“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain.” ~Donna Tartt
Sorry for the clickbait-y headline, but we need to talk. I will digress before I get to the point, but, please, stay with me. Thanks.
I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s a review of mine wherein I call someone a big ol’ dummy-head for digging a book that has sub-standard literary merit: like a James Patterson fan, or, Tom Cruise forbid, a member of Stephanie Meyer’s rabid fanbase. I don’t think there is, but I’ve been reviewing for a long time and I’m bound to have said something stupid in one of my posts. The point I’m trying to make is this.
I strive to constantly educate myself. I take pride in learning something new every day. I have been an asshat in the past. In certain sectors, I am still an uneducated asshat. But I always take pride in admitting when I’m wrong. So if you find an old review from the year 2000 B.E.E.S.( Before E.’s Education Spike) that says “You’re dumb if you like this book”, please know that the dumbass who wrote that post no longer lives here. Again, I don’t think a review like that exists, but it might. Apologies if you find one.
I said all that to say this. I’ve come to the theory that there are no stupid fiction readers. Settle down, Cynical Internet Rage Machine, I’m about to explain.
Fiction, by definition, isn’t real. Everything going on within a work of fiction can be subjective. You shouldn’t expect facts in a work of fiction. You can expect a certain level of accuracy in historical fiction and hard science fiction, but even there, you have to understand that you are reading fiction. Meaning, you should not take anything in a work of fiction as fact. Even fictional novels about real people should be taken with a grain of salt. So if a reader enjoys a book of sub-standard literary merit, they are not automatically stupid. Likewise, if they do not understand/enjoy a book that has been awarded the coveted “Smarty-Pants Book of the Month”, they’re not automatically stupid. Could they be an idiot? Most definitely. But you should not judge them on their reading preferences. And here’s why.
The quote at the beginning of this article is from Donna Tartt; someone who can be a bit polarizing due to writing like a modern-day Dickens. Flowing prose, a billion pieces of punctuation laying about like mines in a Serbian playground, verbose descriptions of mundane things, and so on. I’ve only read one of her novels – The Little Friend – and I was not entertained. Even so, she’s correct. The first job of any novelist is to entertain their reader. I will always believe that.
You can choose to write literary fiction the likes of which Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace writes/wrote (respectively), but you risk alienating some of your readers: those readers who are only there to be entertained. Likewise, you can choose to write simple Cat-in-the-Hat style prose with the intent of being accessible to everyone but the illiterate: James Patterson, Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, the list goes on.
Fiction is an escape from reality. If an author allows someone, just one person, that escape, they have done their job. If a book is so very smart that only one person (outside of the author) understands its message, the author has done their job. Meaning, the information is there, it’s simply not accessible to every reader. If a book is so very easy that everyone can read it but is shitpanned by every literary-minded reader who stumbles across it (I hate to say this but it’s true…), the author has still done their job.
Because reading is subjective. And if the fiction you consume allows you an escape from this toilet-bowl of a world, I can’t hate on you. If I have in the past, this is my apology to you. I’m sorry.
Read whatever the fuck you want. And…
“If you find something you love, pimp the shit outta it.” ~Paul Elard Cooley
Take care of each other,