Books Magazine

Bookish Pet Peeve #9: Snobby Authors

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

I would imagine that all of us, whether we’ll admit it or not, have a snobby bone or two in our bodies.

I struggle with book snobbery at times. I’ve written about it in one of my previous pet peeves, and I’ll admit—when it comes to books light Twilight and such—I can be a snob. But I’m not proud of it.

My friend won’t drink beer with any sort of fruit or spice in it other than chocolate or coffee. I don’t get that. On other hand, I won’t drink his go-to beer of choice, PBR. I think it’s disgusting. Snobbery is everywhere and in almost every area of life.

To me, though, the absolute worst snobs are high-brow authors. Many of them are basically your condescending English professor—if he or she had actually written a novel or two and had a large platform/audience that follows them.

Take Joyce Carol Oates, for example. I’ll put her following tweet down as possibly the most condescending, pompous tweet about literature in Twitter’s short history.

Have to concede that I never read more than a chapter or two of "Mockingbird"–wonderful YA voice but Kafka & ambiguity intrigued me more.

— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) February 5, 2015

Give me a break.

Don’t think I’m picking on Joyce for one tweet. She has a long history of verbal diarrhea on Twitter.

But let’s examine her tweet a little more in-depth.

 “I’ve never read more than a chapter or two of “Mockingbird””

This is fantastic. Oates chooses to tell her 116,000 Twitter followers—many of whom certainly like Mockingbird, as it’s one of the most universally loved novels on the planet—that she’s only read a “chapter or two” of this classic novel.

Translation: “Your favorite novel is uninteresting.”

Essentially, Joyce Carol Oates is your annoying friend who always hates everything you like.

“Ugh, you liked American Sniper? I walked out of the theater after 10 minutes?”

“Ugh, you eat at Subway? I went there once but when I learned their chicken isn’t free-range I quit going.”

“Ugh, I can’t believe you listen to Mumford and Sons. They are SOOOO 2011.”

More from Joyce:

“Wonderful YA voice but Kafka and ambiguity intrigued me more.”

I love this. Who said To Kill A Mockingbird is YA (Young Adult)?

It’s not. That’s another insult. Because what Joyce is saying here is that Young Adult books are somehow lesser. It’s a backhanded compliment. “You’re a wonderful real estate agent in your little town, but you could never sell property in the big city like me.”

And even if Mockingbird was YA, how would she know it’s a “wonderful” voice because she’s only read a “chapter or two.” Can you make any substantial judgment on a novel by simply reading a chapter? Well, maybe, but the chapter would one large chapter.

And what of Kafka?

Now we’re somehow comparing Harper Lee to Franz Kafka? Um, WTF, Joyce Carol Oates?

That’s so strange. That’s like saying, “Star Wars is wonderful 1970s and 80s science fiction, but I’ve always been more intrigued by Elf and ambiguity”

So why would Joyce Carol Oates send a tweet like this?

To basically stick up her nose and let the masses know how much their (our) taste in literature sucks.

“You keep reading your cute little young adult Harper Lee books,” Joyce is essentially saying. “Meanwhile, I’ll be over here reading more important literature that you’ve probably never heard of.”

Maybe she isn’t a literature snob. Maybe she’s actually a literature hipster?

Am I off base here? Am I reading too much into Joyce Carol Oates’ seemingly neverending snobbery?

Previous Bookish Pet Peeves

#8: Preachy Authors

#7: Buying Books I Don’t Read

#6: Speed Reading

#5: The Book Borrower

#4: The One Upper

#3: The Book Snob

#2: The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

#1: Bookstore Cellphone Blabbermouth


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