading Crime and Punishment when I was about 16. Whereas, reading Michael Crichton now would likely be a very similar experience to reading him then, and not an experience that interests me any longer.

All that said, liking what I'm calling literature does not make me more developmentally mature or intellectually superior. To take a different realm of human creativity, I know there must be interesting things going on in modern dance but I don't get it, don't care to try, and feel no shame over this whatsoever.

77MerryMary
Apr 12, 2012, 5:31pm Top

Well,ok, I can see your point. Different strokes for different folks. No interest in certain styles of writing. I can agree with that stance.

And you make the point that all Adult books are not great holy literary experiences. I certainly agree with that.

At least you're not trying to send me back to kindergarten because I enjoy Madeleine L'Engle or Andre Norton.

78SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 12, 2012, 5:33pm Top

Does anybody else thing Harold Bloom sounds like Elmer Fudd doing Margaret Dumont? Or is it just me?

I have a theory, unproved and uprovable (which is the best kind), that a most people reading fiction with curiosity and interest will be able to intuitively understand the universe in a way as useful as the understanding of most scientists. For example- history repeats itself except when it doesn't is a good way of saying that the iterations of a logistics model have produced bifurcated attractors but if values change in the model the attractors may become strange, chaotic, and unpredictable.

We already have two cultures, will we split heirs?

79Tigercrane
Apr 12, 2012, 5:52pm Top

>78 SomeGuyInVirginia: Does anybody else thing Harold Bloom sounds like Elmer Fudd doing Margaret Dumont? Or is it just me?

I never did before, but now I won't be able to stop!

80LolaWalser
Apr 13, 2012, 8:59am Top

#75

Like castigating haikus for not being sonnets.

Eh, no, that's just a difference in form. Plenty of haikus are out of reach without experience and education. Maybe that's, btw, the most succinct way to describe the difference between children's and adult literature.

All children's literature is by definition accessible to adults. It's easy. Thematic choices and plot complications don't enter into it. Swallows and Amazons has a more complicated plot than any Hemingway, so what? Rowling, OMG, had some characters die; so does Faulkner, doesn't put them on the same plane. Length also doesn't enter into it. Those "Lexile" things don't enter into it. Waiting for Godot probably clocks somewhere around a ten year old's vocabulary.

On the contrary, most adult literature worthy to be called adult literature ISN'T immediately or fully accessible to children. We have probably all read books as teens that benefit from a later rereading. Those are adult books. They have depth, multiple dimensions, or writing so novel or beautiful it takes time to appreciate it, or it invites constant re-appreciation.

Of the many children's books I've loved, not many are rereadable, even my all-time faves. Turns out most of them are simplistic, predictable and quite a few badly written. The latter has become a huge turn-off in the intervening years.

Are there children's books with depth, originality, multiple dimensions and innovative and beautiful writing? There must be. Nursery rhymes, oddly enough (cf. haiku), prove strangely fruitful. Some ancient fairy tales. This kind of literature with accreted meanings and often highly original style surpasses generational boundaries.

81Cecrow
Apr 13, 2012, 10:02am Top

I'm not sure the dividing line between children's and adult's literature is based on the language used (profanity aside.) I've thought it more based around adult literature being that which deals with adult themes, of interest to adults only. That doesn't mean any given adult's interests are (or should be) relegated only to those things which are only of interest to adults - thus the interest of many in YA. I enjoy YA myself when it's a nostaligic dip into childhood wonder days or teenage angst.

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." C.S Lewis

82brightcopy
Apr 13, 2012, 10:09am Top

The more I see this talked about, the more silly it becomes. It's like people starting off a discussion with "I don't like fiction because _______." And then people trying to counter the argument. Fiction is just too big a category for such an argument to ever convince one side or the other. It's just kind of meaningless.

At one time, YA was so narrow that this worked. But now everyone really seems to be arguing for/against subsets of YA, and for/against subsets of non-YA. I think no one is ever going to be convinced because of their preferences combined with their focus on one sub-category over another.

83LolaWalser
Apr 13, 2012, 10:29am Top

For my part, I'm not arguing "for or against" anything. Following this discussion I became interested in explaining to myself what separates adult from children's literature. I think it's an interesting question, because obviously it isn't simple. #80 is my effort to put forth some basic guidelines.

84brightcopy
Apr 13, 2012, 10:35am Top

#83 by LolaWalser> You were arguing for what you feel is the difference between adult and children's literature. Call it "discussion" if "argument" pushes one of your buttons.

85LolaWalser
Apr 13, 2012, 10:39am Top

Okay. So, any comment on relative accessibility as a basic separator?

86brightcopy
Apr 13, 2012, 11:00am Top

#85 by LolaWalser> Well, when you talk about a book's "accessibility" it isn't exactly the same as talking about a building entrance's "accessibility". It's a bit of a judgment on the content of the said book. Or, in this case, an entire category of books.

87Aerrin99
Apr 13, 2012, 11:38am Top

One thing I think is very powerful in terms of YA is the social aspect.

In our culture, it's very easy to share movie or television or video game experiences - only a handful come out every year. Odds are really good that you know someone else who's watched or played the same thing you have and who have opinions on them.

Not so with books. Hundreds, if not thousands, appear every year - how do you talk about books with other people if they aren't reading the same thing as you? How do you make that connection?

By reading the books everyone else is reading.

We see it happen sometimes with adult books - The Girl Who.... is a great example. But we see it happen a /lot/ with YA books. I think the reasons 'why' are complicated, but here are what I think are some contributing factors:

- Young adults share a lot. I mean, everyone shares a lot, but teenagers who literally walk around school passing around copies of books in some ways just have this /easier/. They see each other every day. They can talk over lunch about the latest chapter they read. They're set up to do this.

- Young adults share to belong. It's an easy way to feel 'in' on something. It's an instant connection with someone you may not otherwise have something in common with. As adults, I feel like we have a lot more options to make that connection. For teens, the latest popular thing is shorthand.

- Young adult books are easily accessible. So when things become big trends in the schools, they pass like wildfire. A thirteen year old can read it. But you know-- so can their mom who hasn't picked up a book of substance in several years. So can the cousin who struggles with complex sentences and complicated language. This article ignores the fact that for many adults, reading /anything/ can feel like work. They just don't do it. Young adult trends become trends in part because reading young adult rarely feels like /work/.

- Things happen in them, and quickly. I mean, this isn't true of all YA, and it certainly /is/ true of many 'adult' books, but in general librarians and publishers will tell you that as a genre, YA is often more tightly paced - more happens in a shorter span of pages. For slow readers, this makes it feel like you are accomplishing something - the story moves along.

So all this to say that I think part of the reason YA - especially the three he mentions - has been so popular is /because it's so popular/. And it becomes that way because it's so accessible and it starts with a base that loves to share and share and share. My aunt first read Hunger Games to keep up with her 6th grade students. My mom read it to keep up with her sister. Now almost everyone I know can talk about it. And that's /awesome/. For books to be the media that connects people. Say what you will about its qualities, but I'm never going to get my mom or my aunt or my 13 year old cousin to read a lot of the quality adult lit out there - let alone get /all three of them/ to read the /same one/.

I think there are a lot of other great things about YA (I read quite a bit of it): I think it deals with different questions than much adult lit, I think a lot of great, creative genre ideas happen in YA because teens are often more open to exploring the ideas, I think the stories are often tighter (though I agree the language typically is not). I think if you want to read about teen protagonists for whatever reason, you pretty much can't outside of YA - and the teen experience is not one to be ignored by anyone who works with them, parents them, or interacts with them on a regular basis, because it has changed a heck of a lot in even the last ten years.

I've gotten a bit rambly. Mostly just-- I think there is a reason that most of the 'trending' books we see are YA. And I think it's awesome to see books trending. It's fantastic to be in the day when I can't loan out a set of books fast enough. And to be able to sit down with my mom, my aunt, my cousin(s), and my husband and all talk about the same book.

88LolaWalser
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 11:47am Top

#86

I'm trying to establish some general principle of distinction, because we all do distinguish between books suitable or accessible to all ages, and those that aren't. What's wrong with that?

So--"children's lit": accessible to all. Yes or no?

Adult lit: usually not accessible to children, or only partially accessible. Yes or no?

My niece is ten, very into mythology. I gave her Schwab's retellings of ancient myths, but I'm not going to press Robert Graves on her. The former is children's lit (and still moderately enjoyable for me too), the latter is grown-up. (And boring, but that's my opinion.)

89LolaWalser
Apr 13, 2012, 11:57am Top

#87

I think a lot of great, creative genre ideas happen in YA because teens are often more open to exploring the ideas,

Interesting, for instance? I haven't read The Hunger Games, but I didn't find Harry Potter or Twilight to be particularly creative or original. People will say there is nothing new under the sun, that we are always retelling the same stories, so what matters a lot is the manner of telling.

90lucien
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 12:26pm Top

>3 _Zoe_:

There is also the flip side to it being ok to enjoy a light read for pleasure just as it is for a light movie. How does he figure you can't learn or use your brain while watching a documentary or serious* film? Does the only opportunity a book provide for you to think lie in making you visualize physical details not described by the author? Why doesn't he lament that watching a children's film is wasting time that could have been spent watching some adult targeted cinematic masterpiece? What does he make of film criticism?

*As for "serious" or "complex" or "adult" works, I'd argue that even if a work doesn't meet whatever definition we use they can still be informative. Isn't that why studying popular culture is an academic discipline?

91thorold
Apr 13, 2012, 12:38pm Top

>87 Aerrin99: How do you make that connection? By reading the books everyone else is reading.

OK, kids will try to turn themselves into clones of each other, but we don't need to pretend it's a good thing. Even at the age of thirteen you should be capable of asking "why?" when you see everyone else listening to the same music, reading the same book, or wearing the same clothes. Otherwise you end up reading whatever junk fills the niche that Chariots of the gods? and The Colditz story did for my generation...

92brightcopy
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 12:46pm Top

#91 by thorold> OK, kids will try to turn themselves into clones of each other, but we don't need to pretend it's a good thing.

Way to twist a point into a strawman. X)

93Tigercrane
Apr 13, 2012, 12:53pm Top

>88 LolaWalser: And yet, back in the day, the unexpurgated versions of those myths would have been what children heard as adults told stories around the hearth. The child/adult division in storytelling is a fairly modern cultural invention.

94SaraHope
Apr 13, 2012, 1:00pm Top

#88 While I'd say one is true, the other is not. I'd say that, by definition, children's literature would be accessible to everybody. But I don't think it would be accurate to define adult literature in the opposite way -- as being usually or mostly accessible to adults only.

For instance, to reiterate the example of Agatha Christie, my elementary school taught Murder on the Orient Express to 5th graders. Further, a middle schooler with a proficient reading level would easily be able to tackle many contemporary adult novels. They're likely not going to pick up any Pynchon or Murakami, but commercial adult novels would by no means be out of their reach.

95thorold
Apr 13, 2012, 1:16pm Top

>92 brightcopy:
Years of practice!

>88 LolaWalser:
I think "accessible" works, up to a point. But there are lots of grey areas.

Some stuff that's undeniably meant for children isn't 100% accessible to kids who grow up in a different era or culture. You can still enjoy Swallows and Amazons if you don't know where "a peak in Darien" comes from, but you are missing something - even more so when you go back to E. Nesbit or RLS. And there are examples of worthwhile books for adults that are perfectly accessible to most kids - what about the Sherlock Holmes stories? And kids' books that have jokes in them that only adults are likely to appreciate (Roald Dahl). And books that work on quite different levels for young and old readers, like some of Saki's stories.

96krolik
Apr 13, 2012, 1:26pm Top

>80 LolaWalser:

Yes, I think you've summed it up pretty well.

>81 Cecrow:
Lewis is citing Paul in Corinthians, etc.

It does strike me how touchy some people get about this subject. I guess I should be grateful, because it at least suggests that people still care about books.

But I'd like to underline that, just because some of us are embracing the idea of "adult" reading and are sometimes expressing impatience with material geared for less mature audiences (or more precisely, how much some older people eat up this stuff), it does not entail disrespect for non-adult books. There are good ones, there are bad ones. Like for anything else.

For real disrespect, look at the marketing by celebs (Madonna, et al.) who knock off a kiddie book because, as far as I can tell, they're just too damn lazy to sit down and write 40, 000 words (even of crap, like the more energetic Newt Gingrich, et al.).

97LolaWalser
Apr 13, 2012, 1:38pm Top

#93

The child/adult division in storytelling is a fairly modern cultural invention.

That is true, but that's because children's literature is a fairly modern invention! (I just remembered a very interesting shortish book on the subject: Written for children, yay, touchstone!) Incidentally, while you are right that I wouldn't give my niece something sexually explicit, that's not the main problem with Graves--he's just very complicated and detailed. The White goddess isn't terribly "sexy" but I think it would defeat most ten year olds.

#94

No, I agree not all "adult" lit is inaccessible. And anything that becomes accessible by simple manipulation--stripping off cursing, or looking up a word in a dictionary--isn't necessarily a complex, "adult" read.

98Tigercrane
Apr 13, 2012, 2:00pm Top

>97 LolaWalser: Yes, of course. I'm just saying that because stories are aimed at different audiences doesn't make them "better" or "worse" in quality to each other -- that's a judgment call I think best reserved to the particular stories in question. Mythology and fairy tales are always popular because they work on several levels at the same time, as adventure stories (appealing to the young) and meditations on living (meaningful to the older audience).

99brightcopy
Apr 13, 2012, 2:38pm Top

#96 by krolik> It does strike me how touchy some people get about this subject.

Really? You're shocked that a discussion centered around an article that begins, "The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading "The Hunger Games'" gets people's dander up?

8)

100RockStarNinja
Apr 13, 2012, 2:44pm Top

YA IS a marketing tool. Plain and simple. I think someone in this thread said it also. The publishers needed a new market so they bought some 'classically adult' and some 'classically kids' books then put them in a new section called 'Young Adult' and voila! you have a whole new genre and age group to market to who have more or less disposable income and can generate TONS of word of mouth advertising through social sites.

It the same with the fashion industry. Does anyone here over the age of 25 remember anything being available specifically for 'tweens' when they were that age? There was no such thing as a 'tween' when I was a kid. You either shopped in the kids section or a shopped in the adult section. But now there's a whole 'new' place to shop, except it's not new it's the same stuff just in a new department or on a new shelf. And what kid doesn't want something new from a place that's 'designed just for them'?

101brightcopy
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 2:51pm Top

#100 by RockStarNinja> I think that's true or close enough on the origins of YA, but it doesn't tell the whole story of what came out of it. I think once the YA market was kicked into gear, especially by Harry Potter, it actually increased time spent reading in the target group and let to new authors having an opportunity that would have otherwise had a difficult time finding readers (for better or worse, depending on the author).

That's where the clothes analogy starts to unravel. The tweens are still going to be buying clothes, whether they buy them in the childrens or adults or tweens section. But with the YA example, it made reading books as a YA a more "in" thing to do. Sure, that helped the publishers' bottom lines. But I think it's win-win. Those adult books are still there for any YA who wants to read them.

102SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 13, 2012, 2:51pm Top

>>79 Tigercrane: Tigercrane- I know! See if you can locate his lectures for the Teaching Company. The man sounds like he's immobilized under his augustity. I wanted to hit him with a stick, or at least give him a whiskey and a book of dirty limericks.

I'm not going to bother with Stein's argument which is provocative and juvenile. Normally I like that but I can't help thinking that if he were a really advanced reader he wouldn't have gone on record as such a great baiting fathead.

No! I draw a veil over Mr. Stein and his sniffy ilk. I leave them to their Ulysses, Gravity’s Rainbow and Lord of the Rings trilogy.

103keristars
Apr 13, 2012, 2:52pm Top

There was no such thing as a 'tween' when I was a kid. You either shopped in the kids section or a shopped in the adult section.

It was "Young Miss" or "Juniors". You can see specifically "Junior" labeled clothing for teenagers back in ads from the 1940s, IIRC. (I tend to be fascinated by old ads - I follow the vintage_ads community on Livejournal/Dreamwidth.)

But otherwise, that's pretty much the same argument I was thinking of.

104MerryMary
Apr 13, 2012, 6:06pm Top

I don't mind people having different tastes than I do. I just don't like the sneer with which they disagree.

105prosfilaes
Apr 13, 2012, 7:03pm Top

#80: On the contrary, most adult literature worthy to be called adult literature ISN'T immediately or fully accessible to children. We have probably all read books as teens that benefit from a later rereading. Those are adult books. They have depth, multiple dimensions, or writing so novel or beautiful it takes time to appreciate it, or it invites constant re-appreciation.

Once again, this is not a difference between children's literature and adult literature. You're dismissing most adult books along with that. As someone else said, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes is accessible at a pretty early level. If you and the person who wrote the article were saying that adults should be reading good literature, that would be a different, more fair, argument. I would still disagree, but it's a more coherent argument.

Personally, if I want to read something challenging, I'll read Epicurus. Or about topology. Or about MySQL. I don't read fiction to exercise my mind, and don't feel any reason to be ashamed about that.

106brightcopy
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 7:15pm Top

#105 by prosfilaes> You've touched on something I keep thinking. People keep talking about the boxes in a way that doesn't really fit. They say "YA is ____ and adult lit is _____" or "children's lit is _____ and adult lit is ______". And then they comment on whether or not adults/children should be reading one or the other.

Yet if they really did apply that separation, a lot of stuff that we considering "adult" literature would need to be put in the YA/children's category and vice versa. And then there comments about whether adults should only read adult literature look a bit silly because of all the previously considered "good"/"great" literature that they're now supposed to stay away from.

---
On the other hand, if you're not actually telling people what they should or shouldn't read, or try to dress it up in some veiled or backhanded remarks.

I guess I'm a bit touchy about it even though I tend not to read much YA/children's lit because my favorite genre is science fiction. People frequently have ideas about what I should or shouldn't be reading and I really don't have much patience for it.

107madpoet
Apr 13, 2012, 7:21pm Top

There's an assumption on both sides here that YA is a new genre. Books for young adults have changed in style and content over the years, but they're hardly new. In the 50s and 60s there were series like Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Before that there was Tom Swift. In the early years of the last century there was a boom in books for teenage boys and girls. Most of it was pulp: series like The Rocky Mountain Boys. There were also periodicals with serial stories, for young adults. T.V. and comic books did them in, mid-century.

108brightcopy
Apr 13, 2012, 7:26pm Top

#107 by madpoet> Sorry to repeat myself, but once again it reminds me of the situation with scifi. A lot of opinions of scifi today were formed based on the writings from the 40s, 50s, etc.

109dcozy
Apr 13, 2012, 9:21pm Top

brightcopy in reply to LolaWalser writes: "Well, when you talk about a book's "accessibility" it isn't exactly the same as talking about a building entrance's "accessibility". It's a bit of a judgment on the content of the said book. Or, in this case, an entire category of books."

What often sets Old Adult books apart from Young Adult books is not the content, but the form, the sophistication of the language, and the range of references. If you boil down the plots—the content—of Old Adult books and Young Adult books they will often turn out to be more or less the same.

When we say a book is inaccessible to inexperienced readers (and most young adults —AKA: children—are inexperienced readers) we simply mean that the books will be beyond the grasp of readers who haven't yet experienced much life or literature. Some books can simply not be adequately understood or enjoyed unless you have read certain other books, encountered certain ideas, had certain experiences. And this is not to look down on any reader at whatever level, because we all have to—and did—start somewhere.

This is not to say that young readers (also older readers) shouldn't try to grapple with books beyond their immediate grasp. Of course they should! Doing so is what will make fledgling readers aware of what they don't know, of books they ought to read, of ideas they ought to tangle with. Doing so will point them in the direction they need to go in order to grow as readers and as people.

(And regarding the likes of Agatha Christie, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter being taught in school: the mind boggles. Are these really books with which a young person needs a teacher's assistance?)

110timspalding
Apr 13, 2012, 10:09pm Top

Critics of YA fiction being read by adults aren't just arguing from a simplicity of text position but that characterisation may not be so subtle, the characters may be more black and white and not painted in various shades of grey, that the use of literary devices in the text are either hamfisted or obvious, that the language used (the words themselves not the sentence structure) just isn't deep and rich enough.

My problem with this, something like brightcopy's, is that it's very "modern." Subtlty of characterization and "gray" characters aren't the hallmarks of great literature. They're the hallmark of the modern European prose novel--and not all of them either. You can, perhaps, talk about depth, but depth does not reside necessarily in any element of literature.

111tomcatMurr
Apr 13, 2012, 11:06pm Top

YA are books written by people who are not very good at writing for people who are not very good at reading.

112MerryMary
Apr 13, 2012, 11:15pm Top

I respectfully disagree.

113brightcopy
Apr 13, 2012, 11:16pm Top

Once again, I have to call back to krolik's comments in 96: But I'd like to underline that, just because some of us are embracing the idea of "adult" reading and are sometimes expressing impatience with material geared for less mature audiences (or more precisely, how much some older people eat up this stuff), it does not entail disrespect for non-adult books.

While not everyone is showing disrespect, you don't have to look hard for those who are full of it.

114dcozy
Apr 14, 2012, 12:10am Top

Some of us Americans deplore what we perceive as a childishness that characterizes the country, and not just in its cultural and entertainment preferences—"Get in touch with your inner child!"

(You may not accept this view of the USA, but this is not the place to argue about that. For the purposes of the discussion please accept that many of us do feel that way.)

When we encounter grown-ups who read primarily children's books we are apt to take it as one more example of a larger phenomenon that we believe to be a real social problem. That may be why some of us who don't embrace children's books appear, and perhaps in some cases are, disrespectful, overly negative, or snooty. We are in fact reacting to something much larger than the immediate object of our disrespect, negativity, and snootiness.

115tomcatMurr
Apr 14, 2012, 12:29am Top

well said.

116brightcopy
Apr 14, 2012, 12:29am Top

So you bring up a subject, state your opinion on it, claim it is central to the understanding of the topic of the thread, then tell us this isn't the place to talk about it. Does that about cover it? ;)

117MerryMary
Apr 14, 2012, 12:43am Top

#114 We are NOT TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN'S BOOKS!!!

*deep breath* Sorry. Stein obscured the issue in the first place by comparing reading YA books to reading children's books. The issue is not children's books. Nobody is arguing that reading children's books is less sophisticated and less challenging and less grownup than reading adult books. OK? Reading children's books exclusively when you legally an adult is subject to question. Granted.

HOWEVER:
What we are disagreeing about is whether or not reading Young Adult books is a worthwhile occupation for those who have passed some arbitrary birthday or other. YA books are an entirely different manifestation of the writing art than children's books.

I've got to go to bed. I'm getting cranky - a very undignified and child-like state of mind.

118prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 1:15am Top

#116: Yeah, exactly.

#114: I'm not sure telling us that it's not just our reading habits that you're getting snooty about, it's the way we live our lives, helps anything at all. Frankly, I thought one of the marks of adulthood was gaining more social awareness and control, and being able to control who we're disrespectful or snooty to.

119brightcopy
Apr 14, 2012, 1:27am Top

#118 by prosfilaes> Haven't you heard - the internet allows anyone to act like a petulant child! Amazing invention. :D

120dcozy
Apr 14, 2012, 2:12am Top

#116: Whether America is, in fact, a childish country was germane neither to my argument nor to the topic of this thread. That's why I tried to set it to one side.

What was important to the point I was making is that many people believe this to be the case, which I hope you can see is not quite the same thing as whether it is the case.

Having said that, if you'd like to turn this discussion of YA literature into one about whether the USA is childish, go right ahead.

#117: There seem to be as many definitions of YA as there are people doing the defining, but all of the definitions I've seen suggest that there's a substantial overlap between what have conventionally been called children and what, relatively recently, have come to be called young adults. That being the case, I don't see why it's wrong to call literature written for a group largely made up of children children's literature.

To go a step farther, "young adult" seems to me a fuzzy and ill-defined bit of jargon that obscures more than it illuminates. I can see why within certain professions—librarianship and publishing—the term might (not necessarily for the most laudable of reasons) be useful. I'm not sure why the rest of should prefer it to the more straightforward terms "child," and "adult."

And let me be sure I understand you. You feel that "reading children's books exclusively when you legally an adult is subject to question," but that reading YA books exclusively when you are legally an adult is not subject to question. Do I have you right?

#118: I wasn't defending the snootiness, etc. I was trying to suggest an explanation for it. I'm sorry that you seem to have taken my attempt at explanation as an attack.

#119: Passive aggressive much?

121prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 3:51am Top

#120: Whether America is, in fact, a childish country was germane neither to my argument nor to the topic of this thread.

To the question of whether or not it's reasonable to say adults should read adult books, if you're saying that some people think it's part of a bad childish trend, I think it's interesting to discuss if it is in fact part of such a trend.

all of the definitions I've seen suggest that there's a substantial overlap between what have conventionally been called children and what, relatively recently, have come to be called young adults.

All the definitions I've seen suggest that there's a substantial overlap between what have conventionally been called children, what are being called young adults, and what have conventionally been called adults. The Bar Mitzvah is at 13; that means that most young adult books are targeted at people who are adults in Jewish terms. The lines are all over the place, and I, as a general rule, don't use the word child to refer to teenagers; they're teenagers, or if I need to refer to their non-adulthood, minors. "Child" might be used to put them in their place, but they're not the people they were five years ago.

I'm not sure why the rest of should prefer it to the more straightforward terms "child," and "adult."

Because it doesn't remotely match the issues? Children's books balloon from simple Dr. Seuss, to slightly larger Encyclopedia Brown and Babysitter's Club (feel free to update my examples to the 21st century) on up. If I had to split books into two bunches, adult and child, I'd put Twilight and Harry Potter into adult. They aren't separable from the adult's books based on size or, to any algorithmic test, content, whereas I could sort out Encyclopedia Brown and friends from adult books blind-folded.

122dcozy
Apr 14, 2012, 4:19am Top

There was probably a time when Jewish boys (and girls) of 13 really were expected to become adults: father (and mother) children, support families, etc. In a lot of cultures in the past, and some in the present, adulthood basically begins with puberty. However, most of us, including Jewish Library Thing members, don't live in such cultures. A boy may have his Bar Mitzvah at 13, but he's still expected to go to bed at a reasonable time, mind his parents, and he'd better not father any children. He has in some ritual sense, become an adult, but is, in most senses that matter, a child, and will be treated as one, so I don't think your example quite works.

I don't feel that the world child, when used to refer to a child, is any way derogatory. (Of course it is derogatory when used to refer to an adult.) Neither do I feel that it's in any way derogatory to call literature written for and marketed to children children's literature.

You're right that the the term YA literature, like most genre labels, seems to subsume lots of very different books, and as with any other genre the lines between it and other kinds of literature are fuzzy. This will be particularly true of the limit cases, and I'm sure there are many of those. There are also, however, a mass in the middle which, to borrow your phrase (which made me laugh), we could probably identify blindfolded as either for children (or young adults, if you must) on the one hand, and for grown-ups on the other.

This sort of thing comes up a lot when talking about genres such as science fiction. It often seems to come down to where something is shelved in the bookstore, though that's not, obviously, a very rigorous test: If Kafka's Metamorphosis is shelved not in the literature section but in the science fiction section does it cease to be literature?

123AndreasJ
Apr 14, 2012, 4:39am Top

Stein's preoccupation with fitting in with the cool people seems rather juvenile.

_Zoe_ wrote:
And I'd rather see people actively reading books, however easy, than passively watching television.

How is reading books more active than watching television? The communication is one-way in each case (excepting game shows that allow your teen to rack up a truly impressive phone bill).

I am, it seems, a highly unusual person in that I, as a general thing, find watching TV more mentally taxing than reading books. But both surely are fundamentally passive activities?

124AndreasJ
Apr 14, 2012, 4:45am Top

dcozy
I don't feel that the world child, when used to refer to a child, is any way derogatory.

Many teens do, however.

125dcozy
Apr 14, 2012, 5:15am Top

AndreasJ:

So we use the term "young adult" to avoid giving offense to teen-agers? Since I'm all for not hurting people's feelings if it can possibly be avoided I may have to rethink my aversion to the term.

Let's be clear, though, about what we're doing. It may be the case, for example, that the term "visually-impaired" gives less offense to people who can't see than the term "blind," but however you refer to people who can't see, their condition remains the same.

Likewise, it may make teen-agers feel better to hear themselves (and their books) referred to as "young adult," but few of those teen-agers are actually ready to take on adult responsibilities, because they are, in the cultures in which most of us live, still children.

126prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 5:37am Top

#122: However, most of us, including Jewish Library Thing members, don't live in such cultures.

We do, however, live in cultures where the age of majority is 16 (Scotland) and the age of majority is 19 (large parts of Canada; small parts of the US), 20 (Japan) or even 21 (Puerto Rico, Egypt), and in many of those places, marriage and other things will make someone younger an legal adult.

I don't feel that the world child, when used to refer to a child, is any way derogatory.

That's an amazingly black and white view for someone who claims to read literature with careful turns of phrase. Any word can be intended as and interpreted as derogatory if used in the right way. And when child is applied to people who could in many cases take on the responsibility of an adult if the world demanded it of them, the word that lumps them in with infants is not often used to speak of their successes and their abilities, but instead remind them that they have not crossed the line into adulthood.

There are also, however, a mass in the middle which, to borrow your phrase (which made me laugh), we could probably identify blindfolded as either for children (or young adults, if you must) on the one hand, and for grown-ups on the other.

All the books that were mentioned in the starting article could not be separated blind-folded from adult books. I wasn't speaking metaphorically; I could by touch alone pull out Berenstain Bear books, Encyclopedia Brown, etc., but young adult books are the same sizes and styles as adult books. You couldn't write a computer program to separate them out based on the texts, either; they are of similar length, sentence complexity, word variability, etc.

Going back to the abilities of teenagers; their reading abilities are no longer significantly different from adults. Most material meant for a large audience, like Reader's Digest and (by law) insurance policies have readability scores set for 14 year olds. Yes, depth and emotional understanding and all that, but they can comprehend the literal text of anything targeted at most adults. If you insist on drawing an single arbitrary line, the place you're drawing it is indefensible. Children's books are objectively distinct from young adult books; young adult books are subjectively distinct from adult books, and books cross that line all the time.

127prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 14, 2012, 5:57am Top

#125: Let's be clear, though, about what we're doing.

Yes, let's. We're acknowledging that a teenager is physically, psychologically, emotionally, mentally and in pretty much every shape or form different from a preteen. We're acknowledging that they have new responsibilities and new freedoms as part of growing into an adult. We're acknowledging that nothing magic will happen on the 18th birthday; that in most cases, they will continue living in the same places and working the same jobs or going to the same schools.

they are, in the cultures in which most of us live, still children.

That strikes me as completely tone-deaf to how we use the word children in our culture. It's certainly not a word very commonly applied to teenagers in our society, and it's a word that takes lumps people who study Latin and read Shakespeare with unspeaking infants as part of an inferior subclass. "You're a teenager" says that you're a person who has done some growing, has some freedom and responsibility, but has some more growing to go. "You're a child" says "nothing you've done in your life has changed the fact that you're beneath me, and I see no reason to give a damn what you think or care about."

128Bookmarque
Apr 14, 2012, 7:19am Top

Whether or not the US is a childish country, whether or not the term YA is manufactured marketing-speak, whether or not the books are deep and wide with shades of gray and allegory, the fact is that I don't have any interest in reading about children or teenagers. I have no interest in the worlds they in habit or the world views they espouse. I think that's why I don't get YA. No big lightning flash, just put my finger on the reason today. I don't like kids.

129dcozy
Apr 14, 2012, 7:43am Top

prosfilaes, you make some good points, but I wish you'd quit looking down your nose at me for reading Encyclopedia Brown.

I did note above that I'm aware that the word "child," like a surprising number of other seemingly neutral words, can be used as an insult. What I said was that I didn't think it was an insult when used in one particular situation: when used to refer to a child.

And where did I "claim to read literature with careful turns of phrase?" I'd kill myself right now if as clumsy a locution as that ever came out of my mouth.

Your listing of national ages of majority is a bit of a red herring. In Japan a girl (but not a boy) can legally marry at sixteen (but even though she is a "young adult" she still needs her parents' consent). Almost no sixteen-year-old Japanese girls, however, even think about getting married. They'd rather enjoy being the kids they feel themselves to be, and more power to them. (And even if a girl does marry at sixteen, she won't be able to drive her husband to the station. She won't be considered adult enough to pilot an automobile until she's eighteen.)

A nineteen year old in most (all?) American states can vote, but can't be trusted with a drink until he or she is twenty-one, so I guess those young adults are not really considered as adult as all that.

I just came across this: "A young/prime adult, according to Erik Erikson's stages of human development, is generally a person aging from 20 to 40, whereas an adolescent is a person aging from 13 to 19, although definitions and opinions vary."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_adult_%28psychology%29

This seems sensible to me, though I'd be willing to go as low as eighteen in defining a young adult. "Adolescent" is probably a better term than the one I was using, "child," to describe the age group that the books that initiated this discussion are designed for, but perhaps that term would hurt teenagers' feelings, too? Though "adolescent literature" would be a much more accurate term than "young adult" literature, it would, of course, be less useful to the marketers, who are working overtime to sell these books to readers long out of that developmental stage.

Your write:

"'You're a child" says "nothing you've done in your life has changed the fact that you're beneath me, and I see no reason to give a damn what you think or care about.'"

This says more about your attitudes than mine. To me the word "child" (when used to refer to children) has none of the negative connotations which, apparently, it has for you. I'm sorry for you and for the children in your life that you feel this way.

I have spent and continue to spend most of my working life—i.e. most of my life—with young people, and they have taught me a lot. (I've met several teen-agers who, it was clear, were smarter than I will ever be.) It has never been less than clear, though, that they are not adults, that they are people in the process of becoming adults. (Almost all of the young people I work with are mature enough to understand and accept this.)

You're probably right that decently educated teenagers are almost as adept as grown-ups at decoding words on a page. A well-read adult, though, will know more words than even a well-read teen for the simple reason that she's had the time to encounter more words. She will also understand complex works better for the simple reason that she's had time to read more, think more, and experience more than the teen has, and it's simply a fact that to understand the sorts of books that serious adult readers read, you need to have had certain experiences, encountered certain ideas, and read certain books. To admit this is in no way to look down on younger readers. We all were those younger readers once upon a time, and, remembering the fun that learning the world is, we envy the freshness with which those who are willing to go beyond Harry Potter and The Hunger Games launch themselves into the world of art and ideas.

130AndreasJ
Apr 14, 2012, 8:13am Top

dcozy wrote:
So we use the term "young adult" to avoid giving offense to teen-agers?

I don't know about the rest of "we", but that's not the reason I use it; I use it because it's a widely understood label for books marketed primarily at teens. (If prosafiles reads into my usage a statement about the degree of difference between teens and slightly younger children, well, then that's unfortunate, but one can't precisely define one's terms all the time.)

131prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 8:56am Top

#129: What I said was that I didn't think it was an insult when used in one particular situation: when used to refer to a child.

But you were using it to describe teenagers, which is different.

John Hopkins University Press published a book titled Clinical Management of the Child and Teenager With Diabetes with a chapter titled "Personal Perspectives of Children and Adolescents". Macmillian offers us Parenting Your Out-Of-Control Teenager that says "Over time, this leads to severe behavior problems in both children and teenagers." Baker Academic saw fit to publish "it may lead a child, teenager, or adult to be uncomfortable with" in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey. Dr. Spock advises us that "Never give aspirin to a child or teenager". You're treating "child" as if it meant unquestionably equivalent to "minor"; in modern, standard English it is frequently used in contrast to teenager.

(It's funny; many words are insults when used to refer to their literal denotation. If you want to talk to a seventeen year old African-American male, I suggest you avoid the word "boy". If you want to talk a senior citizen, calling them "old man" and "old woman" aren't the most productive things you can do.)

132brightcopy
Apr 14, 2012, 9:16am Top

128> And I totally respect that view and would never think of telling you what you should be reading, or that what you are reading is somehow more embarrassing than porn.

133_Zoe_
Apr 14, 2012, 9:26am Top

How is reading books more active than watching television? The communication is one-way in each case (excepting game shows that allow your teen to rack up a truly impressive phone bill).

I am, it seems, a highly unusual person in that I, as a general thing, find watching TV more mentally taxing than reading books. But both surely are fundamentally passive activities?


It's certainly possible to watch television with a great degree of attention, but I think the key point for me is that a television show or movie will go on regardless of whether you're paying attention or not. If someone comes in and interrupts you for a minute, the television show will be a minute farther on when you get back to it; if someone comes in and interrupts you while reading a book, you'll resume in exactly the spot where you left off. This is what led me to use the terms "active" vs. "passive": the reading experience is dependent on the participation of the reader, while the television show moves at its own speed regardless of whether the watcher is engaged or not.

134brightcopy
Apr 14, 2012, 9:29am Top

Obligatory pause button comment.

But I get what you're saying.

135streamsong
Apr 14, 2012, 9:37am Top

I haven't read a lot of YA. Like many others here on LT, I made the jump to adult books about middle school and back in the late 60's/ early 70's when I did so, there wasn't a separate YA catagory.

But..... here on LT I have met several awesome people (a couple whom I would call brilliant) who read YA. That's good enough for me to shatter any stereotypes I have left.

136LolaWalser
Apr 14, 2012, 10:12am Top

#105

You're dismissing most adult books along with that.

"Dismissing"? Odd choice of words and one that speaks volumes about YOUR biases, not mine.

I offered a general way to separate children's from adult literature based on accessibility. If you deign to look at #80 again--this time with some care to actually understand what I'm saying--you'll see that I agree that there's adult literature accessible to children--I wrote that MOST of it isn't, "immediately or fully".

Christie and Doyle are accessible, yes (perhaps with caveats thorold mentioned, as generations change and references and education along with them). If someone slapped a YA label on them, I'd have no problem with it. There are plenty of classic authors I associate with youth (we didn't have YA labels, but we did read books)--Dickens, Verne, Stevenson, Dumas etc. A twelve year old can read them with enjoyment and profit and so can a seventy year old. If you think that diminishes the writers somehow, that's your problem, and nothing I even implied.

137LolaWalser
Apr 14, 2012, 10:27am Top

Sorry, I skipped most of the posts to reply to #105, and I've no desire to squabble over who's a child and who's not, but I'll say this much--people who condescend to youth (children, young adults) are those who write and push garbage like Twilight on them. I think they deserve the best, not illiterate pap, but even that's okay as long as they are aware of what it is. The problem is when no one talks about what makes junk junk, when we pretend it's the same to get a Big Mac or grass-fed steak tartare, or to curl up with Twilight or Updike.

138brightcopy
Apr 14, 2012, 10:57am Top

They should be reading adult garbage, like The Da Vinci Code. Or anything written by Kevin J. Anderson.

139RockStarNinja
Apr 14, 2012, 12:23pm Top

101brightcopy>

True enough about the clothes, but the general point I was trying to make is that YA in some form or another has always existed. Someone else made the point about Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. And I do agree it is a win-win if people are buying books, they'll keep making books.

To be honest with some of the tangents this thread is going off on it seems to me there is some confusion about not necessarily the difference between what is YA and what is a Childrens book because, let's be honest if you enjoy it, by all means read whatever you like. But the real issue seems to be people who think YA means books that are badly written. (ie. as an adult you should be able to recognize what is written well and what is written badly)

If we consider a few popular series that are considered YA, I'll start with Harry Potter. No one will deny it probably started out as a kids series, but as it progressed it grew more complex and turned into a more adult series. I feel this was really the birth of incarnation of YA as a genre.
Then there's Twilight, and this is where I feel the real animosity against YA began. Sure it's not very well written and the vampires that sparkle is very off-putting to people (me in particular), but what it did do was get millions of teenage girls to start reading. Even if they only started after the movie came out and just because they thought one of the actors was cute, at least they're reading.

But here's where the big problem starts (for Joel Stein anyway) is when adults start reading these books, because apparently the only time adults are allowed to read books is when they want to learn a new fact or skill. Which I guess relegates anyone over 18 to history books, text books, or scientific journals. I don't know about you guys here, but that would get pretty boring to be stuck with those few options. He seems to think the only time you're allowed to be entertained is when you're watching TV, but I have to believe that somewhere in the "3,000 years of fiction written for adults" he would be entertained by something he read. I remember some of Shakespeare being pretty funny. And if his parents had read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the same time he did, maybe he wouldn't be such a pretentious douche.

140avidmom
Apr 14, 2012, 12:51pm Top

Interesting discussion. So I googled Best Young Adult books of all time and found this list: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/43.Best_Young_Adult_Books

So, if I take Mr. Stein quite literally no one over 17 should read 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird or Fahrenheit 451. I didn't read those books when I "should" have so I read them as an adult (and not a young one by any means). I'd hate to think what I would have been missing if I had dismissed those because they had a "Young Adult" label on them. Sure, there's a lot of junky Young Adult books, but as brightcopy says there's plenty of adult garbage too. I've had the misfortune of reading some of it. On the flip side, the Young Adult book The Book Thief has been one of my favorite books since I read it a few years ago as a book club pick. It was probably the only book we read as a group that everybody loved & most of those folks were in their 60s & 70s. What would Mr. Stein say to them?

>139 RockStarNinja:: "And if his parents had read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the same time he did, maybe he wouldn't be such a pretentious douche."
That's too funny!!!!

141shearon
Apr 14, 2012, 2:25pm Top

This is fascinating. I finally read the Stein article. From all the analysis here, I expected a full discourse on the issue from Stein. But a mere five paragraphs by an individual admittedly totally uninformed about current YA literature, and it generates all this discussion. Stein can only hope his upcoming book generates such buzz.

142brightcopy
Apr 14, 2012, 2:40pm Top

The one positive aspect of the article was that it was over quickly.

143tomcatMurr
Edited: Apr 15, 2012, 12:54am Top

142 YA literature: an oxymoron

144Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 15, 2012, 5:11am Top

Tell that to Lewis Carrol...

145bostonbibliophile
Apr 15, 2012, 9:59am Top

140, The Book Thief is an example of how the way books are marketed influences our perceptions of them. Markus Zusak is not considered a YA writer in his native Australia and The Book Thief was marketed there as a book for adults. In this country though he's marketed as YA. So, again it comes down to what makes a book "adult" or "YA"- is he a YA author because his American corporate masters say so, or do we listen to the people who market him in Australia? Or do we look at something else about the book? Reviews? I have no idea how to answer this! When we're shopping for books, all we have is where they are in the store and what our friends say, and maybe what we've read in a review or a blog. It's really hard to make judgements based on those things, to know if we'll like a book before we pick it up, or how to evaluate it based on the judgements others have made.

146Murmurs
Edited: Apr 15, 2012, 6:02pm Top

Letterpress @ 56,

I don't think I saw an answer to your question.

I don't know why The Book Thief was marketed in the US as a YA novel (it wasn't in Australia). I think this was a huge mistake on the part of publishers and probably cost them a lot of readers of what is a very good book.

It is definitely one of my top favourites from the last few years.

(EDIT: I did miss the last replies just prior to mine 140 & 145 )

147avidmom
Apr 15, 2012, 7:24pm Top

>146 Murmurs: According to one of the replies to Stein's article publishers may market a book as "Young Adult" if the main character is a young adult. So I guess that explains why The Book Thief is marketed as such, since Liesel is in her teens throughout most of the book.

148prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 15, 2012, 8:06pm Top

#136: I offered a general way to separate children's from adult literature based on accessibility.

And I believe that it's wrong. Again:

On the contrary, most adult literature worthy to be called adult literature ISN'T immediately or fully accessible to children. We have probably all read books as teens that benefit from a later rereading. Those are adult books. They have depth, multiple dimensions, or writing so novel or beautiful it takes time to appreciate it, or it invites constant re-appreciation.

Holding an arbitrary book from the In Depth series in my hand, I can honestly say it has none of the above. It's cheese, with no depth, one dimension, and writing (as far as I can tell) that's pedestrian. But it's not children's literature; it may start with a fairly graphic brutal rape and dismemberment, and does contain 2.5 scenes of fairly graphic consensual sex. Its target is clearly and solidly adults, and I believe its readers are pretty solidly adults.

137: The problem is when no one talks about what makes junk junk, when we pretend it's the same to get a Big Mac or grass-fed steak tartare,

Maybe part of the problem is that people who eat Big Macs are tired of the abuse from people who eat grass-fed steak tartare, and feel if that they do try grass-fed steak tartare, they'll still get looked down the day after when they eat a Big Mac, so why bother?

Nobody is pretending that it's the same to get a Big Mac and grass-fed steak tartare, unless you've made grass-fed steak tartare $3.57 and available someplace most people can pick it up on their way home in their work clothes.

A lot of adult books are simply wish-fulfillment; depending on the story, the good guys get to kick the bad guys' ass (literally), the nurse falls in love with the impossibly hot & rich Oriental sheik she accidentally got married to, or the spy sleeps with the impossibly hot double agent and saves the free world. They fill a need for their readers, and even if their readers added some more sophisticated literature to their reading, they would still return at times to this wish-fulfillment.

149dcozy
Apr 15, 2012, 8:42pm Top

#145: Dispensing with the YA label altogether would work.

When I was a kid there was no YA section in the Southern Californian libraries I patronized, and I don't see what changed that makes it necessary now.

150brightcopy
Edited: Apr 15, 2012, 9:56pm Top

#149 by dcozy> Might as well get rid of all sections. Why have a scifi section? Why have horror? Or mystery, or children's books (which aren't the same as YA). Heck, let's axe the fiction/non-fiction separation as well.

And some people will no doubt say "sounds good to me!" I doubt they'd actually appreciate it the next time they walked into their library/bookstore, though.

Repeating myself a bit, sections like these basically function as a crude recommendations engine. If you like one book in a section, the theory is that you're more likely to like others. If this wasn't generally true, we wouldn't have most of these sections.

151keristars
Apr 15, 2012, 9:50pm Top

When I was a kid there was no YA section in the Southern Californian libraries I patronized, and I don't see what changed that makes it necessary now.

I can tell you exactly why I saw the YA section created at the library I lived near as a teenager, right around 1999-2002:

It was a subsection of the Adult Fiction room that contained the most common assigned reading for high school and intro-level college courses. It also contained books that straddled the line between children and adult fiction, as well as books written specifically for young people (teenagers though trad. age college students). The Windling/Datlow fairy tale anthologies were there, though they had distinctly adult themes (Black Heart, Ivory Bones for one title), and others that had similar appeal to young people. But there was also I am the cheese and other Cormier books, and the Lois Lowry suspense thrillers.

This section was just a set of shelves in the rows, between General Fiction and SFF, I believe, but as it proved to be more and more popular and continued to grow, it was moved to a corner of the Adult Fiction room where the Westerns had previously been, right next to the Romance (which were on free-standing turn racks and a smaller bookcase between the windows for the fancier editions - this library was 2 blocks from the beach and romances had a lot of turnover & needed to be replaced often).

152RockStarNinja
Apr 15, 2012, 9:59pm Top

149> That's what I'm saying!! Maybe it's just a California thing (I'm from the Central Valley though) but it used to be that once you were out of the "Children's" section, you were in the "Adult" section.
And all "Adult" meant was the whole rest of the store that isn't "Children's" books.

153dcozy
Apr 15, 2012, 10:12pm Top

#150: brightcopy: Thanks for your brilliant illustration of the logical fallacy usually called "appealing to extremes."

It's quite a leap to go from a suggestion that one section in the library or in bookstores could be eliminated to the notion that all sections be eliminated, but you managed it. Would the final cut in your thought experiment be the elimination of the section called "books?"

#151: Thanks for the history. It's always fascinating to see how things we take for granted as having always been there came into being, and to be reminded that they have a historical genesis, are creations rather than givens.

I don't think the percentage of young adults in the population has, in the last decade or two, increased dramatically, so I wonder if the necessity for more space for books that might fall into the young adult category is attributable mostly to the fact that more not-so-young adults are reading them.

154bostonbibliophile
Apr 15, 2012, 10:34pm Top

It's necessary to help children and parents pick out books that are appropriate for different age and reading levels.

155tomcatMurr
Apr 15, 2012, 10:42pm Top

>148 prosfilaes: so are you saying that you really don't know what quality is, or that you really don't care very much for it? I'm confused.

156prosfilaes
Apr 15, 2012, 10:43pm Top

#153: if the necessity for more space for books that might fall into the young adult category is attributable mostly to the fact that more not-so-young adults are reading them.

Or if separating them out made them more attractive to young adults thus bringing more of them in, or merely made the audience of young adults more visible.

157brightcopy
Apr 15, 2012, 10:59pm Top

#153 by dcozy> Meh, I don't think it's really all that extreme. Maybe the fiction/non-fiction part. Seriously, what is the real qualitative difference between having a scifi section, a mystery section or a horror section that doesn't apply to a YA section? If you would not advocate dispensing with those others as you did the YA, why not?

158dcozy
Apr 15, 2012, 11:04pm Top

#156: Could be. Do you think that is the case? I'm not current enough with reading trends in the anglophone world to know.

159dcozy
Apr 15, 2012, 11:22pm Top

Question: In American libraries is the young adult section usually further subdivided into genres (YA romance, YA mystery, YA science fiction, YA existentialist novel, YA language poetry) or, so long as it's clear that the books in question are for young adults, is further subdivision felt to be unnecessary?

If the books in YA sections are not further subdivided I would think that would present problems for a young person browsing the shelves in search of another book like, for example, Catcher With a Glass Arm.

160prosfilaes
Apr 15, 2012, 11:27pm Top

#155: I think that snobs frequently don't understand the real qualities of what they're criticizing. Everyone knows that grain-fed steak tartare is better than a Big Mac; we have the words "grain-fed" and "steak" followed by a French word; how can that not be high cuisine? What #137 is criticizing is not really that no one thinks grain-fed steak tartare is better, it's that many people don't eat grain-fed steak tartare, and that complaint can only be made in defiance of the reality that grain-fed steak tartare isn't a feasible regular food source for many people.

The Epicureans might criticize ever eating grain-fed steak tartare; better to eat a regular inexpensive diet then to eat a more expensive diet and build up desires for good food and a need for more money then you need to live.

I don't think "quality" is a scalar. If you say one item is better than another, the only real responses are "in what way" and "for whom". There have been a number of qualities named in this thread that these books supposedly have, but I'm not seeing why they are qualities I should value in the books I read for enjoyment.

161brightcopy
Apr 15, 2012, 11:27pm Top

#159 by dcozy> I can't really speak about libraries (don't really do a lot of browsing in the YA section), but I can tell you it's not a big problem having to deal with the fantasy in the scifi&fantasy section. I don't read a lot of fantasy so really all I'm generally looking for is the scifi.

Still interested in your answers to #157, btw.

162dcozy
Apr 16, 2012, 12:06am Top

#157: Your questions are good. The reason you have any divisions at all in a library or bookstore is to make it easy for the patrons to find things. If they know what book they're looking for it really doesn't matter what section it's in. They'll find it on the computer, see where it's stored, and go there.

Sections like Science Fiction, or Mystery, are useful to readers who know the kind of book they want, but don't have a particular title in mind. They can go the section of their preferred genre, browse around among the books there, and with luck, find a book they'll like.

YA seems less useful to me because it subsumes so much. A YA novel seems to be anything that publishers and librarians tell us is a YA novel.

In terms of age, various definitions I've come across in a couple of different Library Thing threads, and from a conversation with one librarian, suggest that, depending on who you're talking to, a YA can be a person as young as eight, or as old as mid-twenties. I think--though I'll probably get in trouble for saying this--that most of us would define people much younger than, say, eleven as children, and much older than twenty as adults, so let's take as working definition that YA are between twelve and nineteen years old. (You can mentally shift the upper and lower ages a couple of years up or down if you like; it won't affect my argument.)

Here one problem with YA as a category becomes evident. When that twelve-year-old goes to browse in the YA section for another book like her favorite, The Lucky Baseball Bat, she's going to find that most of what's there has little in common with that Matt Christopher classic. Likewise the nineteen-year-old is going to wonder why the hell he has to wade through stuff like The Lucky Baseball Bat in order to find something that will engage his more mature intellect. The twelve-year-old would have been happier in the children's section, the nineteen-year-old with the adults.

Age isn't the only problem, though. I assume that all genres (except, perhaps, erotica) can be branded YA. When a fifteen-year-old who has received Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 as a present and loves it goes to the library to try to find something similar she might figure, well, I'm a young adult so I guess I should look in the young adult section. She may find books similar to Bradbury's there, but she will have to wade through sports books, romances, and countless coming-of-age tales to find it.

Or suppose a young reader finds Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories in the YA section, loves it, and wants to read more Rushdie. If she looks for more books by her favorite in the YA section she's likely to be disappointed.

Those are a few of the problems thrown up by the nebulousness of the term YA; what, if publishers and librarians tell us it's YA, can't be defined as YA?

It's true that other categories are not without their own problems. Taxonomy is always tricky. The question is whether YA is a useful division. Does it help connect readers with books they wouldn't otherwise find?

If it does then let's keep it.

If not, not.

163brightcopy
Apr 16, 2012, 12:31am Top

#162 by dcozy> Thank you for your honest answers to those questions. I think sometimes both sides can get a bit heated and stop listening.

When you say, "YA seems less useful to me because it subsumes so much", I find that to be less obvious considering the size of the YA section compared to the rest of the fiction. It's a tiny fraction. And some other people on this thread who are anti-YA have complained about it being a tiny little box that YAs are shoved in.

I suppose both viewpoints could be true, if you say that the YA section is a cross-section of the regular fiction (and other genre) sections that somehow is a good "recommendation engine" for YAs. That's why I think it's useful. I think YAs would otherwise wind up trying to pick through the entire fiction (and other genre) sections without any kind of recommendation filtering whatsoever. I know I'd hate that if scifi was just blended into the fiction.

But I think the key is that it shouldn't be considered a limiting factor. I never advocated that YAs only read from the YA section. The same is true for me, even though I read mostly scifi. I still go out to the fiction section when I want some Twain or Vonnegut, or the non-fiction section when I want some Oliver Sacks or Robert Sapolsky.

And yes, it can be confusing any time you try to sort physical objects onto shelves and sections. For a long time, I wondered why I could never find Player Piano or Cat's Cradle amongst the scifi. Then I realized I should check in fiction and sure enough, that's where Vonnegut's stuff lives. I could see why that was, even though there's an argument for many of his novels being scifi. It was more of a "flavor" argument than a logical flowchart that got you from point A to point B.

But one major thing to keep in mind is that all these YAs will grow up. Most of them will go on to read a majority non-YA stuff. Sometimes they'll still read YA if the book is popular or highly rated. That's the YA I've read in the last couple of decades - Hunger Games and Harry Potter. I also have some of the Tiffany Aching books by Pratchett but haven't gotten around to read them, yet.

And to illustrate the messiness of taxonomy, I found the Tiffany Aching books in the scifi section, not YA. :D

164tomcatMurr
Edited: Apr 16, 2012, 12:41am Top

>160 prosfilaes:, I see, so what you're saying then is that you have no idea what quality means, AND that you also really don't care about it. Thanks for clearing that up.

165brightcopy
Apr 16, 2012, 12:46am Top

#164 by tomcatMurr> Why continue if you aren't really interested in discussing this topic and seem to only be interested in tossing firebombs? Haven't you already accomplished that? Brevity is the soul of wit. With each additional post, you dilute what would have otherwise been a witty addition to the thread.

166tomcatMurr
Apr 16, 2012, 12:48am Top

:)

167inaudible
Apr 16, 2012, 12:51am Top

86 (bright copy) wrote: "Well, when you talk about a book's "accessibility" it isn't exactly the same as talking about a building entrance's "accessibility". It's a bit of a judgment on the content of the said book. Or, in this case, an entire category of books."

Maybe it is a judgement on the content of a book and an entire category of books. What is wrong with making judgements about the content of books? Or about categories of books?

Making judgements about books is part of the joy of reading them and thinking about them. It's what makes me subscribe to the NYRB or LRB or TLS and delight in the really brutal negative reviews.

Having worked in a public library and talked to hundreds of adult readers who only read YA books, the reason given to me over and over again was that they didn't want to read anything 'hard' or 'too smart'. Implicit in this was the judgement - by the adult YA fiction lovers, mind - that YA fiction was 'easy' and 'not too smart'. I agreed with them but have no idea why anyone would want to read stupid books when they probably have not read Homer yet.

168dcozy
Apr 16, 2012, 4:04am Top

inaudible asks a good question: "What is wrong with making judgements about the content of books? Or about categories of books?"

Nothing at all, of course. Indeed, if one takes reading seriously at all (and I would expect that the sort of nerds who hang around on a book cataloging SNS do take reading seriously) one must judge.

Judging a book, a category of books, a hamburger, or anything else as better than another book, hamburger, etc., does not make one a snob. It makes one discerning.

Deciding that, because someone likes a different kind of hamburger than you, they are not as good a person as you might make you a snob. I'm not going to go back and review the whole thread, but I don't think anybody in what some have called the "anti-YA" camp has done this. Rather, some of that camp have argued that young adult books are, for adult readers, in various ways less worthwhile than old adult books.

Because the assertion that old adult books are more worthwhile than young adult books is, like its converse, unprovable, the best both sides can do is offer arguments in support of their position. That's what discussion is all about, and I assume it's because we enjoy these kinds of discussions, that we click on the Talk tab at Library Thing. That we can enjoy and learn from such discussions are what makes those slash-and-burn hatchet jobs in the NYRB and the equally fiery responses to those hatchet jobs, fun and illuminating to read.

Some of the pro-YA commenters seem to be appalled at what they take to be the snobbery of their opposite numbers. I'm not appalled, but surprised, at the defensiveness of some the YA readers, because as should be obvious, they've won. For every one reader of David Markson there are thousands of readers of Harry Potter. For every one reader of James Joyce (who seems to be the favorite bogeyman of many) there are thousands of readers of The Hunger Games.

That a reader might be unwilling to judge literature, or goes into high dudgeon when someone makes a literary judgement they disagree with, suggests to me that they don't really care much about literature at all.

169AnnieMod
Apr 16, 2012, 4:48am Top

In such arguments I sometimes wonder if the anti camp had read any YA books besides the very popular ones (if these had been read at all).

Through the years it had been different kind of literature but with the same general bias - mysteries/SF/Fantasy/Romances/You name it are mediocre and not "real literature". Usually from people that had either just sampled the genre or had never even tried it. Now it is time to bash YA - because it is popular, it is kinda... trendy to dislike them.

PS: The fact that some people read them because they think they are easier than general literature is irrelevant. Dan Brown is adult literature. So are the gazillion Brown-wanna-bes. Somehow I fail to see how YA is easier or more accessible than this (and I actually read Brown - I need the mind candy now and then - so I am not going against him on principle).

170prosfilaes
Apr 16, 2012, 5:23am Top

#167: What is wrong with making judgements about the content of books? Or about categories of books?

The old rule of thumb is don't judge a book by its cover, and when you judging all YA books as a group, you're not getting as far as the cover. The article that started this bragged that "I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like." A brutal negative review is fine, so long as they actually read the book. But so much of this criticism is completely blind.

Comparing between two categories of anything is problematic. Is Mexican food better than Greek food? You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but beyond the quantitative measurements, the comparison says more about your tastes then anything else. And making judgments about categories doesn't really help anyone. Reviews of individual books can help people find good books out of a heap of them, but all categories have people who enjoy them or they wouldn't exist. You want to know if you'll enjoy a whole category of things? Try one that's highly rated in that category and see.

171SimonW11
Edited: Apr 16, 2012, 6:41am Top

"Judging a book, a category of books, a hamburger, or anything else as better than another book, hamburger, etc., does not make one a snob. It makes one discerning."

No it makes one discriminating. Now being discriminating is not a bad thing it is after all why we do not allow sex offenders to teach in schools.

With YA it seems to me people are discriminating by the label not by the book. If you cannot discern a difference you should not discriminate,to do so is at best snobbery.

I can pretty consistently discern the difference between children's book and an adult book. There are some damned well written children's books out there let me tell you. Now, if you were to give me a YA and ask me to read it and shelve it appropriately I would not be consistently successful, I cannot discern what places a book in that category. And neither I think can most authors.
The closest I think most can come to definition that works, is that the protagonists are older than ten and younger than twenty five. and If that's a reasonable definition then White Fang was written for the discerning Border Collie Cross.

It is then not a genre but a marketing category, and a successful one.

I have not read the original article and I might not bother why read criticism of something of which the author apparently claims ignorance?

Frankly I would rather discriminate against people wearing hoodies, some of them are a real danger , this guy for instance.



Certainly a lot of YA whatever else it may be is undemanding. I suspect the author would attack practically any genre for containing undemanding reading. I have always enjoyed undemanding reading, and suspect that unlike me the author has a television to cater to his desire for simple diversion. I wonder how he would react to demands that he give that up.

172andyl
Apr 16, 2012, 7:06am Top

#169

I would guess that Stein would also argue that adults shouldn't read Dan Brown (& wannabes) as well. He would probably go as far to include nearly most genre books too. It is just that YA is an easier target.

173brightcopy
Apr 16, 2012, 10:46am Top

The whole "what's wrong with judging books?" argument is a straw man. No one here is putting that out there but the people arguing against it.

What people on this thread have consistently said is that they dislike people judging unfairly (ignoring the very real spectrum of literature in the "adult" sections) and being snobbish about it. Nobody likes a snob, whether on the internet or at your dinner party. Some anti-YA posters on here have been snobs about it, but not all.

174LolaWalser
Apr 16, 2012, 1:25pm Top

#160

No, no, no. Talk about missing the point... The cuisine needn't be haute; it needs to be bonne. And, I said "grass", not "grain". Crucial difference.

#172

I've no problem criticising junk for adults, but I didn't think that was the focus of this thread. Besides, I assume automatically all adults make informed choices. ;)

I think we've run into a good deal of confusion because of lumping together of several things: 1) being anti-YA literature 2) being anti-YA lit label 3) being against "adults-reading-YA-lit".

For my part, I find 1) absurd because, as far as I'm concerned, any literature accessible to youth is "YA literature". As to 2); this discussion has made me feel the label (as a marketing tool) is positively noxious (dcozy laid out some of the reasons, like the ghettoisation of young readers).

But 3) is where this all started, and what makes 2) dodgy, so I'd like to wrap up my contributions by going back to it. Adults reading books explicitly written FOR children (youth). In itself, and in any individual case it needn't be at all problematic. The things change (have changed) when it becomes epidemic, as it did with Harry Potter, and then next, when it looks like a trend has formed, with more titles written for children/youth being picked up by adult readers.

And it's solely in view of what looks like a vigorous mass trend that I feel one ought to formulate some stance on it, preferably defending highest standards for young readers.

175inaudible
Apr 16, 2012, 9:02pm Top

168> "Rather, some of that camp have argued that young adult books are, for adult readers, in various ways less worthwhile than old adult books."

I do think this, and my experience with adult YA readers was that they agreed with me. The appeal of the books for them was the lack of thinking involved.

169> "In such arguments I sometimes wonder if the anti camp had read any YA books besides the very popular ones (if these had been read at all)."

I read a lot of YA books when I was a teenager. Not sure why I would continue to do so now, except as a nostalgia/revisiting my youth type thing. For me that would mean rereading Asimov and Heinlein or coming-of-age gay novels like Annie on My Mind. I loved those books then, but I don't think they have anything to offer me other than fond memories... and with a hundred lifetimes of amazing books to read, I don't understand why any adult would spend so much time revisiting adolescence.

I will read all the Harry Potter books once I've finished reading the complete works of al-Tabari and Erasmus...

176madpoet
Apr 16, 2012, 9:29pm Top

175> "I will read all the Harry Potter books once I've finished reading the complete works of al-Tabari and Erasmus..."

I've read Erasmus, and I've read Harry Potter, and I've enjoyed them both. Anyone who confines him or herself to just one genre, and scorns others, is missing a lot of very pleasurable reading.

178prosfilaes
Apr 16, 2012, 10:44pm Top

#174: The cuisine needn't be haute; it needs to be bonne.

Then mention a food that's bonne and not haute, not a food I've never seen on a menu and that I don't think I have the clothes to be granted entrance to any local restaurant that does serve it. There's not many people who would order the Big Mac if it were on the menu at a nice restaurant. But the Big Mac is not junk; it's a credible contender in the field of low-priced fast food.

preferably defending highest standards for young readers.

I don't mind high standards for young readers. I do mind when people sniff at Twilight and don't offer love stories with a hot and dangerous bad boy for our female protagonist, when people get all fussy when an audience gets exactly what it wants.

179brightcopy
Apr 16, 2012, 10:55pm Top

#177 by tomcatMurr> One of the true constants in psychology: assholes never think they're assholes and can give you endless reasons why not.

180tomcatMurr
Apr 16, 2012, 11:35pm Top

But the Big Mac is not junk

oh fuck me, now I've heard everything.

181tomcatMurr
Apr 16, 2012, 11:43pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
kiss it brightcopy, long and sloppy, go on, you know you want to.



182brightcopy
Edited: Apr 16, 2012, 11:53pm Top

#181 by tomcatMurr> You're really only proving my point, you know.

ETA: Also, if you're trying to score points by offending me, know that I am a cat owner. As such, your photo is about as shocking as a warm bath.

ETAA: Oh, and just to quote from the article you linked to. The claim is that being called a snob is a bad of pride, because in truth a snob is (among other things) "a person whose mental horizon is larger than a 9 year old's". Again, just proving my point...

183tomcatMurr
Apr 16, 2012, 11:58pm Top

When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is amusing herself with me, or I with her.

Montaigne

184LolaWalser
Apr 17, 2012, 12:04am Top

Ahhhhhh, the vagaries of interwebs discussions...!

#178

Dear heart. Something tells me you don't spend much time in the kitchen.

Steak tartare, one of the simplest things anyone, Mongol nomad via Balkan peasant to Yankee underclass, can prepare in 10 minutes or less, for little to modest cost, for two people, or one rather hungry:

*200g good lean beef, such as in countries less developed than the great US of A comes off cows grazing in meadows here there and everywhere (in the super-privileged US of A, one might have to go to some "organic" or boutique butchery--the pain, the pain of wealth)

*2 egg yolks

*lemon juice, Worcester sauce, olive oil, salt & pepper

*parsley, capers, ad lib

Use a meat grinder if you have one, if not, use a good knife, chop up the meat finely or to liking, mix in oil, lemon juice, sauce and salt and pepper, form patties, indent for yolk placement, add yolk, garnish with parsley capers or whatever, serve--EAT!

Of course, if we remember that I used the food example as an offhand analogy to my MAIN point, which was that something like Twilight is indubitably trash and doesn't compare to something written by a master of the language, then the whole steak fuss begins to smell like a red herring gone bad. Especially as when it comes to books, the talk of cost is specious--it is as easy to borrow a good book as a bad one.

Anyway, I'm done here, so goodbye and bon appétit!

185inaudible
Apr 17, 2012, 12:29am Top

176 madpoet> Sorry, I didn't mean that I only read al-Tabari and Erasmus (that would be absurd).

The collected works of Erasmus run over 80 volumes, and the histories by al-Tabari (never mind the commentaries on the Quran!) were published in 40 volumes. Unless I find myself locked in a cave for a few years with only those 120+ books in front of me, I will probably never complete all of them.

I hope that makes the meaning of my sentence clear.

186lilisin
Edited: Apr 17, 2012, 12:43am Top

I'm not sure if I'll be contributing much to the actual conversation and if I'm not just offering anything more than my personal experience with YA. But, I have enjoyed every little bit of this discussion so far.

I grew up reading in elementary school the typical books of youth here in the States like most have I would assume. The Charlotte's Web type books and whatnot. Then I become obsessed with Nancy Drew. After Nancy Drew I stumbled upon a fun looking book by Terry Brooks and started venturing into my first bit of fantasy. I read the original Shannara series and then I read the famous Avalon trilogy by Marion Zimmer Bradley at around 5th/6th grade level. I never really had a notion of what YA was back in that time but I figured it was all those books that was in the library catalogs when they used to have those big book sales where you could pay 5 dollars for 5 books. (Do they still have those?) I remember having the money to buy one book and really enjoying it and I can tell you for sure that it was meant for a middle school market. (Gangs, race relations and whatnot).

But, then my mother, in 6th grade, gave me Les Miserables for my birthday and from there on out, my life changed forever. I gave up all the rest I had been reading before and only read books along that scale. Granted I didn't understand Pride and Prejudice when I tried reading it in 8th grade but at least I wanted to try.

So, I always found it strange when I entered high school and everyone was so excited about the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. I looked through one once and wondered why someone would want to read something so mediocre and well, EASY to read and comprehend. The issues those books tackle just seemed like common sense for me. Like going through sex ed in high school. How hard is it to understand how to use a condom especially when you're shone and yet teenage birth rates are still so high!?

Like I said, I'm not sure my anecdote proves or disproves anything but it does show my view of how I feel that young adult is EASY to read and doesn't really challenge my sense of right and wrong.

What I like now is books like those by the Austrian Stefan Zweig, who likes to manipulate the reader by taking what is considered common sense and shows you how that can be dangerous. Those are the type of books that excite me.

This author author reminds me of the earlier conversation about "learning" from a book. If I pick up a book that takes place during WWII I'm usually not reading it to learn about WWII. What I'm looking for is the character's reactions to the event and their surroundings. When I read Shohei Ooka's Fires on the Plain, yeah, I guess I learned a little bit about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. But what I really learned, or rather, got from the book, was the character's struggle with the concept of God and sense of morality when faced with extreme situations. That's what I want to read!

But, I did love the Harry Potter series too. I found it imaginative and very well thought out. I even found it well written and never really understood why people would attack the writing style so outright. It was fantastic to get lost in that world and it only took a week to read the entire series. Then I went back to my "smart" books.

Sorry once again for the long-winded anecdote.

187AndreasJ
Apr 17, 2012, 1:28am Top

madpoet wrote:
I've read Erasmus, and I've read Harry Potter, and I've enjoyed them both. Anyone who confines him or herself to just one genre, and scorns others, is missing a lot of very pleasurable reading.

As does anyone sampling many genres: reading anything means not reading something else.

188madpoet
Apr 17, 2012, 2:24am Top

185> "Sorry, I didn't mean that I only read al-Tabari and Erasmus (that would be absurd)."

I didn't think you did. I understood you to mean you only read classics, or serious literature. I read a lot of classics, too. That's why I enjoy the occasional Harry Potter or Stephen King: it's a nice change.

189SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 17, 2012, 11:15am Top

How are the mighty fallen, oh Ishmael. Eeny meeny tackle uprising, a pax on both your houses.

How about we take a stab at defining what we're talking about - what is the nature of children’s books - rather than the value? I'll start by cribbing what someone else pointed out-

-The protagonist tends to be under 25 years old.
-They are read by adults as well as children.
-They engage interest.
-They are marketed.
-The conflict often involves an adventure, a journey, or a quest.

Equally interesting is the observation someone made earlier that children can’t read adult lit with the same comprehension that adults can read children’s lit. There are no reading prodigies like there are music and math prodigies.

Anyone else want to take a crack at adding to the definition of kid’s lit?

190brightcopy
Apr 17, 2012, 11:48am Top

#189 by SomeGuyInVirginia> If you're concerned with definitions, I don't think the "children's books" or "kid's lit" labels are helping you here. That's been a recurring flaw since the beginning of this thread. When you wind up lumping Berenstain Bears with Harry Potter, no good can come of the discussion.

191SomeGuyInVirginia
Edited: Apr 17, 2012, 12:35pm Top

Why, what makes them different from each other?

192keristars
Apr 17, 2012, 12:48pm Top

For one, Berenstain Bears are picture books and not novels. Another thing is that they're highly didactic.

193SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 17, 2012, 1:01pm Top

OK, I think I can add to the definition;

-More likely to illustrated than books for adults.

I'm not going to include didacticism because most fiction has a message. (But if that was a swipe at me, nice one.)

194SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 17, 2012, 1:15pm Top

I think keristars has another good point. Kid's books are;

-Unambiguous.

I'd like to hear from thorold and SimonW11, as well as from Tim. Especially from Tim. Tim?

195brightcopy
Edited: Apr 17, 2012, 1:21pm Top

#191 by SomeGuyInVirginia> Why, what makes them different from each other?

*boggles*

Do you mean to say you can't tell the difference between an illustrated children's picture book and a 300-800 page novel (depending on if you're talking about HP1 or HP7)?

196SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 17, 2012, 1:48pm Top

No, I don't think I do fully understand the difference between a children's picture book and a 300-800 page novel. What makes them different? To paraphrase from a book I would be dismayed if I saw a child reading, ‘What is the nature of the thing you pique, Claree?’ Spit it out.

Another good point- kid's books can be ambiguous, look at what drove some of the Potter characters. Maybe ambiguity increases with readership age.

197Neverwithoutabook
Apr 17, 2012, 2:04pm Top

I'm a bit late to the conversation, but having read most of the posts here, I started wondering what the fuss is about. Any kind of reading is good and there are lots of people out there who can't read or read at a very young level. Whether it is due to a learning disability or a lack of available education or simply they slipped through the cracks and reading is difficult for them.

I have parents who buy comics for their kids because "at least they're reading something", and I have an adult who buys those same comics exclusively because he has cataracts and it's easier for him to read them than a book.

As a reader, I was hooked probably from the first time someone read a story to me. I remember when I was about 6, my Grandmother reading books of english poetry to me and she modeled reading. She had an extensive library of hardcovers. Once I started reading on my own, I couldn't get enough of it. This is where I come to not understanding the discussion, though. I'm all over the board with reading. I've read almost all genre's, including YA and children's books and it's not for lack of understanding more complex books. I don't think I can pick any one genre that I haven't read something in. Non-fiction is something I explore when I have an interest to satisfy. I don't now and never have felt pinned down to any one genre or or age group. I like to think most people who read are like that. I know there are exceptions...like the people who only read certain authors, and my question there is....what are you going to do when you run out of books by that author.

Maybe someone is 43 and just learning to read for whatever reason, so they start with some children's books, and move on to some chapter books and then some YA and they start finding that certain genres interest them more than others and they take off in that direction for awhile. Nothing wrong with that. Ever.

Reading for pleasure should be enjoyable, and reading for learning can also be enjoyable...if the topic is one that interests you. N'est pas?

Just my $.02!

Apologies if I offended anyone...

198keristars
Apr 17, 2012, 2:08pm Top

No, the didactic thing wasn't a swipe. It's a point about a lot of children's books, which are different from adult (and young adult) - they're didactic not because they "have a message", but because the whole point of a lot of children's books, especially ones like the Berenstain Bears, is to illustrate/teach certain concepts. The plot is entirely in service to the message "keep your room tidy" or "don't hit your siblings" or whatever.

Many adult books can be didactic - something like The Shack, perhaps - but adult fiction on the whole tends to have a lot more nuance than children's books, and even when there is a strong message, effort is put into creating a deeper narrative (usually). Self-help and other sorts of instruction manuals are different, of course. And a lot of adult books that are didactic aren't considered very good unless there's a niche readership.

199nemoman
Apr 17, 2012, 2:21pm Top

There are books I enjoy reading; there are books I do not enjoy reading. Sometimes I read for a laugh; sometimes I read for entertainment; and, sometimes I read for intellectual stimulus and engagement. Sometimes an exceptional book will deliver all three. I prefer well written to poorly written books. I would think that the above describes most of us, and most books. What then is all this fuss about?

200morningwalker
Apr 17, 2012, 2:28pm Top

The Shack was didactic?????? I suppose I did learn something from reading it - I will never read another book suggested by the person who recommended it to me.

201keristars
Apr 17, 2012, 2:32pm Top

I think so - a lot of those religious allegorical tales are. I haven't read it myself, so I might be mixing it up with another one that was popular a few years ago. (my mom had a bunch in the kitchen that I flipped through a few times)

202SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 17, 2012, 2:43pm Top

nemoman, Tim started it.

Nice, keristars, and I agree with you. You know, when I was a kid I hated the Berenstein Bears but they were everywhere. I always looked at the pictures but didn't read them.

203MikeBriggs
Apr 17, 2012, 3:15pm Top

162) re sections. The Young Adult books in my local NYC library system are divided into sections (ie, Science Fiction, Mystery).

The local B&N store, or at least the last one I was in, did not have a Young Adult section. Instead it had Teen Fiction. Teen Fiction itself was subdivided. I do not recall the sections, though I do recall Paranormal Romance.

I noticed as I had to ride up past them to get to the fiction section on the fifth floor.

2042wonderY
Edited: Apr 17, 2012, 3:16pm Top

>202 SomeGuyInVirginia:
I've heard that justification before, I just can't quite place it.

205mckait
Edited: Apr 18, 2012, 1:45pm Top

I agree with the following:

2> I think Stein is a blooming idiot

28 > I don't think what you read should make much of a difference to anyone except you. That being said, the thing I can't stand is people who try to say that a terribly written book is good just because it's popular.

35>Current literary fiction is often filled with miserable people in miserable lives being miserable. Life is hard enough without adding to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

other thoughts:

34>Oh morph. I'm sorry you see the adult lit landscape as so bleak

Some of us have had very difficult and sometimes miserable lives. It affects your perspective.
I am not assuming this is the case with Morphy, but I know that difficulties I have experienced have changed my own perspective.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Try as I might, I can't make myself care what other people read, or what they think about what I read. I don't care what sort of a professional one is, ( Joel Stein comes to mind). One is entitled to an opinion. Judging is another thing. No one is entitled to that.

IMO

I myself do not consider listening to a book reading. At least, in my opinion, it is not. If others do consider listing to a book reading it, so be it. It has nothing to do with me. I has no effect on me in any way. Why would I care?

I have also never read a book and wished for it to be something other than what it is. That makes no sense to me. If I am reading a book and find I don't like it, I can choose whether to continue it or not. Simple. Simple, because my reading is all for me. I am not in school, I am not trying to please anyone else. To me, it is like choosing a goldfish and wishing it were an angelfish. It makes no sense. Choose the angelfish if that is what you really want.

I am just venturing an opinion...

You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. - Friedrich Nietzsche

206dcozy
Apr 17, 2012, 9:53pm Top

#203: " . . . did not have a Young Adult section. Instead it had Teen Fiction."

This makes sense to me, because though some have suggested that the term "young adult" is more respectful of teenagers, I can't imagine a thirteen-year-old--teenagers' bullshit detectors are very acute--who wouldn't understand that the term is of a piece with, and even more patronizing than, "quite the little man" when that phrase is used to refer to a seven-year-old. It's more patronizing because the seven-year-old may still be naive enough to believe that the aunt or uncle who's telling him he's "quite the little man" actually thinks he is a man.

The teenager, on the other hand, will recognize immediately that though a grown-up may tell him he's some sort of adult, that same grown-up won't let him drive (even if the state would allow it), probably won't pour him a drink, and is unlikely to allow him to quit school so he can pursue his career as a rap musician.

207TeacherDad
Apr 17, 2012, 11:56pm Top

Young Adult and Teen Fiction -- same books, didn't they just print a new sign?

208dcozy
Apr 17, 2012, 11:59pm Top

#207: Probably.

209thorold
Apr 18, 2012, 5:34am Top

>194 SomeGuyInVirginia: ...I'd like to hear from thorold...

Having read the posts above, but relatively few of the books that are being discussed (my knowledge of recent YA is more or less confined to the early Harry Potters and Philip Pullman) I'm probably less qualified than most to comment. I'm pretty sure the people who say that "YA" is nothing more than an arbitrary marketing label are right.

There's nothing wrong with labels, as far as they go: if it makes it easier for readers to find books that will appeal to them, it's probably a good thing. As I tried to say above, my concern - which overlaps a little with Stein's point - is that when a label becomes too successful, it may have the unintended effect of making whatever is outside that category less accessible.

Whilst it's great fun to play the old fogey and deplore a fashion that seems to limit young people's choices and narrow their cultural horizons (and equally entertaining to stand up as a defender of youf culcha), in the end it is just a fashion, and we know perfectly well that it will fade away like all the other fashions and be replaced by something that seems even more noxious at first sight. Plus ça change...

210SimonW11
Apr 18, 2012, 10:22am Top

While it is flattering to be asked to be comment further I don't really have anything new. to say. YA as a marketing category is successful. I do not see its success as harmful,its authors frequently have a large body of adult fiction, that will I think naturally draw its intended readers into the adult sections, just as those same authors now draw me into reading YA.

When I was young I read the libraries Heinlein juveniles.and bought the same as paperbacks. But here in the UK those same stories in paperback were marketed as adult, and formed a natural bridge into adult reading for me. today it is YA that forms that bridge.

At that time YA seemed to me an intellectual backwater filled with politically correct didactism aimed at the slow of thought.Then YA was like surfing the internet of the future with safe search set on high.nowadays it i might be set to low. but its still very much there. I would be surprised that more teens do not seem resent that except I was never stupid enough to talk of my consumption of questionable literature either.

As to the original article I resent it. not for telling me I could spend my time better. Who after all could not better spend their time. but because it seems to me that the writer feels superior to all who choose to spend it differently than him.

211SomeGuyInVirginia
Edited: Apr 18, 2012, 2:43pm Top

I imagine Joel Stein is more fun to be around than to read. I enjoyed his comments without agreeing with him and will probably read 'Man Made', the book he's got coming out. From the blurb I don't expect to agree with his assessment of masculinity, either, but I think he'll make me laugh.

I wonder about people like Stein or Harold Bloom, who strikes me as being really aggrieved every time I see or hear him. Has his deep study produced such a rich inner life that like a lotus eater he's gruff and pained when pulled away from his dreams? I would never want that for myself, nor admire the example he sets.

And yet, I think they're right when they say that ignoring better literature does the reader a disservice. There are differences between books and types of books, fundamental values that are important if not clearly understood. Look at lit crit on highbrow and lowbrow- it's all over the board. Definitions of abstractions or complex ideas are hard to come up with and anything that works is generally mutable. It's also true that what's considered low culture can be great and powerful. Shakespeare wrote plays, for god's sake, at the time a kind of entertainment that competed with bear baiting and biting the heads off chickens for putting asses in seats.

I understand the world better having read The Canterbury Tales, The Divine Comedy, and Don Quixote. Bloom is right that reading Shakespeare’s plays and watching them performed have made me more human. I took more away from The Catcher in the Rye than I did The Godfather. But I read The Catcher in the Rye and The Decameron before I read The Godfather.

So I'd flip Stein's argument over and say that kids should have been so immersed in the classics that, as adults, they can read whatever they like; they have successfully grafted with the Canon and are now free to roam about the cabin. And that’s how we got Dorothy Parker, J.D. Salinger, and John Cheever. To sum up, it’s not adults reading kid’s books that red flags it for me, but kids not reading what are often thought of as adult’s books.

ETA: I had to correct the spelling of the Decameron because nobody could ever teach me to spell and I never thought it important enough to bother with. And 'red flag' to too strong a phrase for how I feel, although I am glad that the sting has been removed from the tail of the term 'elitist'; I worked hard for what little I know, although it was a hell of a ride, and think punching bigots in the throat is an appropriate response to book burners of every kind.

I also replaced the Agricola with The Divine Comedy because the former is history, the latter lit. And really, why all the drama over the worth of sells when lit is somewhat disreputable? Reading is the first good and if it’s the only one that’s enough. It's only rock and roll.

212lilisin
Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 6:00pm Top

Seems like someone read this thread and was inspired to write an article: What Does Young Adult Mean?.

213brightcopy
Apr 20, 2012, 6:08pm Top

Great link. I found this part particularly applicable to the thread:
Is there a difference in terms of sales for Y.A. versus adult fiction authors? What about advances?

From the perspective of the agenting world, McCarthy says, "Authors can certainly make the same sorts of advances in young adult publishing that they would on the adult side. In fact, quite a few make significantly more than their adult counterparts because there’s been such a boom in the category over the past 10 years. Just by the number of midlist adult fiction authors making the shift to Y.A., you can tell that a lot of people actually see it as the real place to make money now." (Authors who've written Y.A. include Michael Chabon, Isabel Allende, Dale Peck, Julia Alvarez, T. C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, and others). Says McCarthy, "There is a sense that this category is the bright spot in an increasingly challenging publishing universe." Marcus related a funny story: Apparently, when Hemingway was writing, his editor at Scribner told him if he took out the curse words and didn't say "damn" all the time, he could be a Y.A. novelist. He didn't try, but Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, got the same advice, and heeded it.

214JimThomson
Apr 20, 2012, 8:01pm Top

>timspalding

May I recommend that you join the LITERARY SNOBS Group. I am sure that you will feel much more at home there.

215brightcopy
Apr 20, 2012, 9:24pm Top

Why?

216SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 21, 2012, 10:46am Top

I'm with bc; you completely missed the mark on that one, JimT.

217SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 22, 2012, 12:56pm Top

I was in a used book store yesterday and picked up something published by Scholastic Books, a publisher I hadn't thought of in years. When I was a kid at school in the middle of no freaking place, they staged a 'Book Fair' every year. The auditorium was filled with tables topped with single copies of books we were given an hour or so to wander around and fill out order forms for what we wanted. A few weeks later the books showed up. I suppose the school got a cut of the proceeds. That was certainly a gross manipulation, but I loved the Book Fair and the books, which I remember inhaling within days. (I also remember the school; built on top of a hill and, around back, the edge of the playground fell away sharply and overlooked an the grounds and, far away, the slate roof of an asylum for the criminally insane. Lots of balls went over that edge, but not so many bought back. Even hitting or throwing one so that it flew down the slope was considered to be bad form. I don't think the teachers liked having the asylum so close any more than we did, and most wouldn't press us to go after whatever rolled down. They said it was too steep for children. Next day the ball would be back in the gym; I guess one of the custodians got them.)

218dcozy
Apr 22, 2012, 5:21pm Top

If Joel Stein were a better writer and a more rigorous thinker this is the article he might have written: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17777556

219SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 22, 2012, 7:01pm Top

Nice article, thanks for posting it's link. Something else I've been thinking of; the West has always been comfortable with technology and is currently a leader in tech development and literacy. I wonder is technology is drawing the minds of the best and brightest to it, and this is some kind of cognitive evolutionary leap rather than a slide into lethargy or barbarism?

Anybody keep a word book? I do for words I don't know, only 1/3 of the words are looked up and it's already about 100 pages long.

2202wonderY
Apr 23, 2012, 6:48am Top

Agreed. Will Self says it much better. McKnowledge indeed!

I have several very fat dictionaries that I refer to as often as needed. They are old, but that is no problem, as the words I'm unfamiliar with are the ones no longer in normal use.

221Whisper1
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 12:59pm Top

As a person who belongs to the wonderful LT 75 challenge group, I've greatly expanded by reading genre. A wonderful, kind, sensitive member of the group introduced me to the young adult genre.

http://www.librarything.com/groups/75booksin2012

Because post 205 (Kath) resonates with me, and because she also is a member of the 75 challenge group whom I greatly admire and respect, I'm chiming in regarding my feelings/thoughts of literary snobbishness.

When I go to the movies with dear friends who are ministers, their slant/take on every movie centers around a religious or spiritual theme. I clearly don't always see that spin. But, because I listen and respect them, I do NOT judge their opinions.

Reading opens doors. It should, and does, open minds. Working in academia, and as someone who is 59 years old, I've learned about all forms/shapes of snobbishness and judgment.

I'm continually amazed that intelligent folk seem to feel self righteous about their lifestyles, their political views and their reading choices.

YA is a wonderful genre, dealing with complex, intelligent and intricate subjects. I consider myself a well-rounded reader. YA is but one more avenue to pursue to gain knowledge.

222tymfos
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 2:26pm Top

Another 75-er posting. I really agree with these thoughts:

#47 (SaraHope) I think that generalizing about YA lit is really tough and leads nowhere productive. The range of YA lit is wide

Post 221 (Whisper1) includes some of the same sentiment.

I also agree with Kath (mckait, #205) that what I read is nobody's business, and I feel no need to judge what other read -- though occasionally I may comment that I don't "get" the attraction of a particular genre or book. (I've made that comment about The Hunter Games trilogy -- they just totally lack appeal to me.) I assume some folks don't "get" the attraction of some genres that I read. But that's OK.

As MerryMary put it: I don't mind people having different tastes than I do. I just don't like the sneer with which they disagree.

Why should Stein be embarrassed to see me reading YA on a plane? I happen to be in charge of the children/youth section of the library where I work. I also have a teenage son. You can bet I occasionally have my nose in a YA book when traveling, if for those reasons alone. But occasionally a YA book will cross my path that sounds interesting due to the topic. I read many juvenile and YA books about issues relating to the autism spectrum, for example, because my son is on the spectrum. These books sometimes give me insight/perspective that adult books on the topic lack. (And I can see if they are appropriate to recommend to him or to others interested in learning about the spectrum.)

Sometimes, I just flat see a YA book that looks like fun. IMO, Stein seems to feel that having fun reading is somehow immature. That's his loss.
'
And I, too, don't get JimThomson's point in 214 at all. Is he assuming that the quote Tim posted for discussion reflects his views? Did he bother to read the thread? I don't sense snobbery from Tim's posts.

223mckait
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 2:29pm Top

I agree with :


I'm continually amazed that intelligent folk seem to feel self righteous about their lifestyles, their political views and their reading choices


I don't sense snobbery from Tim's posts.
and
As MerryMary put it: I don't mind people having different tastes than I do. I just don't like the sneer with which they disagree.

among other things ...

224Whisper1
Apr 23, 2012, 3:10pm Top

I agree. I do NOT sense any snobbery from Tim at all.

225SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 23, 2012, 3:15pm Top

As LT Leader and Fonder, Tim strives for, and I dare say consistently attains, the same high level of decorum required of Caesar’s wife; he’s a great lay.

Tiim as snob? Nu-uh.

226krolik
Apr 23, 2012, 5:20pm Top

>225 SomeGuyInVirginia:

Actually, your aggrieved sense of defending your turf against perceived incursions is starting to sound snobbish.

"Let and let live" still has a lot going for it, you know...

227LolaWalser
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 6:23pm Top

#225

Tiim as snob? Nu-uh.

Uh-huh. :)

Literary Snobs

There's a time and a place for badly-written populist mind-candy. This is neither. It is, however, the place to appreciate good writing - both past and present, genre or non-genre. No deathless prose, no cardboard characters, no idiot plots. The good stuff. Such as Lawrence Durrell, John Fowles, Anthony Burgess, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Pynchon, Doris Lessing, Kathy Acker, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Georgette Heyer, Thomas Mann, Milorad Pavić, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michel Houellebecq, Roberto Bolaño, Harry Mulisch...

Total members: 558 members

Recent members: EM_Egan, natekobland, tallpaul, nilsr, Terry.P.Rizzuti, alucek, OctaviusLucien, nevim, Cimbrone, malligator, link_rae, rykey, techeditor, tpfalconer, nedhayes, Hamletmachin, elephantpie, sharynabencosme, MartinZook, mharris3, karmabodhi, crazyfish, pduck, wpmann80, WhiteTrashMedicine, lilkim714, JerzyLazor, apash, silverada, endpapers

Connections:

Your friends: madA63, desultory, bobmcconnaughey

Your interesting libraries: 7sistersapphist, Paenultima, Sutpen, timspalding, thorold, TartarugaLitteraria, liao

-------------------------------------------------​


#218

Har, "kidult"!

Talking of his daughter's "dumbified" Dickens assignment, I wish it were made clear that it's not the kids who are setting idiot goals for themselves, it's the adults. And when adults are idiots, who are the kids to look up to, and what are they to aspire to?

There was a guy in one of the outer boroughs of NYC who got fed up with cultural discrimination against poor youngsters, and recruited people to teach philosophy, Latin and Greek (that much I remember, possibly there was more) in serious, although informal classes. I was just leaving New York, but see, I still remember him ten years later. That's my kind of hero. Say it's futile, I say it's beautiful, and just.

There's another angle to the whole dumbification of society--it serves just fine our globalising neoliberal lords and masters. With nothing but service jobs surviving for populations in the West, who needs inquiring minds anymore?

228brightcopy
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 6:15pm Top

#227 by LolaWalser> Uh-huh. :)

I think you're missing the forest for the trees. The poster JimThomson said:

May I recommend that you join the LITERARY SNOBS Group. I am sure that you will feel much more at home there.

Implying that Tim wouldn't feel as much at home here, where non-snobbish attitudes towards YA are pretty prevalent. Also, the poster is not of the Literary Snobs group, from which I'm inferring he was suggesting it to Tim as a bit of an insult (either to Tim or to those who were pro-YA). Finally, I think the name of the group is a bit of tongue-in-cheek hyperbole. I don't think that all the members of the group are really the type of snobs that JimThomson seems to be implying that Tim is.

Which is why I simply asked, "Why?"

Still no reply on that. This contributes to my reading of it as a bit of ignorant drive-by sniping at Tim, under the misapprehension that the quoted bit in post #1 was actually Tim speaking.

However, I still welcome JimThomson should he wish to correct any misunderstanding of his comment.

229LolaWalser
Apr 23, 2012, 6:19pm Top

#228

I addressed #225. :)

230brightcopy
Apr 23, 2012, 6:21pm Top

#229 by LolaWalser> No idea what that's supposed to mean.

231SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 23, 2012, 7:58pm Top

Look, I think we can all at least agree that Tim is great in the sack. So that's a start.

As for krilk, you're wrong. But I do so want us to be get along and agree on everything, let's make a promise, an unbreakable vow, that we'll always be friends. Of course, we're not part for the wizarding world, so we'll have to go to Styx and go to hell to do it. You first.

I refuse to believe that anyone who posts a picture of himself dressed as a pirate is an snob. Principled? Yes. Driven? Yes. Good in bed? We've established that. But a snob? Almost certainly an emphatic probably not.

232MerryMary
Apr 23, 2012, 9:45pm Top

*giggle/snort*

233brightcopy
Apr 23, 2012, 11:05pm Top

Look, I think we can all at least agree that Tim is great in the sack.

Lisa publishing her memoirs already?

234prosfilaes
Apr 24, 2012, 12:45am Top

#227: There was a guy in one of the outer boroughs of NYC who got fed up with cultural discrimination against poor youngsters, and recruited people to teach philosophy, Latin and Greek (that much I remember, possibly there was more) in serious, although informal classes.

Is not teaching people languages they will never use really cultural discrimination? There's no lack of translations for the Latin and Ancient Greek works into English, should they choose to read them. I've never got the impression that most of the people who took Latin in high school ever used it. There's a lot of failed Spanish, German, French, Greek, etc. teaching, but at least in theory it opens up countries and people to you that you never could have experienced otherwise. If you want to be acculturated, instead of spending the time learning Latin or Ancient Greek, spend it reading works originally written in Latin or Ancient Greek.

(None of this is an objection to learning Latin or Ancient Greek if you want to. It's an objection to teaching Latin and Ancient Greek to youngsters under the guise that it will make them better people somehow, that knowing grammar and lists of words is culture worth obtaining at the cost of time that could be spent, among other things, reading the works originally written in those languages. Languages are tools.)

235brightcopy
Apr 24, 2012, 12:54am Top

#234 by prosfilaes> It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of all those taught Latin, Greek, etc., a certain small percentage will wind up making great use of it later in life. That group will then loudly proclaim, "See how much it helped me and made me a better person? Everyone should have such a great opportunity!" They don't usually focus much time on the much larger percentage that promptly forgot it. Even if that percentage went on to be quite academic, just in other areas.

It is thus in many different fields, and not all of them liberal arts. I think there's a great deal of science that was taught me that was purged from my brains after the test. Which is a shame, given how tedious the time spent learning it was. It's one thing to enjoy time spent on learning, reading, etc., even if you forget most of it later. If only we had enough teachers that could make more subjects enjoyable. Unfortunately, so many education systems focus on the product than on the process.

236AndreasJ
Apr 24, 2012, 2:51am Top

It is thus in many different fields, and not all of them liberal arts.

I'd say it goes for most things taught in school - most people don't end up using most of it. Most people do end up needing to read and write, a little bit of arithmetic, and, where I live, the rudiments of English, but those are the exceptions.

(Now if this is an argument against teaching the rest I don't know - how do you identify, ahead of time, the minority that'll have any use of history or algebra?)

237thorold
Apr 24, 2012, 5:32am Top

>236 AndreasJ: most people don't end up using most of it

This has drifted quite a way off the original topic, but at the risk of pushing it further:

The standard liberal-humanist argument would be that everyone benefits from learning to apply the intellectual techniques (logical argument, close reading, scholarly analysis, etc.) used in the subjects studied at school, even if they never actually have to use a Greek aorist or solve simultaneous linear equations in their later career in the sex industry or behind the espresso machine. If you make education too utilitarian, you take away choices and end up with something like what Huxley was satirising in Brave new world. The trouble is, if you don't make it utilitarian enough, then it is liable to run out before students have learnt anything useful at all. I'm glad I'm not a teacher...

238prosfilaes
Apr 24, 2012, 7:00am Top

#237: even if they never actually have to use a Greek aorist

But any language will teach you intellectual techniques. (And if you want mind-expanding, forget about Indo-European; try Navaho or Japanese or Ngaanyatjarra.) If you want practical use along with your intellectual techniques, French or German or Spanish (or Chinese or Japanese, for that mind-expanding) or many other modern languages are both intellectually expanding and practical.

239thorold
Apr 24, 2012, 8:41am Top

>238 prosfilaes:
You're probably right - that's roughly what I meant about the trouble with education that isn't utilitarian enough. Modern languages give you a much quicker payoff than classical ones. That's good for motivation, at the very least. When the Greek student hasn't got much further than "the king crossed the river with the oxen", the members of the French class are already at the Calais hypermarket buying cheap booze...
On the other hand, you can always learn modern languages by using them. Once past the very basic stage, I don't think it makes much difference whether you had any formal lessons or not. At the beginning it helps if you know another language in the same family, of course.

240brightcopy
Apr 24, 2012, 9:12am Top

My point wasn't just the standard "But I'll never use this!" It was also about teaching methods. While I think there is some merit to the argument referenced in 237, I think it created a monster. They've piled on so many years of "core curriculum", they run out of teachers who can teach it without relying on just rote memorization.

241inaudible
Apr 24, 2012, 8:30pm Top

239> Education and the concept of "quicker payoff" have nothing in common. Sure, we can pretend learning conversational French is as valuable as learning Ancient Greek or Biblical Hebrew, but it's not true. Learning French to read Rimbaud and Proust is noble, but even they are not Plato and the Tanakh! In the early days of America, one had to know both Greek and Latin to even apply to a University.

Undergraduate education ought to only teach works published prior to 1533. Begin with Homer and end with Machiavelli (interested students could read modern works during the summer). Or really, just do Homer, Aeschylus, the Bible, Herodotus, and Plato.

Leo Strauss dreamt of an undergraduate education consisting almost entirely of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Kant's Metaphysics of Morals... but, of course, he was not interested in popular education.

(I say all of this as a high school drop-out who reads and learns on his own.)

242LolaWalser
Apr 24, 2012, 8:55pm Top

#237 et al.

No, sorry, those are absolutely rubbish arguments, typically made by clueless and physically unattractive Philistines who wear polyester and buy wine in cartons. Unless you had in mind Chinese; Greek and Latin are essential, unsurpassably handy tools for mastering most modern languages that Europeans and their overseas progeny are likely to consider. But that's not even the strongest argument--even if you only ever wished to speak English, Latin and Greek are fantastic tools for making sense of the world in any dozen professions, from medicine and science to law and humanities. Do you have any idea what a knowledge, even a smattering of knowledge of Latin and Greek mean for anyone likely to read or write a technical document? "Technical"; "document"--let's start from there, Greek and Latin in bloody EVERY SENTENCE of the so-called English language!

"Sentence", "language".

Or, again, are we taking for granted we'll be needing only armies of brainless slaves?

On the Continent you couldn't enroll in the faculties of law and medicine if you didn't have sufficient high school credit in Latin. Quite right.

How can you not see that, apart from aesthetic merits, which obviously I shouldn't bother trying to sell in THIS fishmarket, these languages are supreme facilitators of learning? ANY kind of learning!

Greek and Latin for consciousness of the self, for knowing who and where we are, for intellectual freedom, personal dignity and spiritual balm, and, for those who have ears and senses to appreciate such things, for sheer beauty, not just of the language, but the interconnectivity of cultures through time and space.

243brightcopy
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 10:28pm Top

#242 by LolaWalser> Are you aware that our emotional responses actually come first, and we tend to base our logical thinking on them afterward?

Did you know that there was a study that showed:
Subjects either did or didn’t read an article about the health risks of airborne bacteria. All then read a history article that used imagery of a nation as a living organism with statements like, “Following the Civil War, the United States underwent a growth spurt.” Those who read about scary bacteria before thinking about the U.S. as an organism were then more likely to express negative views about immigration.
Or even that people will rate a person as being more or less friendly depending on whether the rater is holding a cup of coffee or a glass of ice water?

Did you know that drug use can (at least temporarily) rewire the brain to elevate the sense of smell to near dog-like sensitivity, and how that extra level of perception can change an entire way of interacting with the world?

Are you aware of how dark matter is actually the driving force behind the formation of galaxies, not the everyday matter that we're familiar with?

Do you know that when you get down far enough, we're all made up of clouds of probability?

Oh, I'm sorry, you were saying something about how we're all clueless and physically unattractive Philistines, yes? Please do continue to explain how much I don't understand about life, the universe, and everything.

244tomcatMurr
Apr 24, 2012, 10:32pm Top

>242 LolaWalser: Lolawalser, excsue my ignorance, but I only read YA litrechur. can you explain what is Geek and Latin. is it some kind of dance or something? Is there a facebook page?

245brightcopy
Apr 24, 2012, 10:36pm Top

#244 by tomcatMurr> Given your familiarity with flags, perhaps it could be explained in semaphore.

246tomcatMurr
Apr 24, 2012, 10:50pm Top

minigolf?

247prosfilaes
Apr 24, 2012, 10:52pm Top

#242: No, sorry, those are absolutely rubbish arguments, typically made by clueless and physically unattractive Philistines who wear polyester and buy wine in cartons.

Because I should take any argument seriously from someone who thinks that "physically unattractive" is relevant in the least. Is that really the level of argument you're promoting? Several Ancient Greek and Latin philosophers did the equivalent of buying wine in cartons and encouraged their followers to do the same; the Epicureans, for example, were all about enjoying life as it is, not building up desires so that you can't enjoy wine from a carton. Seneca said "Water, barley-meal, and crusts of barley-bread are not a cheerful diet, yet it is the highest kind of pleasure to be able to derive pleasure from this sort of food."

But that's really what this is about, isn't it. It's about getting people to look down upon, about getting to sneer at "clueless Philistines who wear polyester and buy wine in cartons", and hell, you'll toss in "physically unattractive" because the good guys are always good-looking and you're obviously the good guys and they're the Philistines, so they must be ugly, right? Sure, you'll promote teaching the poor, because it helps remind people that this is the right way to be and that they're inferior for not knowing this; and it distracts them that this was a learning program started by slave-owning Ancient Greeks for people who had the leisure to waste on this stuff, and that it was continued by the rich and in the US by more slave owners, that the rules were created to keep out the hoi polloi who might otherwise compete with the existing social class, but will never have time to study Latin and Ancient Greek. And if somehow it doesn't keep them down, if people are actually rude enough to let someone become a doctor who doesn't know Ancient Greek, at least you can call him the nouveau riche and exclude him from the social clubs. But that's not working so well, is it?

Real wisdom? Real wisdom comes from carefully analyzing whether the difference between buying wine in cartons or buying wine in bottles really matters to you. Real wisdom comes from thinking about whether polyester is better or worse for your purposes, not dismissing it out of hand. And real wisdom comes from understanding that others may make different decisions in those matters, and it doesn't matter. All these things were written by Ancient Greek and Latin philosophers, and Christian philosophers writing in those languages.* Somehow in your quest to distinguish yourself from the hoi polloi, you've failed to pick up what you claim to actually be valuable in the world.

* I'll admit, you're more educated in philosophy than me; so tell me, which philosopher said that the important things in life are to wear the best clothes and drink the best wine?

248dcozy
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 10:57pm Top

I think, in the original anecdote about the educator who brought Greek and Latin into his school, the point was not that Greek and Latin should be taught in all schools (though personally, I don't think that would be a bad thing), but that no kids should, for sociocultural, political, economic, or any other reasons, be deprived of a rigorous, non-dumbed-down, education.

An example of a dumbed-down education would be one where class time was devoted to Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or other young adult books. I'm not saying that kids--whoops, I mean young adults--might not enjoy these books. They probably would: that's who they were written for, after all, but young people can read and enjoy these kinds of books on their own, without a teacher's guidance.

Class time and teacher energy should be devoted to making kids aware of things they might not have been aware of and might not encounter on their own, and to helping them to grapple with things they might not be able to understand or appreciate on their own: Shakespeare, Greek and Latin, physics, etc..

249dcozy
Apr 24, 2012, 11:00pm Top

prosfilaes, brightcopy: Do you think there is even the slightest possibility that LolaWalser might have had her tongue in her cheek, when she made the comments that offended you? That she might have been, you know, kidding?

250tomcatMurr
Apr 24, 2012, 11:10pm Top

you mean irony? I read abot that!~

251prosfilaes
Apr 24, 2012, 11:21pm Top

#249: That's an old political stunt; dismiss your opponents in nasty terms and then claim that you had your tongue in cheek. Double points if your side interpreted it literally.

252brightcopy
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 11:44pm Top

#249 by dcozy> I think there's more than the slightest possibility that our universe is a hologram. That people may be attempting irony is not something that would surprise me.

However, in this case, it'd be a fairly long con if you read back to the earlier messages.

253dcozy
Apr 24, 2012, 11:44pm Top

prosfilaes: I guess it was your side that interpreted Lola's remarks literally, so does Lola get double points?

I just keep having this nagging feeling that the main point of Lola's post was something other than polyester or box wine.

254brightcopy
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 11:47pm Top

#253 by dcozy> I just keep having this nagging feeling that the main point of Lola's post was something other than polyester or box wine.

Which was what I addressed. Or did you think the main point of my post was simply about whether or not we were physically unattractive boxed wine drinkers? If so, that's truly unfortunate.

255dcozy
Apr 25, 2012, 12:02am Top

tomcatMurr: You're such a snob, tossing around big words like "irony." I had to look it up. Here's what I found:

Adjective: Of or like iron: "an irony gray color".

I fail to see how this applies to LolaWalser's post.

256brightcopy
Apr 25, 2012, 12:05am Top

#255 by dcozy> I fail to see how this passes for anything close to intellectual conversation. Pity, what with all that classical education.

257prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 12:58am Top

#248: I think, in the original anecdote about the educator who brought Greek and Latin into his school, the point was not that Greek and Latin should be taught in all schools

When you say "cultural discrimination against poor youngsters, and recruited people to teach philosophy, Latin and Greek", it doesn't say rigorous education to me, it says culturally elite.

young people can read and enjoy these kinds of books on their own, without a teacher's guidance.

Maybe. Maybe not. Poor children often start out with many cards stacked against them. They have worse prenatal and early childhood nutrition, they're less likely to be read to, they're less likely to grow up in a household with books, and their neighborhoods tend to have worse schools.

And, heck, a lot of people are just slow. Half of people are below average in intelligence, a concept that blows my mind every time I try to understand what average intelligence is. Not that being more intelligent makes one morally superior; I have a certain respect for the ability to navigate the world with an average or lower intelligence.

Combining the two effects, I believe there are a large number of students who couldn't read these books on their own, and a somewhat larger groups who wouldn't. I think dragging someone who loses track of how a 20-word sentence started by the time he's deciphered the ending through Shakespeare is unlikely to be a rewarding experience.

to helping them to grapple with things they might not be able to understand or appreciate on their own: Shakespeare, Greek and Latin, physics, etc..

I think it's a wonderful theory. I think in practice that it tends to be really nice for the 10% that wanted to learn that anyway, and drops out a large percentage of students who don't care. Grabbing a student whose family doesn't hold with book learning who plans on being an auto mechanic and dragging them through the wilds of a full liberal arts education may result in them leaving school, or being left considering school a waste of time (an attitude that they'll pass on to their children) and leaving them with nothing for their time. I think one size fits all education is a failure.

It's easy to say we should set the bars high for our students, but I also think it's easy to set standards so high that students will give up, and also easy to set the bars in such a way that they fill the technical requirements, that they pass their tests, and absorb nothing by it.

I'll note that while Lola is patting Europe on the back for demanding Latin of doctors, at the same time they--at least Germany--don't spend time trying to give many students that education. You're tested, and if you don't do well, you spend your high school years learning technical and pragmatic skills, instead of the college prep education those who tested well get.

#253: I just keep having this nagging feeling that the main point of Lola's post was something other than polyester or box wine.

If you start a post with "those are absolutely rubbish arguments, typically made by clueless and physically unattractive Philistines who wear polyester and buy wine in cartons", I think it's legitimate to infer that that's an attempt to imply that being a physically unattractive person who wears polyester and buys wine in cartons is a bad thing.

The implication that being physically unattractive makes one morally or intellectually inferior is a pervasive, sickening, destructive lie, and I wouldn't feel guilty about ignoring the main point to attack that.

But I do think that that whole sentence is the real main point of the post, whether or not Lola thinks so. That it's not really about what Latin and Ancient Greek bring to the table, but instead about not being Philistines, about living a life that involves not wearing polyester, eating Big Macs or drinking wine in cartons, that involves knowing certain things merely because the right people know them. It's about being educated, not to make you happier or more successful or more knowledgeable, but because that separates you from the hoi polloi.

The rest of the argument I didn't find interesting for the most part. Technical comes from Latin technicus, from Ancient Greek τέχνη (“skill”). That's trivia. How about "gay"? Does it help your understanding of the word "gay" to know that it ultimately derives from the Latin vagus? Think about it.

And if you've thought about it, and think it does matter that "gay" comes from the Latin vagus, let me point out that that's a minority opinion; the more mainstream opinion is that it came into Old French from Germanic sources and can be traced back to a Proto-Germanic origin, not a Romance one. If it mattered that "gay" came from vagus, this should change everything. I don't see how it does.

That's almost the high point of her argument; the rest is flummery.

258tomcatMurr
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 1:52am Top

<255 thanks! but I"m still confuse coz in my dictionary it says this:

http://thelectern.blogspot.com/2012/04/new-all-meruhcan-dictionary_25.html

259dcozy
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 4:03am Top

#256: It was intended as a joke. Even though it might not have made you laugh I'm surprised you didn't recognize it for what it was.

Actually, on second thought, I'm not surprised at all.

I am guilty of forgetting that intellectual conversation must never include humor. Please forgive me.

And the reason I understand the value of a classical education is because I never had one.

But wait, is "Pity, what with all that classical education" intended to be ironic? Is that allowed in intellectual conversation?

260tomcatMurr
Apr 25, 2012, 2:24am Top

<255 thanks! but I"m still confuse coz in my dictionary it says this:
http://thelectern.blogspot.com/2012/04/new-all-meruhcan-dictionary_25.html

261tomcatMurr
Apr 25, 2012, 2:43am Top

.
\

262morningwalker
Apr 25, 2012, 8:30am Top

I like wine in a box, I try to avoid polyester, my physical attractiveness depends upon the eye of the beholder, and I read whatever I want and don't care what anyone else thinks. I wouldn't let one person or 100 people make me feel inferior because of what I like and choose to read.

263tymfos
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 9:17am Top

I strongly agree with one thing that's been said here, in 257: I think one size fits all education is a failure.

I learned (badly) just enough Greek and Hebrew in seminary to make me wish I'd had some prior classical language training. My own son has Autism, and has enough difficulty with English to keep him busy; I have no plans to enroll him in Greek class. His IEP waives the foreign language requirement altogether, which I feel is appropriate.

I fail to see the value of posters sniping at each other.

BTW, almost my entire wardrobe is polyester, and my wine rack is full of glass bottles. Go figure.

264LolaWalser
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 10:21am Top


Yeah, newsflash, one can be serious and humourous in the same breath--or, post, at least. I'm not surprised by who's surprised by this. Pros, bright--I got NOTHING to say to you; frankly, you bore me silly--your kneejerk hostility, your bad faith, your trolling (I have scrolled your posts, brightcopy, since that despicable "Dan Brown" remark hundreds of posts ago)--your relentless idiotic ad hominem... is just so much farting in the wind.

I don't give a shit about your opinion of me, and as long as that's all you got to "contribute" to the conversation, I'll continue to ignore you.

#248

I think, in the original anecdote about the educator who brought Greek and Latin into his school, the point was not that Greek and Latin should be taught in all schools (though personally, I don't think that would be a bad thing), but that no kids should, for sociocultural, political, economic, or any other reasons, be deprived of a rigorous, non-dumbed-down, education.

Exactly right.

I wonder what happened to that man. I think I'll ask around.

P.S. It wasn't a school--it was organised in some community centre, or something like that. I'm not even sure the guy was a teacher--I think so, a professor from a CUNY perhaps--but not positive.

Yes, see, people occasionally do things for kids like that, give them sex ed, consultations, there's occasional good will, and plenty of religion, but everyone just assumes--in the "greatest democracy" in the world--that they are a written off underclass, and that the written off underclass has no need of higher forms of literacy. Not even a question of "need"--it's like they exist on some separate planet, or, basically... as if they were a breed, a SPECIES apart.

Which book of Wells has those dark stultified people living underground--The time machine?--and the bright refined masters on the surface? Morloks? That's what it reminded me of.

265brightcopy
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 11:29am Top

It always amuses me when a poster decries others' alleged ad hominen in the middle of a vicious personal screed. I welcome you ignoring me from now on, honestly. Especially when you're already admitting to skipping the substance of them anyway.

266LolaWalser
Apr 25, 2012, 1:00pm Top

Interesting questions popped up in the thread about Library of America's edition of Princess of Mars, concerning not the quality of writing, but the nature of content (as long as these can be separated).

The "YA lit" of yesteryear, burdened with prejudices of the past--is it still for youth, or adult consumption only? Is it a suitable present for today's children just as it is, or do we expect that someone--publisher, teachers, parents?--will provide adequate discussions of problematic issues?

267dcozy
Apr 25, 2012, 6:29pm Top

Profilaes, in #257, points out that kids from deprived backgrounds often enter the educational system with two strikes against them. This is, of course, true: the most reliable predictor of an American child's educational success is the income of that child's parents—the more they make the better that child will do.

The question is, how do we respond to this situation. Do we say "these kids come from crap backgrounds , so they won't be able to do much academically. Shunt the girls into home economics classes and the boys into shop. Let them learn the skills they will need to succeed as hotel maids and factory workers (though in the current economy there's not much call for factory workers, so maybe the boys could learn simple data entry instead)."

(This kind of class- and probably also race-based tracking was practiced in lots of American schools in the bad old days. Is it still?)

The other option is to recognize that even kids from deprived backgrounds are capable of rising to academic challenges, and that bright kids from deprived backgrounds are just as eager to be challenged as bright kids from privileged backgrounds.

True, kids from deprived backgrounds may need more support than kids from privileged backgrounds, and there have been many cases that demonstrate that when kids get the support they need they succeed.

That the educator Lola describes in her anecdote was working in a community center or some such place rather than a school makes the story that much more compelling: it sounds like students learning the elitist languages being taught were there because they wanted to be, not because it was a required class.

268LolaWalser
Apr 25, 2012, 6:51pm Top

I did mention it, but after the clamour about Latin and Greek it ought to be repeated--they were also studying philosophy, the accent in the article (and I think the initiator's own focus) was the teaching of philosophy; at the time, they were reading Plato's Socratic dialogues.

269prosfilaes
Apr 25, 2012, 7:33pm Top

#264: Yeah, newsflash, one can be serious and humourous in the same breath--or, post, at least.

Yes, you can be serious and humorous in the same breath. That's why I replied to that statement; because despite whatever intended humor ("ugly people are stupid"! What a knee slapper!), it had a core of serious intent.

everyone just assumes--in the "greatest democracy" in the world--that they are a written off underclass, and that the written off underclass has no need of higher forms of literacy. Not even a question of "need"--it's like they exist on some separate planet, or, basically... as if they were a breed, a SPECIES apart.

You strike me like someone would who is honestly appalled that people aren't giving out skin-whiteners to blacks and thought that not giving out skin-whiteners and hair straighteners was condemning them to being an underclass.

The only person assuming that students who don't learn Latin and Greek are an underclass, are a different species, is you. As I said, this is the nouveau riche syndrome, where you can learn all you want, you can make a billion dollars, you can reshape the world in your image, but you're "a SPECIES apart" unless you know what we want you to. (Well, that, and don't eat Big Macs and don't wear polyester and don't drink wine from cartons and ...) Forget that. The Lowells and the Cabots are still not going to speak to you. The Union League Club still isn't going to accept you as a member.

I'm all for teaching everyone to the fullest extent of their abilities. I'm all for expanding the minds of all our students. I'm not for spending one-sixth the time we have to educate high school students trying to pound a dead language into their heads, so they can possibly have a slightly better understanding of books they'll probably never read anyway. You can teach a lot in 4,320 hours, which is about what it would take high school students a reading knowledge of Latin. You could teach them all the Latin and Ancient Greek authors in English in that time.

Which book of Wells has those dark stultified people living underground--The time machine?--and the bright refined masters on the surface?

And I suppose not being part of this underclass, you are excused from doing research? The Eloi were not the masters of the Morlocks. The Eloi were the lunch of the Morlocks. The ancestors of the Eloi were your overclass, but all that earned them in the long run was a place on the buffet.

270prosfilaes
Apr 25, 2012, 7:39pm Top

#267: The other option is to recognize that even kids from deprived backgrounds are capable of rising to academic challenges, and that bright kids from deprived backgrounds are just as eager to be challenged as bright kids from privileged backgrounds.

The point there was that we can't dismiss Harry Potter and friends as books the students will read outside of class; a lot of them can't.

271dcozy
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 8:48pm Top

#270: So maybe simple young adult books should be used in remedial reading classes. They might be a great help in getting those less-skilled readers who can't manage them on their own up to speed. As part of a school curriculum, though, learning to read these kinds of books should always be seen as starting point; the ability to do so should never be the end-point, even for kids from deprived homes.

If all a young adult is capable of reading upon graduation from high school (though I understand that young adulthood is thought by some to stretch into university years and beyond) is simple young adult books then I would suggest that the educational system has failed that young adult.

272inaudible
Apr 25, 2012, 10:46pm Top

As a high school drop-out, I find I read more widely than many "educated" people, who leave school with a hatred of reading and learning.

273LolaWalser
Apr 25, 2012, 10:53pm Top

Love of reading doesn't depend on the level of education.

274dcozy
Apr 25, 2012, 11:44pm Top

profilaes is probably right that some young adults are incapable of reading young adult books on their own. These young people probably won't love reading until they become more fully literate: it's hard to love something you stink at.

Of course they can improve their reading ability with or, like inaudible, without the help of formal education.

And inaudible's certainly right that many people who have had the benefit of an education don't read, and among those who do read many never tackle anything at all challenging. Reading challenging books is an activity enjoyed by a minority (not an elite group, just a small one), and I think this has always been the case. At I guess, I would say reading challenging books is slightly more popular than listening to avant-garde jazz, and much less popular than stamp-collecting.

275LolaWalser
Apr 26, 2012, 12:58am Top

Should adults collect stamps?

276dcozy
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 1:44am Top

Sure, but if they find collecting adult stamps too stressful (as they surely will) they should take a break with some young adult stamps.

277SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 26, 2012, 8:19am Top

Nice. OK, we need a name for adults who read kid's books. Women who date younger men are called cougars, men who date younger women are called men, so what's an adult who reads kid's books?

278morningwalker
Apr 26, 2012, 9:04am Top

hehe....good one about the men. I think since a kid who reads YA is a young adult, then an adult who reads YA would be an old kid.....and that's...OK. So, they would be OKs

279Bookmarque
Apr 26, 2012, 9:12am Top


nostalgiphyte

280thorold
Apr 26, 2012, 12:09pm Top

>278 morningwalker:,279
What about repurposing a good old American word: prevert - i.e. someone who turns to something earlier?

281theexiledlibrarian
Apr 26, 2012, 1:28pm Top

Be very careful about your spelling on that...or you'll end up right back where Stein started.

282SomeGuyInVirginia
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 1:45pm Top

Nice ones, as the choir master said to the bar maid.

How about facilector, from latin for 'easy' and 'reader'.

Papist would be good but it’s already taken. I’m also kind of digging slackerback.

283SomeGuyInVirginia
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 1:59pm Top

I'm having a Tarantino flashback-

Easy Reader. They were just a couple of young librarians, on the road, outside the law, looking to live the American tween. What they found was the man and he wanted to make them into canon fodder. Easy Reader. See it with somebody you respect.

284krolik
Apr 26, 2012, 2:42pm Top

>280 thorold:

Not bad...

285dcozy
Apr 26, 2012, 4:21pm Top

There's always Will Self's coinage: "kidult."

286Bookmarque
Apr 26, 2012, 4:26pm Top

wait, THIS is Easy Reader
I mean. Seriously.

287SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 26, 2012, 5:48pm Top

Sonovvabitch.

Steppencub- Born to be Validated.

288avidmom
Apr 26, 2012, 6:26pm Top

>286 Bookmarque: Easy Reader! Love him! Ah .... The Electric Company.

289Bookmarque
Apr 26, 2012, 6:32pm Top

YouTube has a ton of EC vids. I can't believe how weird it was. Only in the 1970, man.

290avidmom
Apr 26, 2012, 8:42pm Top

>It was "far out!" LOL! I loved Easy Reader and the Adventures of Letterman! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mXviU7OuJU Gene Wilder was Letterman?!?!

291Bookmarque
Apr 26, 2012, 9:19pm Top

I knew that, but forgot. Awesome though. Ol' Gene has a great voice.

292Morphidae
Apr 27, 2012, 7:48am Top

Talk about a swing down memory lane.

293SomeGuyInVirginia
Apr 27, 2012, 12:02pm Top

Feelin' groovy. You know, I don't think a lot of these clips could be aired today. Easy Reader asks for matches, which Rita Moreno has. Digging candy.

294Cecrow
May 30, 2012, 9:46am Top

Read this in an online article linked to from an unrelated thread, and was immediately was reminded of this one. Wonderful quote from Mr. Pullman:

There is much to say in favor of the move to obliterate the divide between books written for children and adult fiction. “There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction,” Mr. Pullman once declared. “They can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.” That insight does much to explain why so many adults can be found browsing books in the children’s section and why books for children and young adults dominate best-seller lists. These writers have successfully produced new literary contact zones for adults and children, with monumental narratives about loss, suffering and redemption.

Rest of the article is good to, but not directly related:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/opinion/no-more-adventures-in-wonderland.html?...

295dcozy
Jun 1, 2012, 1:36am Top

Obviously there are plenty of "monumental narratives" written with grown-ups in mind. More than a few have dealt with "loss suffering and redemption," so one has to wonder what these themes that only children's literature can adequately grapple with are.

296eromsted
Jun 1, 2012, 10:17am Top

Here's the source of the Pullman quote for anyone who's interested.

297SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 3, 2012, 5:23pm Top

I was at Target a few hours ago. A kid picked up a DVD, got his mom's attention by saying it was 'Where the Wild Things Are' and asked her why she loved the movie so much?

298Cecrow
Jun 4, 2012, 8:05am Top

>296 eromsted: - thanks for finding that in context, I was grabbed by the quote but didn't know the full case he was making.

299LolaWalser
Edited: Jun 4, 2012, 9:31am Top

#296

First he talks about "themes and subjects", then he switches to "story" and "plot". These are not interchangeable. The introductory sentence is pure idiocy--of course there are no themes and subjects "too large" for adult fiction.

The rest is banal (and some worse things too). Children like to know "what happens next". Yes. Who doesn't grow up on plot-based storytelling, on fairy tales, adventure, comics? But we don't STAY children. We accumulate experience. There comes a point when, if we read at all (even if we only watch TV, even if we only live), and even more so if we're avidly pursuing stories, where we really have "heard it all". Mere plots get exhausted, and quickly. Kids can read or listen to the same story dozens or hundreds of times, but growing up that changes. Even grown-ups who read nothing but genre don't read literally the same damn book over and over again, however consistently they pursue some formula. We begin to need the trappings of the story, we begin to appreciate dozens of things children are oblivious to. And that's GOOD, that means we're developing.

Maybe it's a pity childhood is so short, but who wants to be eleven their entire life? It's bad enough being forever fifteen.

300krolik
Jun 4, 2012, 1:19pm Top

I'm OK with eleven but fifteen would be living hell and yet another reason to embrace mortality.

301SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 4, 2012, 5:28pm Top

I could do 11 if pressed, never 15, I'd be ok with 18, but 21 was very heaven.

>>We begin to need the trappings of the story, we begin to appreciate dozens of things children are oblivious to.

Nice. Didn't someone already post that adults can read kid's books but kids can't read adult's books? They can, because I did, but I didn't get the naughty parts. On the other hand the books I read as a kid created the world for me; the books I read now don't do that (the closest I've come to that 'struck bell' feeling was with Jeanette Wall's 'The Glass Castle', a book written by an adult about her childhood. But that's it.)

I think I forced the matter a few years ago when I read the Roman classics to find out what modern life was not, but that was done deliberately and over the course of a few years. (A friend told me he was reading the Romans and I was really interested in 'why'. Never got an answer, which was odd in this case. I told him to keep in mind the Romans weren't toga-wearing Brit actors and threw out a couple of titles. I need to get back with him and see what's developing, people don't seem to have much time to read these days.)

I, me, mine. I can't speak for the generation, but we don't seem to be as grown up as our parents were. Maybe that's just an impression I've formed from pictures taken at a time when society had a greater influence over people's public behavior. I also don't think that in the 50s and 60s adults were secretly reading Nancy Drew at home so, my impression at least, is that society's influence extended to people's private time, as well.

Nobody ever disappointed their audience by saying things were going to hell, and very few people who said it don't look like idiots in later years. But no, we do seem to be more childlike somehow. But then again, how the hell would I know? Gangster movies were all the rage in the 30s, not Hamlet.



302SomeGuyInVirginia
Edited: Jun 6, 2012, 10:12am Top

Yesterday, CNN.com posted an article about the Diamond Jubilee and how Britain has changed since the Queen's coronation in 1952. It made the point that in London in 1952 there was no 'youth culture'; things were either aimed at children or at adults. That sounds valid to me, although I think there was a mass or popular culture that skewed young. The US probably had more of a youth culture, since I can think of flappers and party boys. My grandfather had a special whistle installed on his car he'd tootle whenever he saw a pretty girl.

I wonder if people in their 20s and 30s reading Harry Potter was inevitable? Will it change? I'm sure it will because everything does, but how? Is that 50 Shades of Grey supposed to be Potteresque with sex? A more adult version of kid's books?

One thing's for sure- people need stories. Another thing I find interesting about these serial books is that they require large chunks of time to digest. This seems to fly in the face of sociologist's claims that we've become a culture with a 30 minute attention span.

Another thing that's interesting is that SO MANY people are reading the same thing. It's become a crowd event.

303bookishbunny
Jun 6, 2012, 10:46am Top

I didn't read the 302 messages above, but to the article mentioned, I give a big, fat..

:P~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

304DevourerOfBooks
Jun 6, 2012, 10:49am Top

>302 SomeGuyInVirginia:
I don't think that 50 Shades of Grey is supposed to be Potteresque at all, but it did start out as Twilight fan fiction, she basically made the characters slightly older and took out the sparkly vampire parts, from what I've heard.

305bookishbunny
Jun 6, 2012, 10:52am Top

>303 bookishbunny:
took out the sparkly vampire parts

And put in some vampire bits. :)

306thorold
Jun 6, 2012, 11:22am Top

>302 SomeGuyInVirginia:
If you look at 1952 publications, the books addressing younger readers are things like The wrong Chalet School, Secret seven on the trail, Five have a wonderful time, Biggles follows on. Not at all the sort of thing it would have been cool to have in your room at college, unless you wanted to pass as an eccentric.

I'm not sure what would have counted as cool for people in their 20s and 30s in England in the early 1950s — it could hardly have been Anthony Powell or Barbara Pym, but it was too early for the Angry Young Men. Maybe William Cooper and Henry Green? Or would they all have been reading Hemingway and Ralph Ellison?

307oldstick
Jun 8, 2012, 9:43am Top

I was reading The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding in my twenties in the early sixties but I studied English. I think perhaps boarding school books were thought of as cool in those days and spy stories were probably popular.

308streamsong
Jun 8, 2012, 9:49am Top

In the US, perhaps Jack Kerouac and the other early Beat writers. On the Road was written in 1952.

309thorold
Jun 8, 2012, 10:39am Top

>307 oldstick:
That's surprisingly consistent with what my parents (probably a little older than oldstick) still have in the house from the fifties: maybe add Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer, The Battle of Maldon and some Sir Walter Scott! But I suspect they were simply getting their modern literature from the library and didn't acquire the book-buying habit until later when they had more money.

310SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 8, 2012, 11:09am Top

Amazon posts the top 100 sellers by unit for 2000-2009; kid's books skew heavy to the first two quartiles, continue into the 3rd but none in the 4th. The only classic is Harper Lee's 'To Kill A mockingbird.' Publisher's Weekly lists best sellers by decade, but they discount Harry Potter and who knows what else, so it's basically worthless.

I wonder if WWI ushered in youth culture, esp. in the US?

311LolaWalser
Jun 8, 2012, 3:47pm Top

I was a teen in the eighties, and what was cool (among the minority that read books, and typically had some literary ambition), was legendary creative rebellion. The impulse was to create, something never seen before, to express yourself in some novel way fitting your unique personality. Those kids swapped Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski, Rimbaud and Lautreamont. My best friend and neighbour emulated Oscar Wilde, my best enemy wrote surrealist poetry (a line about bread crumbs twiddling their toes will apparently never leave my mind, dammit!) and I communed with Dostoevsky. This is not to say we weren't silly little twerps a lot of the time, but damn if we'd be caught dead reading the shit on bestselling lists those or these days, or anything labelled "YA". At fourteen that's more important than at forty.

But as I say, that's a small minority. What the average read was probably the same as now--harlequins, Stephen King, mysteries, porn...

312dcozy
Jun 9, 2012, 4:30am Top

I was a teenager in the seventies, and we, too, were looking for things that spoke to our sense of rebellion, and were also driven by an odd nostalgia my gang had for the sixties, a time when, we were convinced, something important had happened that we had more or less missed.

I recall us reading and passing back and forth among friends: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Richard Brautigan, Charles Bukowski (first discovered on the shelves of a Bohemian aunt), Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Herman Hesse, Tom Robbins, J.R.R. Tolkien, and T.H. White, but also, Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Dickens. Mysteries, too, by the likes of Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and John D. McDonald (my father's influence), and a certain amount of science fiction.

With the possible exception of Tolkien, I note that none of the authors my memory has dredged up wrote specifically for children or teen-agers. I still read, or would consider reading about half of them now.

I'll leave it to you to figure out which half.

313SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 9, 2012, 8:35am Top

My reading habits were also set when I was a kid. We moved a lot and up until I was five or so we didn't have TV and I was living either in large European cities or the rural south. I listened to music more than I read, but what I did read was the books my parents had or the Victorian and Edwardian books my grandmother gave me as gifts (Peter Pan, Mark Twain). I still think listening to music was a really great introduction to reading. Certainly better than the A,B,Cs... in classrooms. God I hated school. I stopped reading in my early teens and became, um, well I had a good time. So I have a vacuum when most people were gaining ground. I didn't start reading again for pleasure until sophomore year in college, when I began reading in earnest, without restraint or often direction, but most of the books were written in the first of of the 20th cent. After college was when I began to work my way through the penguin blacks and the Greeks and Romans.

You know, when I see somebody reading the Hunger Games on the sub'emway, I think 'lazy/stupid/probably high maintenance' and am convinced they vote for the other party in elections. But last night I came home and ALL I wanted to do was read some mind candy and go to bed. I didn't even finish the first paragraph of Billingham's Scaredy Cat before I fell asleep. So I get the junk book thing, but I know it's junk and in my heart feel badly for having used time to read it.

314LolaWalser
Jun 9, 2012, 8:49am Top

I love noticing what people read in public (I think there's a group dedicated to book-spotting--I should join), but I flatter myself that I'm good at not assuming things about the reader... more than is reasonable. It's a better indicator of what's hot than of any individual's taste, I think. Not that long ago I counted eight people in one compartment reading Stieg Larsson. The Hunger Games is popping up frequently too.

Twice I got curious enough to address the reader (this is rare for me)--once, a man was lugging this HUGE pre-publication copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell--it was so good he couldn't leave it at home although it was a pain to carry, he said; the second time, I was so intrigued by an unfamiliar Penguin cover I had to know what it was. One flew over the cuckoo's nest, with drawings inside.

315dcozy
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 5:42am Top

I love book-spotting, too, and regret that it is the custom in Japan to cover one's books. Usually when you buy a book here the clerk will simply assume that you want a cover and put one on (though lately the clerks in the English-language sections of bookshops seem to have figured out that non-Japanese are often happy to do without covers).

For a while people were writing in to Henry Wessells's always interesting blog with their sightings, but that feature seems to have died out, though those posts could probably be dug up from the archives if anyone were interested.

http://www.endlessbookshelf.net/

316SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 11, 2012, 4:28am Top

Looks like a cool site, thanks for the link. I love book spotting; I'd be more likely to tweet that I'd just seen somebody reading Great Expectations than I would Paris Hilton was in the Starbucks on 14th.

I shouldn't assume too much about a person based on what they read in public. I read shockers or thrillers, or listen to audio books. Someone seeing me would think 'another mass culture consumer.' I remember one plane trip, I think I was flying out of Las Vegas. I had an aisle seat and sat across from a beautiful blond girl. I was reading The Princess Bride and she was reading The Analects by Confusius. She stopped reading and I didn't.

317tomcatMurr
Jun 11, 2012, 5:02am Top

It's Confucius. (although it's permissable to call him Confusion) And maybe she stopped to think about what she was reading...

318SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 11, 2012, 7:08am Top

Whatever gets you through the night, babe.

319SomeGuyInVirginia
Jun 13, 2012, 6:00am Top

Another thing to throw into the pot- kid's books and pulp writing can be enormously entertaining. Like Coward's line "Extraordinary how potent cheap music can be," I can think of lists of books that fill the human need for story in spades but have no great art, or small art. I can also think of some that are both great stories and are written artfully. Michael Chabon said in an interview that he only reads and writes to entertain.

320LolaWalser
Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 11:10am Top

But anything can be entertaining, to different people. Conversely, what's sold as "entertainment" can be boring, to different people.

Vintage cartoons entertain me, and I have to BEG and GROVEL to get my niece and nephew to watch them with me. They are not in colour!

I also suspect I like playing with Barbies more than my niece does. She's into sparkleponies.

My nephew and I find Spiderman equally entertaining.

P.S. However, he's the one with Spidey underwear.

321dcozy
Jun 13, 2012, 8:51pm Top

The problem are the odd dichotomies that get set up (and I understand that the Virginian was not doing this) between entertaining and difficult, entertaining and well-written, entertaining and adult.

The books that I find most entertaining are difficult, well-written, and adult. Shallow, poorly-written, childish stuff tends to be a bore.

And Lola, I hope you'll be able to find some Spidey underwear in your size soon.

322LolaWalser
Jun 13, 2012, 9:15pm Top

Oh, HAR! (You will be punished... some day, some way...)

Was it Shaw or his Higgins who said that one (Englishman) can't open his mouth without making some other (Englishman) despise him...? That's how it is with admitting what one finds entertaining. Smart or dumb, trite or rarefied, someone somewhere will cock a disdainful eyebrow at it.

323nemoman
Jun 13, 2012, 11:30pm Top

In sixth grade I discovered a series of books by Howard Pease - the Tod Moran mysteries. Essentially, Moran would board a tramp steamer to exotic ports, and murders and other crime mysteries would ensue. I loved the books which would today be classified YA. Last weekend, I bought his Jinx Ship and The Wind In The Rigging. I reread them with some trepidation, wondering if the magic was gone. It was'nt. The books were still enjoyable as an adult, although they read quickly - 320 pages in five hours each. The key was that Pease wrote to his young audience as if they were adults. He interwove history, geography and social themes seamlessly. He included glossaries of nautical terms, maps, and diagrams. I hope someone is writing like books for children today.

324letterpress
Jun 13, 2012, 11:56pm Top

As a chronic commuter I get excellent book-spotting opportunities. I was made aware of the Harry Potter phenomenon by travelling executives. The percussion of multiple briefcases snapping open would herald the arrival of a new Potter book. What baffled me most was not that they were all reading Potter (although that was mildly baffling, I thought "whatever floats your boat"), but that these were the ONLY books that ever emerged from the briefcases.

325dcozy
Jun 14, 2012, 4:09am Top

Nemoman: As it also features a character moving between ports on a decaying tramp steamer, you might want to giveAlvaro Mutis's The Adventures of Maqroll a try. I've called it elsewhere an adventure story for adults, and I really believe the series of novellas, taken together, is a masterpiece.

326dcozy
Jun 14, 2012, 4:11am Top

letterpress: Well, I've heard it argued that the great thing about Harry Potter is that "it got the kids reading." I guess it got the businessmen reading, too.

Unfortunately, it looks like, as with the kids, it got them reading Harry Potter, but not much else.

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