Monday, August 29

Confessions of a Book Snob

Something has been pestering me for a while now. It’s been gnawing at me from the inside. Everyday it haunts me and festers in my brain. It will probably be the death of me.

Okay, so I like to exaggerate. But right now I have a huge confession to make. Something that is so scandalous that it would probably earn me tons of brickbats too heavy to carry on my proud shoulders.

It’s time to come clean. I confess. I’m a book snob. Hear my story, and then if you feel I still deserve daggers in my back, be my guest.

Ever since I was an impressionable 9-year-old, I have had this idea that reading books is the best thing to do, ever. However, I would never have been caught dead reading a romance novel. Well at that time, I was only 9 right, so it was okay. I was still reading Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven, Find Find-Outers, Noddy, Amelia Jane, Mr. Meddle, Naughtiest Girl in School, Faraway Stories, Wishing Chair… oh, the whole works. Then I read her St Claire boarding school series.

At the same time, I also read some other stories with those puppy-love crushes and all that. It didn’t bother me at that point. Some of my friends read the Sweet Dreams series when we were about 11. My school was very strict with Sweet Dreams books (and with lots of other matters as well). Good ol’ BBGS, the school with the strictest rules around. We weren’t allowed to bring these books to school. They were considered contraband. Of course we found ways to flout the rules and smuggled these items in anyway.

However my progress reading romance novels was interrupted. I mean, I still read Sweet Dreams and the new Nancy Drew series, but that was it. When others moved on to ‘heavier’ romance novels like Mills and Boones’, I stayed behind. I shunned all books that hinted at any ‘romance’ whatsoever. I asked my friends what was so great about the books, but their answers weren’t good enough for me to want to read those books. So I just avoided them altogether. For the longest time, I turned up my noses at ‘those kinds of books’. It didn’t help that once we were in Form 1, we were told to read books like ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and other ‘serious’ books.

Whether it was my own conscious doing or not, I had somehow been brainwashed to think that some books were just fluff, and reading them meant you didn’t have much substance. Or you were just too dumb to read ‘proper’ books. All the way through my secondary school years up till I graduated I can honestly say that I’d only read one Barbara Cartland and one Virginia Andrews, both of which I didn’t like. I had to read Cartland for a class where we were all coerced to read one book each from Cartland, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie and Ernest Hemingway. That was it. It only strengthened my resolve to never read those frivolous novels.

Every time I go to the bookstore, I would pass the romance novel aisles and walk by with my eyes elsewhere. I had become embarrassed to even be caught reading the titles or browsing in the aisles of these novels. That’s right, I avoided books by all romance authors. Not only that, I also avoided Virginia Andrews, Sydney Sheldon, and many others. I felt that they had nothing to offer. It was better to read the ones that were classics, or ones that were award winners. Think about it, I literally judged a book by its cover!

All that changed, more so after I got married. My husband called me a snob. Whenever his sisters asked me whether I’d read so-and-so, he would reply that I didn’t read ‘those kinds of books’. “Those aren’t her books. She reads Shakespeare and classic heavy literature”. For the record, I don’t read “classic heavy literature”. In my defense, I try to read as widely as possible. I have read Patricia Cornwell, Tolkien, John Grisham, Anne Rice, and many others, including works by Austen, Chaucer, Samuel Beckett, John Donne, Sylvia Plath, Keats, Yeats, Wordsworth and yes, Shakespeare for classes. But then again, it doesn’t mean that I enjoyed them all.

Being called a snob was such a terrible accusation. And what made it worse was that there was some truth in his statements. So to expand my horizons more, and to rid me of my prejudices, the best thing for me to do is of course to start reading those books that I have so long avoided. So if you can see in the list of books that I’ve read this year, names such as Andrews and Kinsella, Garwood and Mcnaught have made their presence. Thanks to my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, I now have a selection of ‘new’ books that are just waiting for me to devour them.

Now that you’ve heard my side of the story, feel free to hurl rotten tomatoes. On the other hand, advice on what other authors to read is also welcomed. Help me. Let me be a snob no more.

3 comments:

The Great Swifty said...

Hm. Depends what kinda book are you looking for.

boo_licious said...

I like to indulge in some of those brainless fluff once in a while!

Think you should just try all kinds of books then you know what you like.

xig said...

It's ok, muddy, no rotten tomatoes for u. If u think u r a book snob, I must be the super snob. After schooldays, I used to NEVER read any fiction, which I branded fluff. I only read auto and/or biographies or book commentaries on world events. Then I found Irving Wallace. Even though fiction, his novels were tinged with credible, real-life intrigues, which somewhat rendered them "less fluff". After that, I found myself reading more and more of the "fluff". I even bought Colleen McCollough's 'The Thornbirds'. I finally realised they were much easier reads than Edgar Allen Poe. Now I'm part of the reading hoi polloi. LOL.