Love books, hate pretension

Being an English Literature student, I know a thing or two about penises. Not in a literal sense – although in the Arts there is about 90% chance of that, too – but in the colloquial meaning of the word. We’re talking dicks, knobs, utter willies, phallic representations in homo-erectus form.

They exist on every course but in the world of books these are the people who preach the dogma of “classics” and “common”. Certain books make the cut, whilst many more are cast aside for lacking “literary merit”.

In a word it’s snobbery. For those of you outside the faculty you’ve perhaps been fortunate enough to avoid the worst offenders. These beings haunt coffee shops or the library. They lean nonchalantly against a pillar or railing, ruffling their hair, and can be overheard championing the meta-reflexive eschatology present in Milton’s _Paradise Lost_, or some such arse-sickeningly pretentious poncery.

Books are more than paper and ink to be enjoyed or mulled over – they are a way of life. “A way of fucking mind, body and soul, do you hear? I was reading Homer at the age of four, in Greek. I’m bloody Shakespeare trapped in the wrong century you philistine arsewipe stain on my all conquering majesty.”

Of course, before we all get carried away, it is perhaps worth noting that loving books is no bad thing. You’ve taken the time to read the Books section, so you’ll probably agree. And yes, some works are better than others. To argue otherwise would be fatuous. It’s just, why the snootiness? What makes certain books “classics” and others merely wastepaper to be picked over and ridiculed.

While no one would argue the Harry Potter books are technically better than anything by Joyce, should that, as the pampered literary buffs might have you believe, mean you have to make a choice between the two? Does one, in entering the “canon”, leave the other unreadable, as though written in gibberish? No, absolutely not. You can have both for goodness sake. If it evokes enjoyment on any level, it has earned its place on the shelf.

As the chronically over quoted George Orwell wrote in his essay, “Good Bad Books”, certain books might have “no literary pretensions” yet remain “readable when more serious productions have perished.” People just seem to look down upon popularity of this kind. The reasons are as obvious – jealousy, resentment, a desire to be different – as they are tiresome and petty.

After all, one way or another, by virtue of their popularity, these “good bad” books carry some form of literary merit. You can argue all you like but the numbers never lie. Meanwhile the more established works carry on their merry way confidently held in adoration by those “in the know”.

The point is that wherever you fall down within the spectrum, there is always more to enjoy than the minimum. You can have the _Sherlock Holmes_ stories and _Othello_, enjoy both Wordsworth and Dr. Seuss, recommend people read those books you buy in Tesco for a fiver which always have the same cover whilst still lending them your copy of _Catch-22_.

Good books can come from anywhere, they can be read by anyone, and may be deemed first-class without the need for rhyme or reason. Read everything and decide for yourself, by experience, rather than have people choose for you. Almost all will have some redeeming feature. Except the _Twilight_ series, don’t read those, they’re shit.

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