I like to read. I’ve always liked to read. When I was little I used to sit on the toilet reading the back of shampoo bottles and would sit glued to the back of a packet of Coco Pops while eating my breakfast. I read for lots of reasons, sometimes to escape, sometimes to be entertained, sometimes to learn something. It depends on how I feel at that particular time.
What I really hate though, is someone telling me what kind of book I should be reading, or someone judging me because of what I’m reading. Genre snobbery is like any kind of snobbery, it says more about the person displaying it than the person it’s directed at. It’s everywhere. You know the kind of person. The kind of person who claims that the first album they ever bought was the Beatles’ White Album on vinyl when we all know it was Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. (Mine was Neil from The Young Ones, singing ‘Hole in my Shoe’ on 12 inch. Deal with it.)
I don’t particularly like the way that writing is pigeon-holed into genres, it’s very limiting and very unrealistic. As a writer I like to write in lots of different genres. I’ve published erotica, horror, chick-lit and YA. The names themselves annoy me. Why does the ‘lit’ written by women have to be ‘chick’? It makes me feel like I’m in an episode of Mad Men but without the pointy bra and nicotine addiction. And Young Adult. That sounds patronising and feels like it should be accompanied by a pat on the head. I just want to write, without being limited by a label, my head doesn’t work that way.
But it’s mainly the prejudice that comes with these genres that makes me feel uncomfortable. To label one particular genre as being of a lower quality than another is just narrow minded. Take Chick Lit. It’s often described as badly written and shallow, demeaning to women and full of clichés. Quite pretty to look at but with no substance. I’ve read bad books in this genre, as I’ve read bad books in every genre, but to dismiss a whole genre of books based on just a few is really ignorant, and huge a shame because you might be missing something really good. I’ve read Chick Lit books that have shown real emotional insight, sentences that I have had to read over and over because they’ve summed something up so brilliantly I don’t want to forget them.
Books are great, there’s one for everyone, whatever mood you’re in. Why must we only read one kind? We don’t only eat one kind of food. We eat things that are good for us and things that are not so good for us and things that are downright bad for us, but at least with food there’s some kind of scientific formula that dictates what is good and bad. Writing isn’t a science, it’s very subjective. Who decides what is highbrow and what isn’t? Is there a rule somewhere that states that there should be a certain number of similes and difficult words?
Why should ‘easy to read’ automatically be dismissed as shallow and fluffy. Why must we work for the essence of a book. And while we’re at it, what exactly is wrong with a cliché? A cliché is a cliché for a reason, life is full of them. Life is full of humour too, often very dark humour. We find it in really bad situations, it’s human nature. It’s how we cope, it doesn’t take any of the meaning away from that situation.
But my main point is this, what’s it got to do with anyone else? In what way does it affect anybody else? If you don’t like a certain kind of book then here’s a tip, put it down and walk away. It’s horses for courses. You can take a horse to a chick lit book but you can’t make it buy it. (Other animal proverbs are available).
So read what you want to read. Write what you want to write, and actually, write what you want to read too. If you want to write a book about a zombie serial killer who gets dumped and falls in love with their boss and flies away on a spaceship and ends up in the middle ages, do it, do it now. It’s got to be better than the back of a packet of Coco Pops.