Author Topic: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.  (Read 17693 times)

Patti L.

  • Administrator
  • Hostess of Hurog
  • *
  • Posts: 12632
  • Not PattY Briggs. Keeper of the fluffy vortex.
So, the title of this thread was the whole of Sharon Lee (Of "Sharon Lee & Steve Miller" books)'s blog post on January 24 of this year.

I read through the posts, and then, having dipped my toes into Twitter to get Patty's twitter account accessible to me, I wrote up an opinion and posted.  I am now going to paste it into here, tweak it a bit, and leave it to start the ball rolling on this discussion.

I'll add beforehand that I consider "literature vs. readable fiction" to be a bit of a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" question.  So unless you want to pick the third option (mildly dirty, thus about to go under spoiler bars), it can be argued endlessly for no real gain, but it does open minds and while away the time.

Quote
A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature.

Discuss.

The first thing I did, upon deciding I'd like to comment, was look up "literature" and "Fiction" on an online dictionary.  That was also eye opening.
Literature is defined thus:  (1)writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of
 permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels,
history, biography, and essays.

(6)Archaic . polite learning;
literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.

Fiction, is defined so:
the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form.


So, what does that tell me?  That "Sweet Valley Twins" or the infamous "Cook's" whatzit de whozit that was "editing" correctly presented period piece cooking articles are both "literature" in theory.

High literature?  That's another question, and the one really being addressed here.  I don't know if a dictionary would define such a thing.

I'll say this; I'm basically in the "so-called-high-literature is stuff you're forced to read and loathe ever after" camp.  People who can read & enjoy it?  Good for them.  They aren't converting me to their camp, though.  It may be terrific stuff; don't know, don't care, already got put off of it by the presentation.

I read some stuff that I know is bad...Early Lackey has been pointed out as...Mary Sue, shall we say.  Heaven knows the "Floating Outfit" westerns are dreadful stuff, but I'm mildly addicted to them.  I even re-read them from time to time.  Are they things I would book push?  No.

Lee & Miller, P.Briggs, S.Robinson, D.Duane, R. Heinlein, yes, I push with enthusiasm.  They have messages, and nuances.  They are (some...) comfort food for the soul, as Lee & Miller were named by A. McCaffrey (Push her too; her son, not so much, he's leaning toward Literature), and often with lessons in them.  Who can forget the lessons from "Have Space Suit, Will Travel" and "Starship Troopers"? 

Does all the writing hold up as high quality, after a decade or three or ten has passed?  Well, no.  Either the writers were young in their craft, writing hurriedly for money (the only legitimate excuse according to whom?  Right.), writing for juveniles, or the science has made the story impossible.  Or, some combination of these may apply, or other issues not thought of/mentioned by me.

Doesn't matter; as with Shakespeare, the content and in some cases the language (and with W.S. it needs to be performed or doesn't come off now, let alone another 100 years from now) have power to evoke emotion or thought. 

Some is blatant.  The relative versus absolute value lesson of "Starship Troopers".
Some is subtle.  The "it's all right not to be perfect, to learn differently or more slowly than others do" of, well, "Carpe Diem".

Schlock can make me cry.  The Arrows Trilogy; Wolf's death from the "Lad: A Dog" series", - but - that doesn't mean that the lessons of true values and "Courage consists of holding on one moment longer" is invalid because the packaging is out of date, wrinkled or dirty, or politically incorrect.

So, stuff literature.  File by genre, if you can figure it out.  If you can't, or it wanders, there's still "general fiction" willing to embrace it.

And "easy reading is not worth the effort"?  More balderdash.  We lay down our core understanding of the world with easy reading - if we're lucky enough to LEARN to read - because you need the stripped down thing to base the rest of it on, to be able to appreciate those nuances.  Whether you find them in Dickens, or Austin, Twain, Heinlein, McCaffrey, or Rowling.
It's a leap year. Sanity is in short supply.  You can't have mine.

Grandpappy Wycked

  • Pack Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1044
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2011, 01:55:46 pm »
"Easy Read" has no definition as such. It is a term that really is subjective to the individual reader.

It is very possible to read something completely different into a set of books. Look at how many people have taken the books of Dr. Seuss and shown how they can be interpreted into an Acid Trip and not meant for children.

An Easy Read to some may mean they themselves do not feel as if their brains were stretched, however, someone else may find that same book to push the boundaries of their thinking to the very edge, filling them with knowledge and insight they never had before.

So how do these two people differ?

The first, already had the knowledge or thinking that was involved in the presentation of the book, the second did not.

So is the book actually an Easy Read? or is it a perfect example of "One Man's trash, is another Man's treasure."

Anyone that wants to claim that they are an authority on what is or is not an easy read, needs to be able to separate themselves from what they truly have knowledge of in this life, universe and world, otherwise, they are not giving the book a fair shot at what is or is not, an easy read.



Sanity has Left The Building.
Please Contact Patti L. for further instructions.

highcountryrider

  • Guest
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2011, 08:31:06 pm »
I have to agree with what has been said. And add my two bits, of course. :D

I have always been leery of someone else telling me which things are, or are
not, worthwhile reading. My first love in fiction is, and has always been, Science
Fiction. In my youth it was considered trash by most of the "bookish" folk.
I think some of the genre is very well written and is of the same quality
as the Classics that I like. I think some of the best of SF will become classic.
Some is not so good, but if a reader enjoys it, so what?

I don't think the fact that technology has rendered much of the older stuff
technically obsolete even matters. The mechanisms and systems in 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea
are seriously dated, but it's still an awesome read.
And while I am definitely not a disparager of political correctness, things like
Tom Sawyer must be read considering the time that it was written.

I do agree that being forced to read "The Classics" in school is a bad idea.
An overview would be better IMHO. For myself, I was not emotionally  mature
enough in high school to "get" them. In my adult life I have enjoyed Great
Expectations, The Inferno of Dante, Crime and Punishment
, and Bleak House
very much and hope to read more. On the other hand, I can't even get started
on Don Quixote.

Remember that Shakespeare was a "trash" writer in his time.

And that brings up the subject of an "easy" read. That, I think, is very reader-
dependent. I can read a book on computer programming or the operational
theory of the linotype and enjoy it. I expect many people would find it torture.

Recently I slogged through  A Journal of the Plague Year (Daniel Defoe).
Not an easy read due to the antiquated grammar and spelling. But worth the read.

There are times when I want reading to challenge me and times where all I want is
a good story.

Another interesting thing is that a reader can read something entirely different
than what the author wrote. Wrong? Not in my opinion.

Rob

  • lovebird
  • Tinker
  • *****
  • Posts: 64
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2011, 08:58:44 pm »
Books, music, movies.....Personally, I dislike putting these things into genres, giving them labels.

I forget where it came from, but I stumbled across something that sticks with me...someone said something to the effect of....Back in the day music wasn't broken up into types and genres.  Radio stations didn't play on certain types of music, they play what people wanted to hear.  It was better then.  Music was just music.

I don't like labeling my tastes.  Books, music, movies....I just have two categories - Interests me & Doesn't Interest Me (I Like & I Don't Like)

Whether a book is written is simple sentences, with small words, or in twisting convoluted sentences, with full of words that I need to keep checking in the dictionary to understand.....all that matters is - does it hold my interest or not?  Predictable plot, or complicated twists and turns?  Doesn't matter if the story and characters are interesting.  Especially the characters.  Good characters can make up for a simple or dull plot.

Labels are bad.  As others have said, it just comes down to the individual reader.  What the reader likes and dislikes.  If you like it, then great!  Maybe suggest if you have reason to think someone else would like it.  If you don't like, then just forget about it.  Don't dis the book, or ban it, or try to change it....you have no right.  As a reader, you only have temporary guest privileges to books....they belong to the author the people who enjoy them.
Proud member of the Maulers Union Local #182.

Allannah

  • writers
  • Mechanic
  • ****
  • Posts: 145
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2011, 12:59:35 pm »
Oh, I so agree!!!!

My middle daughter on the other hand - you know, the 17 year old opionated one? - has a different way of measuring whether something is "good" or "bad" - mostly bad, in her not so HO.  One of her measurements is how sexist (in her opinion) the story is, whether it is a movie or a book.  To her, sexual stereotyping is as bad as labeling.  She postively hated the movie "Roxanne", which I have always found to be fairly charming - but she can't stand the passive, can you believe I'm a scientist and therefore supposedly intelligent character (her opinion) that Daryyl Hannah played.  That this movie is based on a classic story (Cyrano de Bergerac) does not apply, nor that it was filmed in the 80's.  It needs to be  relevant and applicable to today's/her standards to be of any worth.  She hates reading Shakespeare - why?  Because his female characters are weak, vapid and unappealing.  Hated that he made Lady McBeth go crazy when she was just getting interesting, that kind of thing.  And Ophelia?  She'd have pushed her in the river herself! 

We "joke" that there isn't a Romantic Comedy that she could enjoy, becuase she doesn't like ANY of them, which makes her furious with us.  True, there really aren't many that meet her criteria, but she isn't against the genre itself, just how weak and stereotyped the plots and characters are.  At heart, we believe her to be a bit of a romantic - if you could bypass tht self-righteous, over logical, opinionated part of her!

Why do I bring her up under this topic?  Because she's the type of person to "pooh pooh" anyone else's choice in literature or movies if it doesn't meet her standards, and it's people like that that who end up applying the very labels that at this point in her life she claims to hate.  Because she's right, and everyone else better toe the line or they're idiots. 

And yes, she can really be quite charming too ........ just a wee bit difficult to live with sometimes ...  :)

ironkitten

  • Mechanic
  • ****
  • Posts: 229
  • it all started with chocolate! - Mercy
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2011, 11:40:02 am »
Well, I have to put in my two cents:

I consider a child's book an easy read. If it's literature I start thinking Shakspear and I have a teenager whol loves those kinds of books and books on the military. I have a friend who loves history books, but I hate them with a passion. If the book doesn't hold my attention then I don't like it and move on. Some of my reads like Bill stated - a typography book, is interesting to me, the manuel on a boeing 737 - not so much. I like some Shakespear and I like some of the classics. In high school we read one of three books: To kill a mocking bird, Where the red fern grows and great expectations. I can tell you To kill a mocking bird wasn't bad, but I have yet or desire to read the other two.
Again I think it depends on what you feel like reading and it's hard to classify an easy read vs higher literature. I also think you need to keep in mind the time period for which it was written as well and I think different people get different things from reading books. I have troubles with Algebra and I never understood it, but I ran into an 8th grade teacher who was able to finally get me to "understand it" and I am 36 - so I can tell you I have fail Algebra all through high school and twice in college before I got it. So I think that statement falls to individuals and not as a generalization because then you would have to try and set - up parameters, for which I hate doing to in the first place.
Qualified hairdresser now - watch out here I come and I have scissors & hair dye!

DandelionWine

  • Mechanic
  • ****
  • Posts: 235
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2011, 12:53:27 pm »
Gotta agree with a lot that Patti L. said, I may enjoy some authors that are often considered to write 'literature' but others are not my cup of tea... Hemingway comes to mind, I actually like him not everyone does.  Also it's a mood thing what I enjoy, at times I love a good 'bodice ripper', other times I think they're totally vapid and want nothing to do with them. 

I sort of feel that a lot of things that traditionally are looked at as literature ...are.  They're good to learn from.  They're interesting to study formally, but not always fun. 

Allannah, your daughter should enjoy Mercy then!  ...well, some people mistake her adaptability for weakness, but age tends to modify that opinion.  8)
Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye - and deny it

Gerd D.

  • Auto-Zauberer
  • *****
  • Posts: 588
  • "Bunnies! It might be bunnies!"
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2011, 06:19:54 am »
Totally agree, Bill, the way in which the school system forces some classics down our throat is doing a huge disservice to these works and their writers.
Literature should be approached by every one at his own leisure.

Now, easy reads, naturally we are looking here at books that use a simpler language and/or represent the world in a simpler view than "literature" does which should open our minds to a more complex understanding of the mechanics of the world and/or society we live in, or at the very least make a better use of language than just to transport the story.
So in a wider sense we talk less taxing works, like, childrens and young adult books, romance novels, pulp stories, and so on, and imply by that, that "real literature" has to hold a deeper meaning, a message not easily uncovered (which sure must be missing to a work that is easily accessible for every one 9)).
It's the old prejudice at work here that gets indoctrinated into us by our schoolsystem which tells us that if something is entertaining then it can't be of much use.
“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

Terry Pratchett, "Hogfather"

Patti L.

  • Administrator
  • Hostess of Hurog
  • *
  • Posts: 12632
  • Not PattY Briggs. Keeper of the fluffy vortex.
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/10/mind-meld-holding-out-for-a-hero/

In The Pride of Chanur, the sheer pace of the action makes Pyanfar a heroine making vital decisions on the edge of the knife – there is no leisure for introspection here.

Among other things.
It's a leap year. Sanity is in short supply.  You can't have mine.

Penny_Whistler

  • Tool Wrangler
  • *
  • Posts: 16
  • "Just whistle a happy tune"> Orley's happy bird
Any book may be an "easy read", depending upon the reader.  My aunt started me on "Junior Delux  Editions" at around the age  of 10, and I thrived on Tom Sawyer, Huck Fin, Ivanhoe, Robin Good, The Black Arrow, Uriah Heep,Iron Men, and Many another classic.  I finished most volumes within a day or two of receiving them, and visited the library frequently between shipments.  Somewhere in there I started reading westerns, historicals(Shellabarger et al) some Shakespeare, Cooper's mohicans, and Asimov, Heinlein, E. E. (Doc) Smith, Georgette Heyer, as you can see, a voracious reader.  Most were easy reading for me, but I have cousins who are hard pressed to read most of a book within a year...so How do you define an "easy read"?  I find some books hard to read as I reach the low point in my monthly financial flow, when I am reduced to the free reads at the various book sites... :-'

BillG

  • Senior Pack Member
  • **
  • Posts: 2000
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2012, 02:55:26 am »
Well, here's about a cent-and-a-half more.
Writing just for filthy lucre? Welladay! But Dickens' work is verbose because he was getting paid by volume.
Someone else' opinion? Yeah, right. (And note that in this case a double positive means a negative.)
I love Patricia Wrede's novel "Talking To Dragons". In a now closed NYC store called The Science Fiction Shop they had it in a stand labeled For Children and then it said Or For Discriminating Adults.
Gadzooks, but I'm tempted to run on and on. So let me close by saying that I read what I like. Genre labels and th opinion of others are not factors.
"Carpe Diem" is excellent advice, as well as a nice read.
"Change is the end result of all true learning."
Leo Buscaglia

Jabulani

  • Mechanic
  • ****
  • Posts: 128
  • Life is waaayyy too short to be grumpy...
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2012, 08:42:39 am »
If we're talking about fiction only, I really do not care HOW easy-to-read a book is. The purpose of fiction is to engage & entertain. As long as a book does that, it is a good book in my eyes.

I mean, let's take the Harry Potter books as examples...NONE of the early ones were outstanding examples of literary skill or technical perfection, yet most people would consider them among the 'greats' of contemporary literature. In fact, most adults I know are quite willing to acknowledge that they had in fact read & enjoyed the series - which is something new, with regard to books written expressly for 10-13 year-old readers.

Something else I meant to say is this, namely that one can find a deeper meaning or symbolism in just about any trope or storyline, no matter how easy-to-read a particular book might be. Of course, the difficulty is in deciding upon exactly WHICH meaning or symbol a specific trope/storyline was meant to convey...since no two readers will ever walk away with identical interpretations, hmm.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2012, 08:46:51 am by Jabulani »
I'd rather enjoy life...besides, it costs nothing to smile!!!

BillG

  • Senior Pack Member
  • **
  • Posts: 2000
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2012, 03:14:23 am »
Well said, Jabulani.
And regarding two different people getting at least two different meanings Asimov once wrote about attending a class where the professor analyzed one of his stories.
Afterwards, he told the professor that the story was not meant to convey the meaning he had told the class about.
So the prof. asked him what he thought he knew about it.
"Well, I wrote it." And got the response "So why does that make you think you know anything about it?"
"Change is the end result of all true learning."
Leo Buscaglia

Patti L.

  • Administrator
  • Hostess of Hurog
  • *
  • Posts: 12632
  • Not PattY Briggs. Keeper of the fluffy vortex.
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2012, 06:57:24 am »
I've actually seen a fictionalized version of that.  There's a Rodney Dangerfield movie, title escapes me at the moment, where his character enrolls in college with his son, and he hires Kurt Vonnegut to go over one of his books with him for a class, and the teacher doesn't give him a very good grade, saying he should have picked a better tutor.
It's a leap year. Sanity is in short supply.  You can't have mine.

Jabulani

  • Mechanic
  • ****
  • Posts: 128
  • Life is waaayyy too short to be grumpy...
Re: A book that is an "easy read" is a lower form of literature. Discuss here.
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2012, 02:31:31 am »
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Now that is funny...
I'd rather enjoy life...besides, it costs nothing to smile!!!

Patti L.

  • Administrator
  • Hostess of Hurog
  • *
  • Posts: 12632
  • Not PattY Briggs. Keeper of the fluffy vortex.
Thought I'd bump this up a bit with some thoughts on how we can draw parallels between written "literature" or "easy reads" against modern/nuanced movie/TV performances and adaptations of various stories versus the productions of twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy years ago.

My classic example of this is perhaps the slapstick humor of The Three Stooges versus what Jim Carey does.
The stooges were fairly blatantly mean, stupid, abusive.
It was still funny, even uproarious at times. 

You put a kid who grew up on Jim Carey's "The Mask", "Ace Ventura", "Liar, Liar", etc. down in front of the Stooges for the first time and they'll be bored and dismissive.

Why?
Because it's crude.  It's blatant.  It's obviously mean.

So why was it funny to the first few generations who saw it?

Because it's still funny.
It is the ancestor of what Jim Carey does.  He can be tall because he stands on the shoulders of those who came before.  Stooges, Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello. 

We -or our children/current generation - can still enjoy the ones who came earlier, if we stop to think about it in context.  Carey's not the comedic version of Literature, but no more are the teams I spoke of before.  They're just different generations of the same lessons, framed for the society in which they were read/watched.

Take a look at Jim Carey's movies - or Robin Williams', or most other comedic stars of more modern vintage - break it down, and they're still quite often based on being mean to other people, or selfish.

I don't have to read Dickens or Austen to get their lessons.  As Joseph Campbell has pointed out in "the Hero with 1,000 Faces", we re-tell the same stories with casts and settings that work for who we are now, to make them recognizable for those to whom the lessons are being taught.
It's a leap year. Sanity is in short supply.  You can't have mine.

Baum Diggity

  • Mechanic
  • ****
  • Posts: 189
Ooh, good Campbell reference!

I agree. I see all of these forms of expression - comedy, drama, etc. to not be stand-alone comparisons, but rather a continuous expression that builds off its predecessors. Epics wouldn't be what they are without the Homer. Fantasy wouldn't be what it is without Lewis or Tolkien. I don't know if it's fair to compare to and criticize, but perhaps more fair to draw parallels and comment upon expansion of the base narrative.
Zoologist. Artist. Athlete.

Patti L.

  • Administrator
  • Hostess of Hurog
  • *
  • Posts: 12632
  • Not PattY Briggs. Keeper of the fluffy vortex.
It's a leap year. Sanity is in short supply.  You can't have mine.

charmed

  • Tool Wrangler
  • *
  • Posts: 0
  • Book Addict & Proud
    • Bea's Book Nook
Interesting and the author makes some very good points.
Proud member of The Smuthound Gang & COMFIE. Esteemed member of the SOOGA. Always perfect. Sometimes breathing.

BillG

  • Senior Pack Member
  • **
  • Posts: 2000
Yes.
"Change is the end result of all true learning."
Leo Buscaglia