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Apple

Book taste snobbery

Further to what became a rather heated discussion on the previous thread I have taken the advice of Himadri and started a thread on this very subject.

This is my opinion it could be me just being paranoid over sensitive (I am known for that) whatever you want to call it, but I do get the distinct impression at times certain books are considered not worth reading, an example would be back on the beeb board the seemingly universal opinion that Jeffery Archer was crap (never read any of his books so wouldn't know) and the stick the Da Vinci code got as well, - a book which I really enjoyed.  Then there was the discussion about Jordans book - and the celebrity autobiographies.

I personally feel that I have to think twice about what books I talk about on here, as some would not be considered good enough.  It has had the effect on me that I am reading more classical literature and enjoying some of it, as I would never have read some of the books I have read had I not joined this group.

Then there is the whole books from supermarkets debate, which I don't want to resurrect again but I would like to add that there does appear to be an opinion if you buy books from supermarkets that the caliber of those books is not very good.
lunababymoonchild

I'm going to get back to this, Apple.

Luna
TheRejectAmidHair

Hello Apple, thanks for starting this. It is an important area that I do think merits discussion.

My own view is that people are entitled to read and to enjoy whatever they damn well want without being looked down upon. But that is not to say that, from a literary point of view, certain books aren't better than others.

Of course, one does not have to care for the "literary point of view", and that's fine. But if one does care for the "literary point of view", then it is more or less self-evident that Jeffrey Archer isn't a particularly good writer, and that Middlemarch is a far better novel than The Da Vinci Code.

There's nothing wrong in saying "A is superior to B" - especially if one can then go on to justify that opinion. (Generally, mere statement of opinion without argument doesn't really amount to much.) It's when one goes on to say "People who read B are ..." then, I think, a line is crossed. It is then no longer a literary judgement: it becomes a personal insult.

There are all types of snobbery of course. To say "People who enjoy The Da Vinci Code are thick" is certainly one type of snobbery. Another is to say: "People who claim to enjoy Ulysses are only pretending to do so to impress others." (And yes - this does get said.) Or: "People who read the classics only like these works because they are expected to, as they are just sheep who can't think for themselves." Or: "People who read Virginia Woolf are merely middle-class poseurs who like to impress at dinner parties." All of these things get said, and I think they are all offensive.

(I hope it goes without saying that I don't think any of the statements I have put in inverted commas above is true.)

I would personally like to see this board free of all types of snobbery. So if you want to say that you enjoy The Da Vinci Code or that you enjoy Jeffrey Archer, you should be able to do so without being put down for it. Similarly, people should be able to say they love Ulysses without being accused of merely wishing to show off.

However, that is not to say that The Da Vinci Code cannot be criticised - or, for that matter, that Ulysses cannot be criticised. If we ban criticism of books, we'll soon have no discussion at all. But the point is to criticise books - not the readers. One may legitimately look down on certain books: but when one looks down also on the readers, that's snobbery. The dividing line may be subtle, but it's there.
miranda

Himadri has pretty much summed up how I feel about the whole subject.

But.....I do sometimes feel that I can't join in with a thread cos it's going over my head.   But that's my problem.  It's up to me to educate myself in those subjects and people should not have to avoid using criticism I don't understand just because I don't understand.

But....occasionally some threads do get a little ..... erm.....exclusive.   Sometimes it becomes difficult to ask a question or an explanation of something that has been said because I feel I ought to know!   And that can be down to the tone of the thread.
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

I've known people who have said they liked Ulysses in order to impress people. I know this because it later transpired that they hadn't actually read Ulysses.

I agree that no book is above criticism, but criticising a book without giving a reason, or expecting everyone to have the same opinion as you, is snobbery. Saying a book is no good because Jeffrey Archer wrote it isn't criticism at all. If the book is badly-written, then argue why. You can't expect to be let off the hook by saying that because Archer is the author (or because the book is sold at Tesco), then the lack of quality of the book is self-evident.

I have only ever read one Jeffrey Archer novel (Kane and Abel, for the purposes of the Big Read), and I enjoyed it immensely. If anybody thinks I am less of a reader for enjoying an Archer book, that says less about them than about me.
TheRejectAmidHair

Not_Smart_Just_Lucky wrote:
I've known people who have said they liked Ulysses in order to impress people. I know this because it later transpired that they hadn't actually read Ulysses.


No doubt, but to say that those who claim to like the book are just saying so in order to impress is remarkably offensive to those who really do love the book.
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky wrote:
I've known people who have said they liked Ulysses in order to impress people. I know this because it later transpired that they hadn't actually read Ulysses.


No doubt, but to say that those who claim to like the book are just saying so in order to impress is remarkably offensive to those who really do love the book.


I agree completely, but it's also remarkably offensive to claim you've read the book when you haven't, especially when talking to someone that has read the book and knows how long the blasted thing is. They should try Dubliners, that's a book they actually could read and like.
Apple

Quote:
But....occasionally some threads do get a little ..... erm.....exclusive.   Sometimes it becomes difficult to ask a question or an explanation of something that has been said because I feel I ought to know!   And that can be down to the tone of the thread.


That's exactly it - in a much less I'm an over sensitive paranoid git way! But there is in my opinion and this is just my opinion, that there is occasionally a sense of if you read a certain type of book then you are an ill educated ignoramus (the Jordan book thread was in my opinion a good example of this, I can't get into MSN to make sure of my facts here and am going on memory but I am pretty sure at one point in that discussion something was said about the type of people who would read Jordans book were the type of people who read celebrity magazines, I apologise now if my recollection is wrong).



I also want to make it very clear I am not against criticism of books - I mean a good example is I totally disagree with Evie about her opinion of Wuthering Heights, I think it is one of the best books ever written, she doesn't, I appreciate that and I accept that - doesn't stop me from ribbing her about it though when the subject is raised! It would be a pretty boring world if everyone liked exactly the same thing and this site would not exist because there would never have been a big readers on the beeb in the first place!

Quote:
HIMADRI SAID: There are all types of snobbery of course. To say "People who enjoy The Da Vinci Code are thick" is certainly one type of snobbery. Another is to say: "People who claim to enjoy Ulysses are only pretending to do so to impress others." (And yes - this does get said.) Or: "People who read the classics only like these works because they are expected to, as they are just sheep who can't think for themselves." Or: "People who read Virginia Woolf are merely middle-class poseurs who like to impress at dinner parties." All of these things get said, and I think they are all offensive.


I suppose you could say I was a snob then! (and I would never have considered myself one!) as said I think twice about what books I write about as I don't think some would be considered good enough, and also my comment about the classics and the fact I would never have considered reading them had I not joined this board.  

I personally would have said that I was not a snob but had an inferiority complex because I know my limitations and I know I am not as clever as the majority of the people on this board, I mean I have to look up a lot of the words people use on here and what the hell is Ullysses?!  But joining this board I have discovered an appreciation for different books which I would never have considered reading before, and I have learnt so much about different things.
lunababymoonchild

I agree that books are up for criticism, however, where they are sold and by whom isn't, imho, relevant (unless it's for illegal purposes obviously).  

Luna
TheRejectAmidHair

lunababymoonchild wrote:
I agree that books are up for criticism, however, where they are sold and by whom isn't, imho, relevant


In whic case, the worst you can charge them with is irrelevance, not snobbery.
Evie

Of course where you buy your books is important, if you care about the future of the publishing industry and have any respect for writers.

And inverted snobbery is as unwelcome as snobbery - surely anyone is allowed to say a book is not worth reading if that's what they think.  Discussion is the key thing - if people are offended in any way by another person's post, that really is the problem of the person who feels offended (unless there is personal insult involved, of course).  Nothing is above or beneath criticism.

We could refuse to have discussions that go over some people's heads, but that would be discriminatory to those who want to discuss things at a deeper level.  

Frankly, if someone is offended because another person - in 'real' life or in a post on a board like this - says what they are reading is crap, then that's sad - but something they will need to deal with.  I'm very tired of constantly feeling that discussion has always to be polite or all-inclusive or kept within any other boundaries.

Literature is all about freedom of speech - that's why it matters so much - and that's why we need to make sure that all sorts of books are published, and not just populist things, which is what will happen if everyone buys their books from the cheapest outlet, and particularly from supermarkets, who care not one jot for reading or literature or the role of literature in society.  They don't even care about where their chickens come from or how they are reared, as long as they can offer them cheaply - so why should they care about books, which are not the natural preserve of supermarkets?  They just want to sell stuff to make a profit.

Everyone is allowed to express their opinion - that goes without saying - but that also means that if someone thinks Tesco only sell lighter literature, they are allowed to say that too - if you have a problem, argue back, but don't deny anyone else the right to put their own point of view.  Unless anyone openly insults another poster, anything goes.
TheRejectAmidHair

miranda wrote:
But....occasionally some threads do get a little ..... erm.....exclusive.   Sometimes it becomes difficult to ask a question or an explanation of something that has been said because I feel I ought to know!   And that can be down to the tone of the thread.


I am frankly a bit puzzled and a bit worried by this. If you feel you want an explanation, why should you feel inhibited about it?

When I am discussing a book that has depths, I personally like diving into those depths. I do try my best to write as lucidly as possible, and not use pseudo-erudite jargon. If I am not clear about something, then that is due entirely to bad writing on my part, and I'd welcome any request for clarification. In the same way, I'd request clarification if there's something I don't understand in someone else's post. It only becomes difficult to ask if you feel you'd be laughed at for asking - but that doesn't happen on this board, does it? I'm being serious: please do let me know if it does.

To be frank, from my point of view, I have been finding it hard for some time now to get any serious discussion going at all, since whenever I try to initiate one, the thread just seems to die on me! Or maybe it's just me... Confused

I can only re-iterate that I'd like to see a board in which everyone can talk about any book they want at whatever level they want, and I'd be very concerned if certain types of discussion were seen to be unwanted or inappropriate. Like many others here, I feel passionately about books, and my sole reason for coming here is to share my passion with others.
Apple

Quote:
lunababymoonchild wrote:
I agree that books are up for criticism, however, where they are sold and by whom isn't, imho, relevant  


In whic case, the worst you can charge them with is irrelevance, not snobbery.


Hang on a mo, there has definately been an undercurrent of snobbery on this subject, on numerous occasions in my opinion. Going right back to the way certain posters on the Beeb board commented about the books I had bought because they were not a superior quality brand only a very cheap highly enjoyable paperback type, and the "looking down their noses attitude" to the fact Tesco sold books at all right up to the comment  made on the previous thread which is now locked.  That in my opinion IS a type of snobbery, because as Luna points out where they are bought is irrelvant so to comment and make a point of where they are bought - a very negative point I might add, is showing a snobbery about it.
Evie

That depends on how you define snobbery, Apple.  I think some books are rubbish - that does not make me a snob.  If I despise a person for only reading books that I think are rubbish, that is literary snobbery - but no one, as far as I can see, has ever been guilty of that.  I am frankly tired of being called a snob, here and elsewhere, for feeling that some books are more worthwhile than others.  We all choose what we want to read, but I am not going to pretend that I think books are good if they aren't.  Some writing is better than others - what we enjoy is a different thing - no one is making value judgements about people, only about books.
Apple

Quote:
EVIE SAID: That depends on how you define snobbery, Apple.  I think some books are rubbish - that does not make me a snob.  If I despise a person for only reading books that I think are rubbish, that is literary snobbery - but no one, as far as I can see, has ever been guilty of that.  I am frankly tired of being called a snob, here and elsewhere, for feeling that some books are more worthwhile than others.  We all choose what we want to read, but I am not going to pretend that I think books are good if they aren't.  Some writing is better than others - what we enjoy is a different thing - no one is making value judgements about people, only about books.


I have just made this very point and I used you as my example (wuthering heights)  I NEVER said you were a snob and I defy you to find where I have said as much in my previous post!


Quote:
Of course where you buy your books is important, if you care about the future of the publishing industry and have any respect for writers.


I'm very sorry but first and foremost I care more about my cash flow and bank balance and making sure I have enough money for everything else I have to buy books are a luxury for me - I don't have the means of going into fancy bookshops and buying full price books!
lunababymoonchild

Evie,

You know, I did argue back about the comment on Tesco and look what it got me.  Not once did I say, at any time, that the writer of said comment wasn't entitled to his opinion.  The thread got derailed on to the subject of Tesco, which I hasten to add was not brought up by me and then locked, not exactly freedom of speech.

We've been through this supermarket thing before so there's no point in doing so again.  I didn't accuse you or anybody else of snobbery at any time and if it's been implied by any of my posts then that's my mistake and I offer my unreserved apologies to you and/or whomsoever for that.

Luna
Evie

I'm not saying you did call me a snob - it's just that I have been called that for expressing the views you are criticising.  But I feel included in what people here - not just you - are saying about the fact that there has been underlying snobbery (your phrase) in some of the posting, since I am one of the ones who thinks the Da Vinci Code and Jeffrey Archer are crap.

We all hold back, in different ways - believe it or not!  The discussion on this board and its previous incarnations stays for the most part at a pretty superficial level, because that is the level that most people want - and as soon as more serious discussions happen, we get statements from some saying they are afraid to post because they can't contribute, or feel out of their depth, or whatever.  That's just a perception - all comments are always welcome - but I understand where that perception comes from; I have just been to an academic conference where I was too scared to open my mouth.  But I won't stand by while any members of the board are accused of an attitude of snobbery that is not justified.

Of course we all want everyone to talk about the kind of books they like, and to contribute to whatever threads they like.  But to not criticise a book is pointless, when someone feels strongly about it - and that is no kind of discussion, nor is it, as I said above, allowing literature to achieve its fundamental purpose, that of enabling and encouraging freedom of speech.
Caro

Once you get your book home, where you have bought it doesn't matter much (unless as Evie says you are concerned by issues of publishing etc), but I do think the experience of the shop you are buying it does matter.

(I am speaking as one whose husband has said "You don't like shopping in the Warehouse cos you're snobbish."  I took this as close to the truth rather than an insult - though I did argue about it.  Our general supermarkets don't sell book much or if they do I just pass those aisles by, but we do have a very large chain of cheap large shops, The Warehouse, (with a very socially-conscious owner, I might say) where they are sold.  I don't much look at the books here - though as I have just said I don't like these shops at all really.  I am sure it is a matter of their size rather than snobbishness.  I don't like big shops where I feel lost.  (Having said that on occasions when I admire something someone is wearing and they tell me it is from The Warehouse I do feel a tinge of surprise. This doesn't stop me buying the odd bit of clothing there myself.)

Back to bookshops.  There is surely more pleasure in roaming round a second-hand bookshop where everything on every subject imaginable is tumbling around and the owner knows everything he has, where it is and what else he might have on the subject than in taking a poorly produced book off the shelf of a supermarket.  And the University Bookshop in our nearest large town which has classic literature, history, texts of all sorts, obscure books and popular ones is far more satisfying to wander round
than a boring old chain bookstore.  I speak as someone who generally reads popular works but likes to know others are available if required.  I got a real thrill when I decided to spend some treat money on a specific book and the Universiy Bookshop was able to guide me to the last copy they had, several years after it had been published.

Himadri,  sometimes I feel shamed by the amount you have written on a book and can't feel there is anything left to say.  Off course there is, but I don't usually have the nous  or knowledge to add much.  I do try sometimes, but am left feeling a little shallow in my responses.  And generally I haven't read the classic books since I left university nearly 40 years ago.

Cheers, Caro.  

(I for one have really enjoyed this more punchy discussion and like a bit of controversy.)
Evie

Sorry, one further thing - this whole thing started simply because someone took offence at the phrase 'Tesco-lite'.  I still have no idea what is so offensive about that phrase - most of us laughed at it, all of us understood it, but it has absolutely nothing to do with snobbery.  It has everything to do with making a comment about a list of books and a thought by one poster about the choice of which was the least admired book on the list.  What on earth was wrong with that, or with the choice of phrase?

I repeat: when did you last see a relatively obscure American author (not obscure at all, but not up there with JK Rowling in the household name stakes) or a little-known European author in translation, or Rabelais, or John Cowper Powys on sale in Tesco?  The phrase 'Tesco-lite' is funny because it contains a recognisable element of truth.  It is not a statement of snobbery.
TheRejectAmidHair

Apple,

When large supermarkets sell books, they naturally go for the most profitable (i.e. the most popular) titles. And they can afford huge markdowns that other bookshops can't offer. Indeed, a  group such as Tesco can quite happily make a loss on certain titles (as I believe they did with the last few Harry Potters) just to get more customers into their shops. This is naturally bad news for the more traditional bookshops. The net result of all this is that the public have far less choice: the most popular titles are easily available in bulk, but the much of the rest doesn't even get a look-in.  

And many book-lovers, including myself, find themselves dismayed that  titles from the more populist end of the market are increasingly sidelining the ones that, from a literary viewpoint, are often more valuable. Is it really snobbery to feel this sense of dismay? I really don't think so.

Neither is it snobbery, I think, to draw attention to the fact that the books sold by large supermarkets do tend to be, almost overwhelmingly, populist titles. And populist books do tend to be light (or "lite"), and a large proportion of them are unlikely to pass the test of time - i.e. they are ephemeral. I really don't see where the snobbery is in pointing this out. I can't even see an undercurrent.

Only if one gets personally attacked for one's reading preferences is it reasonable, I think, to call "foul" - and that hasn't, to my knowledge, happened on this board. Concerns about what supermarket sales are doing to the book trade are entirely legitimate, I think.
Caro

What was objected to, Evie, was that it was applied to a particular set of books that had been chosen by the readers.  (Some of which didn't seem to me to fit whatever the criteria would be for Tesco-lite anyway.)

And if you happen to always buy your clothes/books/furniture in a shop which someone else makes uncomplimentary comments about, you are bound to feel the uncomplimentariness applies to you.  Just as Himardi finds the same feeling when people are criticised for pseudo-liking Ulysses.

And I found in Britain people were very much judged in the media by where they shopped/what they wore etc.  It's a very critical media.  

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

lunababymoonchild wrote:
 The thread got derailed on to the subject of Tesco, which I hasten to add was not brought up by me and then locked, not exactly freedom of speech.


I locked it because not only had it become derailed, but because, in my opinion, it was threatening to spiral out of control. I opened another thread on the subject of book groups, and encouraged the creation of this thread to discuss the issue of snobbery. That seems like freedom of speech to me.
lunababymoonchild

Evie wrote:
Sorry, one further thing - this whole thing started simply because someone took offence at the phrase 'Tesco-lite'.  I still have no idea what is so offensive about that phrase - most of us laughed at it, all of us understood it, but it has absolutely nothing to do with snobbery.  It has everything to do with making a comment about a list of books and a thought by one poster about the choice of which was the least admired book on the list.  What on earth was wrong with that, or with the choice of phrase?

I repeat: when did you last see a relatively obscure American author (not obscure at all, but not up there with JK Rowling in the household name stakes) or a little-known European author in translation, or Rabelais, or John Cowper Powys on sale in Tesco?  The phrase 'Tesco-lite' is funny because it contains a recognisable element of truth.  It is not a statement of snobbery.


I was the one who took offence at the Tesco-lite phrase.  Never mentioned that I thought it was snobbery though.  I objected - and mine was the second objection by the way - because I felt that the comment came across as a derogatory one centred on the list of books read by somebody else's book group.  

Quote:
when did you last see a relatively obscure American author (not obscure at all, but not up there with JK Rowling in the household name stakes) or a little-known European author in translation, or Rabelais, or John Cowper Powys on sale in Tesco?
 

Don't see them in Waterstones either, Evie.   Wouldn't know whereabouts to go and see them, and I never get enough time to explore Borders in the city centre.  Supermarkets don't try to pretend that they are specialist book shops and they are immoral enough - here anyway - to sell alcohol to obviously underage (every supermarket chain has been caught at one time doing this), irrespective of their chickens.  I still need to go there to buy me milk though, and yes, I'll look at the books.  

Luna
Apple

Himadri
I (believe it or not) can see your point of view, you care deeply about obscure stuff which I have probably never even heard about, and what you are saying is I've probably never even heard about it because Tesco and the like have pushed them out.

But at the same time, the major factor for me when buying a book is price if I want a book in a book shop it is say £20 and I can get if from Tesco for half that - I aint going to buy it from the bookshop! So we will have to agree to disagree on that one.

Evie:
I never accused ANYONE of being a snob, I said there was IN MY OPINION an undercurrent - a hint if you like of snobbery on occasion in some threads, now that is my opinion, freedom of speech and all that which you say we are allowed to express! I wasn't critising you or anyone else on the points about the Da Vinci code or Jeffery Archer - I was offering my opinion again and using them as an example of the tone that I felt they had - freedom of speech and all that, it wasn't a personal dig at you - I didn't even know who started those threads, and I was recalling them from memory. Nowhere did I say Evie said Da Vinci code/Jeffery Archer is crap so she is a damn snob!

Perhaps snobbery is the wrong choice of words that I have used,  I have looked in my dictionary and come up with another one elitism is that any better? and no I'm not calling you elitist!

Luna:
I don't think you have anything to apologise for - in my opinion you were also expressing an opinion, just as I have been doing.

(just for the record - I work for a supermarket chain (not Tesco before anyone asks) and we have a task 25 system in operation if they don't look 25 they have to be able to prove they are 18, but I totally agree other supermarkets are not so tight I was in one the other day and watched two young boys get served without being asked for ID and in my opinion they didn't look 18! - Just hope they were trading standards plants -  sorry about that going off subject  there I just wanted to point out that not all supermarkets are irresponisble and I totally agree with you on what you said!)
TheRejectAmidHair

Apple wrote:
But at the same time, the major factor for me when buying a book is price if I want a book in a book shop it is say £20 and I can get if from Tesco for half that - I aint going to buy it from the bookshop!


Well, of course you're not! - and I really don't think anyone is criticising you for that. The criticism was of the supermarkets, not of the customers.

I remain concerned, though, about the perceptions of snobbery on this board, even as an undercurrent. Reading through this thread, I can't help asking myself if I have been guilty of this - even unconsciously. I do continue to believe that certain works are, from a literary point of view, superior to others; and that saying so and arguing the case is entirely legitimate. If one does not think that any book can be superior to any other book, then one does not believe in the concept of literary excellence at all. I do believe in the concept of literary excellence: in fact, I feel passionately about it - and I know many others are as well who feel as I do. Does that very fact that I believe in literary excellence make me a snob? If so, I'm afraid I cannot change that.

I remain concerned as well at another point that has emerged in this thread - that some people appear to be intimidated by serious discussion on literature. That goes against the very point of what I think this board should be about. I come here for two reasons - to share in the literary enthusiasms of other contributors, and to share my own. Yes, I do know I tend to go on a bit, but that is because I really do love books, and I love talking about them. And I can promise you that should anyone wish to take part in any literary discussion, then, no matter what the standard of the contribution, neither I nor anyone else here will ridicule it, or denigrate it, or think badly of the contributor. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to feel inhibited about joining in.
miranda

I think this discussion is going in two different directions.

I also worry about the effect of book chains and supermarkets on the publishing trade.   And I love to find an old-fashioned book shop.  But to truly get any benefit from it, you need a couple of hours!   Laughing

But to return to the original subject of snobbery.......

I hope that I, personally, haven't given anyone the idea that I think they are a snob because they can speak more intelligently than I can on books.  

Himadri, you are an extremely intelligent man (you are a man, aren't you?   Embarassed )  Anyway, I have to admit that sometimes you do intimidate me a little with your reviews and views.  But I emphasise that it is not your problem and I don't want you to feel that you should change to suit me or anyone like me.  It is up to me to reach your level, not the other way around.

I think my ..... nervousness of joining in those 'heavy' threads is that I will derail it by making you and others backtrack to take account of what I'm asking.   Kind of like joining a class late and not wanting to ask questions cos it makes you feel a numpty!   Laughing

Evie - of course you shouldn't feel like you have to dumb down.   But I think maybe the problem arises when people are talking about a book that maybe you don't consider a good one and the thread becomes about whether it's a good book or not.  Sometimes people just want to talk about the book, and not its merits.  So....if there is room on the board for literary criticism, surely there is room also for chat about Jeffery Archer or the Da Vinci Code?
MikeAlx

miranda wrote:
Himadri, you are an extremely intelligent man (you are a man, aren't you?   Embarassed )  

If not, then quite the most impressive bearded lady I've ever seen!  Wink
Stewart

Let's revisit the line that caused the kerfuffle:

Quote:
Interesting that an established novel should do so poorly when up against so much Tesco-lite ephemera


Okay, here we see a misreading by someone. I never called the book group's whole list Tesco-lite. I said "so much" of it was. I mean, Kim Edwards, Steff Penney, Barbara Erskine, and Joanne Harris? And Gardner's memoirs are so zeigeisty as to be dismissed once the whole War on Terror thing is over and we've moved on to the next craze. Geisha memoirs one year, missives from the Middle East the next. Where next?

It really has been blown out of proportion. Reading groups, for the most part, are guided by hyped up novels and those pushed by publishers, paying through the nose to snap up spaces on the 3-for-2 tables. It's a cost thing. Understandable. Hell, I buy loads of of 3-for-2 titles myself. I have du Maurier, Irving, and Kipling on my shelves, three authors mentioned in the original list. If anyone thinks its a slight on their reading, they're paranoid. If you can look at a Barbara Erskine book and think that it'll still be pulling in punters in twenty years' time then I applaud your optimism. Whether you like it or not has no bearing on either where you bought it or how long its cultural life is. The fact is that it's the sort of book Tesco will sell and being a plotted romantic suspsense novel, it's lite, if you excuse the Americanism this time. What's not to get from that?

On the subject of price, I tend to go with the cheaper option too. If it's cheaper in Tesco, then I'll buy it. I'll use Amazon, The Book Depostory, charity shops, Waterstones, Borders, buy direct from publishers, scour eBay, hit second hand book shops, use AbeBooks for that hard to find title tucked away in a Kansas book store (there's a tip for you, J.R. Hartley!), and pretty much any other method out there. I don't have a problem with it. I can accept that the range and depth of books in, say, Waterstone's is far greater, and yields more browsing pleasure, than Tesco. Surely that's the same for everyone?

It's a horrible little predicament. The abolishment of the Net Book Agreement has opened up the market giving the illusion of more choice to the buyer. Sadly, it's strangling the choice of the reader, as publishers, to stay afloat, have to chase the bucks (less books, larger print runs), whereas with the lower cap on book prices, the income that they got could help nurture new writers through their first few books, while the maverickss and backlisters would generate the sales. Nowadays, it's all very much new writers thrust into the limelight for one or two books, not nurtured, and slung aside iin favour of the next naked Emperor.

To snobbery, if snobbery means that I think, to paraphrase a pig, that some books are more equal than others, and I can easily dismiss certain books by process of experience, reasoning, and educated guess, in favour of works of a more literary nature where I believe the writer has something to say, over those writing to turn a buck, then yes, I'm a snob. Snob; discerning reader: whatever.

As for the term elitist, it shares a berth with pretentious, in that both tell us nothing of the subject, but everything of the speaker.
lunababymoonchild

I'm getting a little tired of being told that the mistake was mine, and then reading that everyone is entitled to their opinion and then entitled to express it.  

I stated my opinion, I didn't say that I was right and I didn't say that anybody who disagreed with me was wrong or that they were not entitled to their opinion, or to express it.  I most certainly didn't call anybody a snob either.  

Again, I had no idea that my opinion - specifically that one - could be that important, and frankly if I had known where it was going to lead I wouldn't have expressed it at all.  Indeed, I refrained from expressing my opinion on the Tesco lite phrase for reasons already stated, until somebody else commented on it and even then I simply agreed with them.

To be perfectly clear, I'm still not saying I was right and anybody else was wrong, I was merely expressing my opinion, apparently I'm supposed to be as entitled to that as everybody else.  

Luna
Apple

Himadri wrote:
Quote:
I remain concerned, though, about the perceptions of snobbery on this board, even as an undercurrent. Reading through this thread, I can't help asking myself if I have been guilty of this - even unconsciously. I do continue to believe that certain works are, from a literary point of view, superior to others; and that saying so and arguing the case is entirely legitimate. If one does not think that any book can be superior to any other book, then one does not believe in the concept of literary excellence at all. I do believe in the concept of literary excellence: in fact, I feel passionately about it - and I know many others are as well who feel as I do. Does that very fact that I believe in literary excellence make me a snob? If so, I'm afraid I cannot change that.


You are the least snobbish person I have ever met (virtually so to speak) you have patiently answered my questions and explained things to me and from you I have learnt so much and I want to take this oportunity to thank you for that.  You are passionate about books and that shines through, I refer to your epic review of Wuthering Heights, you said everything I was thinking and had tried to say in my review of the same book, and I learnt from that.  You are really clever and that can be a bit intimidating at times because I think and this is my problem not yours that what I am asking is probably stupid and if I am contributing on this board I should know it anyway. I have made it loud and clear that I am not a clever person, and I do have an inferiority complex (goes back to school days when a teacher called me stupid when I asked a question so I never bothered asking again) but again thats my problem not yours.

EVIE
I am sorry if I got a bit rude back there, but I get the distinct impression from you that you want this board to be a certain way and if you don't agree with what is written then its wrong.  Thats not probably right but that is the impression you do give sometimes, surely there is room for chat about books which you consider rubbish as well as deep literary discussion?
TheRejectAmidHair

First of all, thank you, Miranda & Apple, for your kind comments. As for my gender, Miranda, what is it that Banquo says to the witches in Macbeth?

....... You should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.


Luna, of course you are entitled to express your opinions here freely. You have done so, and many of us have engaged with your opinions. This has led to a lively discussion in which you were neither attacked, nor insulted, nor abused. This is how it should be.

I do not mean to speak for Evie, but on this issue, she was defending Stewart's right to express himself in the way he did. And without going into it all again, I must say that I am with Evie on this one. On any board dedicated to discussion, we must all be prepared for certain opinions to be expressed in a robust manner. As long as it doesn't slip over into personal insult, we, as moderators, will not intervene. The alternative to this would be to have a board that is merely bland.

Some points have arisen in the course of this discussion regarding certain perceived undercurrents of snobbery, and feelings of exclusion from certain threads. These points have been noted; and while I trust every effort will be made to dispel any sense of exclusion, I can only urge everyone here not to feel intimidated about jumping into discussions. We're all quite a friendly bunch here, really! Or if you want to start a discussion on a particular book or writer, don't feel for a moment that it would be out of place here. This board is intended to be a "broad church", as they say.

I trust we can now lay this particular matter to rest.
Sandraseahorse

Oh, dear.  I had no idea when I posted my book club's list after a pleasant Christmas lunch that it would attract so much controversy.

To the charge of Tesco-Lite, I think that with a lot of book clubs it is a case of finding a common denominator.  Many in my group are retired and take frequent trips abroad, so they want something that is easy to pack and which they can read on a plane.  Also, there is the issue of getting hold of 8-10 copies of the same book - if a book is on special offer at a supermarket, then that is an incentive to put it on the list.  We have tried in the past to do more off-beat books, only to find that the library has only two copies in the whole of Hampshire. An example of this was Elizabeth Jenkins' "The Tortoise and the Hare", which had been recommended by "The Guardian" has an "undiscovered classic".  The book was out of copyright and there was only one library copy in stock.

I agree that Tesco-Lite can be levelled against the Kim Edwards' book and the Barbara Erskine (we did the Barbara Erskine book as several in the group were interested in trips down the Nile).  The Joanna Harris book and the author's reputation are more debateable - I remember an extremely bright and articulate contestant on "Mastermind" answering questions on this author and saying that Harris was a great and undervalued writer.

The Frank Gardner book is a moving account of the terrible injuries he received as a reporter. It is anything but Lite.

My group attempts to do one or two classics a year.  Unfortunately, this year "Agnes Grey" and "Kim" were not popular reads.

I accept that our list may not be everyone's taste - one or two of the books were not to my taste but the whole point about a book club is that it gets you reading books you might not otherwise have read.  We have been going for nine years and we enjoy each others' company so we must be getting something right.

My final comment on "Kim".  Ironically, I remember Caro saying how she was about to discard "Kim" from her local libary as it had not been taken out for two years.  I was about to write an indignant missive and then I sat down and tried to read the book   After struggling with it, I didn't feel indignant any longer.
Stewart

Sandraseahorse wrote:
Oh, dear.  I had no idea when I posted my book club's list after a pleasant Christmas lunch that it would attract so much controversy.

There's a sizable difference between discussion and controversy. If there's any controversy, it's been the mangled interpretation of my words.

Quote:
...so they want something that is easy to pack and which they can read on a plane.

Pretty much any book would fit that criteria.

Quote:
Also, there is the issue of getting hold of 8-10 copies of the same book - if a book is on special offer at a supermarket, then that is an incentive to put it on the list.  We have tried in the past to do more off-beat books, only to find that the library has only two copies in the whole of Hampshire.

This is something that interests me. If people are members of a book group, is it really so hard for them to expect to pay about £7.99 a month to take part, less if they get the book second hand or through a marked down online seller? Okay, the elderly are perhaps not techno-savvy in many cases to surf for the best deal.


Quote:
I remember an extremely bright and articulate contestant on "Mastermind" answering questions on this author and saying that Harris was a great and undervalued writer.

People have done specialist subjects on Harry Potter and the works of Clive Barker. They always think their favourites are great and undervalued. It's called bias.
Not_Smart_Just_Lucky

Stewart wrote:
Sandraseahorse wrote:
I remember an extremely bright and articulate contestant on "Mastermind" answering questions on this author and saying that Harris was a great and undervalued writer.

People have done specialist subjects on Harry Potter and the works of Clive Barker. They always think their favourites are great and undervalued. It's called bias.


Don't know who Clive Barker is, but I quite like Harry Potter and wouldn't need much convincing to be told that it was great and undervalued.

If you have a month to read a book in a bookclub, chances are you'll need most of that time. Depending on the size of the book and the other things you have to do in your life (work, family, socialising), it can take a surprising amount of time to read a standard-sized book (and if a single person challenges me on the existance of a "standard-sized book", I will have the first online hernia ever!) Therefore, having to wait for a book ordered on the Internet to arrive can eat into your reading time, putting more pressure on you to finish the book.

This is only a theory of mine. I've never been in a book club.
MikeAlx

Sandraseahorse wrote:

My group attempts to do one or two classics a year.  Unfortunately, this year "Agnes Grey" and "Kim" were not popular reads.

That idea of popularity is intriguing - how do people score these books? Is it on personal enjoyment alone, or perceived literary merit, or some combination of the two?

For example, I would struggle to score Jane Austen's "Persuasion" - it's a well-constructed story, with assured and innovative technique, and no doubt mostly achieves what it sets out to do; and yet I can't say I enjoyed reading it particularly, and wouldn't rush to read another Austen. But I don't deny that it's an accomplished literary novel.
Sandraseahorse

Our scoring is done is an entirely subjective and impulsive way after a few glasses of wine, usually based on whether we like it.  We are not the Booker judges, after all.

Not-Clever-Just-Lucky made a valid point  about the time it takes for a book ordered on the internet to arrive.  Although I've found delivery very prompt in the past, many in my group are retired and are often off on holidays, visits to family members, etc.  If they can buy a book from Tescos right away rather than order on the internet and run the risk of the book being delivered while they are out or away, then the convenience of Tescos wins.

Also, there seems to be a psychological barrier about paying more than a certain amount on a book that doesn't personally appeal.  Most in my group would be prepared to pay £3-£4 on a book which isn't their usual read but if they paid £7 or more for a book which they correctly anticipated they would not enjoy, then they tend to resent this outlay
lunababymoonchild

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Luna, of course you are entitled to express your opinions here freely. You have done so, and many of us have engaged with your opinions. This has led to a lively discussion in which you were neither attacked, nor insulted, nor abused. This is how it should be.


Thank you Himadri, I feel neither attacked, insulted or abused, as it should be, and it was amusing to try and keep up with the many of you who did take an interest enough to engage with me - so thanks for that, everybody.  I was surprised somewhat by the reaction to me, but there you are.  

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I do not mean to speak for Evie, but on this issue, she was defending Stewart's right to express himself in the way he did. And without going into it all again, I must say that I am with Evie on this one. On any board dedicated to discussion, we must all be prepared for certain opinions to be expressed in a robust manner. As long as it doesn't slip over into personal insult, we, as moderators, will not intervene. The alternative to this would be to have a board that is merely bland.


Curious.  Why would Stewart need defending?  Nobody denied him anything at all, least of all me.  I objected to a comment he made and said why, and that is all.  

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I trust we can now lay this particular matter to rest.
 

I do hope so.

Luna
Thursday Next

I feel horribly guilty if I buy books  - or cds, dvds - from Tesco (other supermarkets are available) as I know that I am in some way contributing to some kind of horrible shopping future where Tesco is the only shop and you can only buy from a very limited populist range of items. But the choice for book shopping is limited these days. I feel slightly guilty about shopping in Waterstones (in fact the only shop for which I have a loyalty card) because they have bought up and closed down so many other bookshops. But at least they are a book shop. Probably the only place I don't feel guilty buying books from is Oxfam...and they probably stock more of what you could call 'Tesco-lite' than anyone.

I have to say I have never heard the phrase 'Tesco-lite' before. Is it the same as what used to be called 'airport novels'?
Apple

Stewart Wrote
Quote:
As for the term elitist, it shares a berth with pretentious, in that both tell us nothing of the subject, but everything of the speaker.


Excuse me?
Stewart

Apple wrote:
Stewart Wrote
Quote:
As for the term elitist, it shares a berth with pretentious, in that both tell us nothing of the subject, but everything of the speaker.


Excuse me?


It's quite plain. If someone bandies about terms like elitist and pretentious then it gives an insight into the person bandying it about, rather than the subject of their scorn or ignorance.

Here's a transcript of an eavesdropped conversation in my work's canteen that I noted a couple of years back:

Quote:

"Have you read Jeffery Deaver."
"Oh yes, loved The Bone Collector. And what was that other one by him?"
"Which?"
"The one about the guy who murders women but they can't catch him because he keeps on changing his identity."
"Don't think I've read that one."
"What about Harlan Coben?"
"No, I've not."
"What about James Patterson?"
"Like him."

for x = 1 To 10 Step 1
   PRINT "'What about ..." & AuthorName(x) & "?'"
   PRINT "'No, not read him.'"
next x

"But you should check out Harlan Coben definitely."
"Everyone else seems to like that Dan Brown. I don't though."
"Yeah, I didn't like him either."
"Have you read The God Of Small Things? That's different."
"What do you mean?"
"It's not like a crime story but its about these people..."
"See, I think people are just into that sort of thing to show off. They are just pretentious."
"I know. I thought it was okay though."


Does this tell us anything about Arundhati Roy's The God Of Small Things? No, it tells us the woman who called it thus hasn't a clue.

Pretentious is an overused, ineffective word to so many.
Apple

Ok then so lets get this straight - you are calling me pretentious?
Chibiabos83

Where's that come from?  Shocked
MikeAlx

Apple wrote:
Ok then so lets get this straight - you are calling me pretentious?

Apple, Stewart isn't calling you pretentious. He's suggesting that people who accuse 'literary' books and their readers of pretentiousness are often inverse-snobs.
TheRejectAmidHair

I think the point Stewart is making is that those who read books of a more serious nature are often termed "pretentious" and "elitist"; and that it is often thought that they read such books merely to show off. When the words "pretentious" and "elitist" are used in this way, these words soon stop being very meaningful, and reveal more about those who use these words in such a manner rather than those at whom they are directed.

I really cannot disagree with any of that. This is the "inverted snobbery" I referred to earlier on this thread, and it really is every bit as offensive as the more obvious type of snobbery. And on the long run, I think it is probably more harmful, as inverted snobbery inhibits appreciation of quality literature, and creates a sense that certain books are "not for the likes of us". It creates a barrier where, really, there shouldn't be any.

I'll let Stewart answer your question, but I really don't think he is aiming barbs at anyone here.

(Incidentally, I myself have been accused so often of being an "elitist", that nowadays I tend to accept it as a compliment ...  Smile )
Stewart

Apple wrote:
Ok then so lets get this straight - you are calling me pretentious?

No.

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
(Incidentally, I myself have been accused so often of being an "elitist", that nowadays I tend to accept it as a compliment ... )

I take it as a compliment too. Yes, I am discerning. What of it?
Apple

I think it is very clear!

I said that snobbery was perhaps the wrong word when Evie became obsessed with the fact I was calling her a snob despite the fact I wasn't so I looked in my dictionary and came up with elitist which I posted on the site - and for which I later apologised to Evie for despite the fact I was not calling her it and made it clear about but then to which Stewart posted his reply which I asked him to clarify as I did not want to appear over sensitive or paranoid to which he has posted this reply

Quote:
It's quite plain. If someone bandies about terms like elitist and pretentious then it gives an insight into the person bandying it about, rather than the subject of their scorn or ignorance.


So to me it is very clear I take that as he is calling me pretentious, which as he knows nothing about me I find highly insulting, not to mention completely wrong because I take the term pretentious to mean someone who pretends they are something they are not, which could not be further from the truth in my case and his opinion of me should not be aired on the site which is exactly what he has done.

And just for the record I never actually mentioned the word pretentious in the first place - he did!
Stewart

Apple wrote:

Quote:
It's quite plain. If someone bandies about terms like elitist and pretentious then it gives an insight into the person bandying it about, rather than the subject of their scorn or ignorance.


So to me it is very clear I take that as he is calling me pretentious, which as he knows nothing about me I find highly insulting, not to mention completely wrong because I take the term pretentious to mean someone who pretends they are something they are not, which could not be further from the truth in my case and his opinion of me should not be aired on the site which is exactly what he has done.


FFS! I have not called you pretentious, and I'm unlikely to call anyone pretentious. It just isn't a word that sits with me. As I said, when someone uses the term elitist or pretentious, it tells us more about them than it does about whatever they are calling elitist or pretentious. It in now way insinuates the person bandying the term about is themself elitist or pretentious. That's a gross misreading by yourself.

Using the Arundhati Roy example I transcripted above, it doesn't mean the woman who called people who write like that ("like what? like what you're not used to?") pretentious is pretentious herself. It just means that her literary palate is less developed that she can't appreciate a book with loftier aims. Roy is not pretentious for writing within her own style and skill. That someone can't pick themself up to appreciate it, doesn't mean Roy's pretentious, it just means the person is implicitly voicing their prejudice over what either doesn't suit them or is beyond them.

Thomas Pynchon is beyond me. I can't get a handhold on his style. I don't think he's pretentious. It's just his way. If I can't get to grips with him, it's not for me or I'm not ready for it yet.

Quote:
And just for the record I never actually mentioned the word pretentious in the first place - he did!

We know. I only brought it in to the conversation because it's a twin term with elitist in that it often gets used ignorantly.
lunababymoonchild

Apple wrote:
Ok then so lets get this straight - you are calling me pretentious?


Very interesting indeed.  Apple asks the above - it seems to me - simple question and we get three out of the four management team answering it, before the admittedly unnamed recipient of said question gets the chance to anwer it.

Oh, I'm soooo looking forward to this service meself in the future.

Luna
MikeAlx

Luna, it is surely part of the job of board moderator to attempt to prevent a simple misunderstanding from escalating into a major incident. I don't think any of us need apologise for attempting to placate the situation by clarifying what Stewart meant.
Chibiabos83

I merely thought, luna, that since tempers seem to have been getting more than usually frayed recently, and since there seems to be absolutely nothing in Stewart's comments to suggest he is calling Apple pretentious (and why would he? What on earth is pretentious about Apple, apart from the obvious pretence that she is an apple? It defies sense why anyone would insinuate such a thing), it would be good to nip this thing in the bud as soon as possible. Some people appear to be taking any excuse to get into arguments at the moment, which is not in the spirit of the board.
Apple

Quote:
Using the Arundhati Roy example I transcripted above, it doesn't mean the woman who called people who write like that ("like what? like what you're not used to?") pretentious is pretentious herself. It just means that her literary palate is less developed that she can't appreciate a book with loftier aims. Roy is not pretentious for writing within her own style and skill. That someone can't pick themself up to appreciate it, doesn't mean Roy's pretentious, it just means the person is implicitly voicing their prejudice over what either doesn't suit them or is beyond them.

Thomas Pynchon is beyond me. I can't get a handhold on his style. I don't think he's pretentious. It's just his way. If I can't get to grips with him, it's not for me or I'm not ready for it yet.


I really don't understand - So what are you trying to say now???? - are you saying is that I'm ignorant voicing my prejudice over what doesn't suit me or what is beyond me, I'm sorry I thought I was expressing an opinion and I did not expect to be attacked for it.

Quote:
Some people appear to be taking any excuse to get into arguments at the moment, which is not in the spirit of the board.


No I am not, I am merely pointing out the fact I believe he insulted me I gave him the chance to clarify what he meant and what he said confirmed to me it was me he was getting at and is now he trying to wriggle out of what he said by going round the houses and and quoting this that and the other but the initial comments he made was very clear  to me! and if you think I am just trying to cause trouble for the sake of it - which I am not then bloody well ban me and be done with it!
Stewart

Apple wrote:
I really don't understand

Yes, we know.

Quote:
- So what are you trying to say now?

The same as I have from the start.

Quote:
are you saying is that I'm ignorant voicing my prejudice over what doesn't suit me or what is beyond me, I'm sorry I thought I was expressing an opinion and I did not expect to be attacked for it.

Hey, you're free to express an opinion. But in voicing an opinion, you can fall into the trap of showing ignorance. It happens in all walks. If something doesn't suit or is beyond you, you can't go calling it pretentious or those that read it elitist: that's just not on. Sure, you don't like it, but to label those that do in any way highlights ignorance.

I know it's such a flimsy little flag to be picking up on and no, I'm not saying you're ignorant (before you misinterpet again), but that the elitist comment invites scrutiny. From that, conclusions can be drawn.


Quote:
No I am not, I am merely pointing out the fact I believe he insulted me

If I'd insulted you, I'd have provided a direct insult. You'd know about it. I think you should stop being self-centric anyway: I'm talking about everyone and anyone who labels things as pretentious or elitist, not you specifically.

I'm not trying to wriggle out of anything. My stance is fixed.
Apple

Quote:
If I'd insulted you, I'd have provided a direct insult. You'd know about it. I think you should stop being self-centric anyway: I'm talking about everyone and anyone who labels things as pretentious or elitist, not you specifically.

I'm not trying to wriggle out of anything. My stance is fixed.


Hmm yes I can see your stance is fixed you are right and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong! I am not self centric and this very comment you have made confirms everything I have said as you would not have made your remarks had I not used the term elitist  

Oh and your sarcastic "yes we know" comment to my I don't understand remark which was taken out of context was not nessessary
Chibiabos83

If the two of you wish to continue this argument, please do so by PM or e-mail, though I confess it doesn't appear desperately near any resolution.

Tempers are clearly running high, and I would advise those involved to calm down and attempt to put this unsavoury episode behind them. We are all adults and I hope we will all be able to move on. Attempts to reignite this argument on the board will not be tolerated. This board should be a place to discuss all types of books from popular to literary and everything in between. If you feel like discussing books, great. Let's do that. I think the best thing is for me to lock this thread. Discussions like these do nobody any favours and discourage participation from others.

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