Let’s Talk – Gatekeeping
A friend sent me to this reddit thread where the original poster (OP) asked:
I love reading, both for the entertainment and since I know it’s way better for me than scrolling mindlessly. Recently I’ve been loving and absolutely devouring Freida McFadden’s books, but I felt a bit disheartened when I heard several online reviewers describe her books as “popcorn thrillers”. Does this mean that my brain isn’t really getting the benefits that it would get from Jane Austen books? Is it the book-equivalent of scrolling mindlessly?
I appreciate the person who said something about ‘gatekeeping bullshit’. That gatekeeping is what I want to talk about.
Do not feel you need to read something because it’s considered a classic or canon. I’m getting my MA in English and I have not read some of this stuff. Reading Jane Austen or Shakespeare or Charles Dickens doesn’t make you any better than someone who reads Stephan King, Neil Gaiman, or Martha Wells.
The reason something is considered ‘canon’ is because it has timeless stories that address the human condition and will always be relevant. Whoever decided this, probably the likes of someone like Harold Bloom (look him up), decided that we all need to read dead cisgender heterosexual white guys. When I seen Bloom added Ursula K Le Guinn to the canon I almost fell of my chair. A woman? Science fiction? Holy hell the world is ending.
Will you get something out of Shakespeare? Maybe. Depends on the play. I am a fan of Titus Andronicus because it’s a very over the top story of revenge set in the Roman Empire. It has allusions to Metamorphoses by Ovid that are important to the story. [English Major Mode] Metamorphoses is considered an urtext, or the original version of a text. Take for example Romeo and Juliet, it is the basis for West Side Story, Romeo Must Die, Warm Bodies, Shakespeare in Love, Gnomeo and Juliet, and at least 100 other things.[/English Major Mode] Maybe it will inspire someone to read Ovid. Maybe not.
The Tempest will do nothing but annoy you, at least in my experience, because of the unrealistic love story, ableism, racism, and Prospero being a manipulative piece of shit. The book should also be banned because of the use of alcohol and whatever obsession Prospero has with his teenage daughters virginity. I mean, he mentions it more than once. That’s sarcasm, by the way. No one should be banning books. Yes, I know, Will was a product of his time and all, but that doesn’t excuse the love story. I’m not letting that go. Ever. That aside, The Tempest was commentary on colonization.
Will you get something out of reading a more contemporary book like The City We Became and The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin? Yes. It’s about different people from different walks of life coming together in the face of adversity. It encourages us to examine racism. I picked these books because people like to shit on science fiction and fantasy for a number of things. Those that do this have never read sci-fi or fantasy. If they had, they would realize that it is always, especially in the case of sci-fi, commentary on society and it’s problems.
My point: Read what you want. Nothing is better than something else. Reading is reading. Here is a list of the 10 benefits of reading. Nowhere does it say you have to read one thing over the other. All you pretentious book snobs out there, get over yourself and pick up Dungeon Crawler Carl and read for no other reason than to have a good laugh.
This shit pisses me off:
If no one else will, I will give you those points. Seriously. I have had college professors tell us to use audiobooks. Audiobooks are amazing. I’ve just started using them and the narrators are amazing.
Anyone that bashes audiobooks needs punched for being ableist and for saying something stupid. There are blind people in the world. It’s easier to find an audiobook of Fairytale by Stephan King that it is something in braille. Is braille not “real” reading because the eyeballs aren’t being used, but the fingers? For the person with dyslexia, audiobooks are so much easier and many of these people like to listen to the audiobook while having the physical book in front of them to follow along. For the non-disabled, audiobooks allow someone to consume a book during a long commute, while stuck in traffic (seriously, visit the Metro DC area sometime, you’ll wish for your entire library on audio), or while drive semi cross country. I have a 90 minute commute to and from classes. That’s 3 hours a day that I could have used for study time. I used audiobooks to fill that time where I could use those 3 hours a day (12 hours a week) to do some other aspect of my homework.
We have created a society where you have to be doing something every minute or you are being lazy. An audiobook is often the only way someone can fit a book into their busy schedule. Maybe they miss having the time to sit down and read, and this is their solution. Quit being such a judgmental and pretentious ass. No one likes these people.
You still have to process an audiobook the same way you would a book. This isn’t “cheating” by watching the movie or TV adaptation. Why is it when we reach a certain magical age that it is no longer cool to be read to? We read to kids. Author readings are considered “cultural” and “academic” but audiobooks are looked down on because you don’t have a physical book in your face.
Seriously, If using audiobooks is not really reading, that shopping at Wal-Mart isn’t really shopping because you didn’t go to half a dozen stores to get everything you need.
Get over yourselves people and let people enjoy books how they enjoy books.
Science fiction, fantasy, and romance get so much hate and I have no idea why. As someone who reads everything that isn’t nailed down, one genre isn’t better than another. As a personal preference I do not enjoy westerns, and I don’t usually enjoy mysteries and certain kinds of thrillers. My favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. According to Storygraph, my reading stats by genre. I feel this is a bit misleading because there is a some overlap in genre. Some of these aren’t really a genre either, like ‘middle grade’. That’s not a genre. Neither is ‘video games’.
(You will have to click on the image to make it bigger.)
Proof I read everything. Hell, I would read Neil Gaiman’s grocery list. Yes, there are people that only read romance or fantasy, or non-fiction. People like what they like. Reading is a hobby that people do for fun. It’s their time to spend how they want, and if they want to spend it reading something ridiculous like Dungeon Crawler Carl over Jane Austen, it is their choice. No one has the right to dictate how others spend their free time.
Reading is reading. One genre isn’t any better than another. What one reads is a PREFERENCE. To be a “real” reader, whatever the hell that is, one doesn’t need to read only literary fiction. To be well read, if that is your goal. you need to read more than dead heterosexual cisgender white guys. If you are only reading one view point you are essentially in an echo chamber and not developing a larger world view, or as some would say, not getting anything out of reading.
No one likes a gatekeeper. Let people read what they want. If that is Shakespeare great. If it’s N. K. Jemisin great. If it’s romance, great. If it’s Indigenous African Speculative Fiction, great. If it’s popcorn thrillers, that’s great too. If it’s listening to audiobook, that is great too. Sometimes a person just needs a break and wants to read something fun that makes them laugh. Those type books – I’m looking at you, Dungeon Crawler Carl, are just as valid. It’s awesome to read them too.