Geoffrey Long
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Well, I used to respect Harold Bloom.

So I'm taking a break from the workload, and I found A Literary Award for Stephen King in The New York Times to be a pretty disheartening article. Especially this nonsense from Yale literature god Harold Bloom:

Told of Mr. King's selection, some in the literary world responded with laughter and dismay. "He is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls," said Harold Bloom, the Yale professor, critic and self-appointed custodian of the literary canon. "That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy."

And that right there, folks, is why literature is dying: that arrogant, elitist attitude. It shouldn't be surprising that this is the same attitude behind all the damners of the Harry Potter franchise. Basically, if something isn't Chandler, Cheever, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc., it's not worth reading, and everything else is trash. I'd rather be a popular author any day of the week than a pompous, asinine stuffed shirt like this.

Of course, you watch: if I ever actually produce a popular novel or movie or whatever, the Kenyon alumni bulletin will turn up its little nose and sniff just like Mr. Bloom. What rot.


Mmmmmm... I agree and disagree somewhat. I agree with your statement about literary snobbery, but I also kinda agree with Mr. Bloom... I've read a good deal of Stephen King, and the only one I'd give an award to was the Stand. It's not that he doesn't deserve it for writing popular fiction, it's just that maybe somebody else deserves it more...

Of course, I like to read science fiction, and there ain't a lot of them writers gettin' awards at all... I mean, honestly, science fiction as the vehicle for imaginative, thoughtful, passionate writing that challenges the very belief systems of its readers?? Nonsense!

(and no, i'm not talking about scientology!)

Well, according to the article, "the foundation's board chooses the winner of the medal for a distinguished contribution to American letters, a kind of literary lifetime achievement award." It's hard to argue with the notion that King has had a remarkable impact on the culture. I mean, how many people have read his stuff compared to the other winners, like Susan Sontag? Better yet, how many other creative people will be able to say that they read his stuff during their formative years, or saw the movies, or have in some way, shape or form been influenced by his stuff?

I'd argue that very few recent authors have wielded as broad an influence over our culture as King. Even authors like Rowling and Grisham haven't had as big an impact as he has (although, yeah, give the Pottermaniacs time, since she's only been on the scene for like a decade).

What it comes down to for me is this: at the end of the day, how many people can honestly say they know who this guy is? How many people can claim him as an influence? How many people have seen a movie based on his stuff or read his work? To have the "literary" community claim that even someone like Harold Bloom has had a bigger impact on the letters scene requires that they lop off the entirety of the popular, everyday market -- which, when coupled with their constant bemoaning of the decline of reading in general, is the height of hypocrisy.

These guys should just concede that "general" fiction (like Updike, Hemingway, etc.) is just another genre, as equally valid as sci-fi, horror or romance, and lay off their pompous posturing. At the end of the day, every author decides what kinds of stories they want to tell, just like every reader decides what they want to read. And these bozos declaring one choice to be more valid than another is malarkey -- especially when Shakespeare's plays were entertainment.

I don't know why I allow myself to get all worked up about this. It's an unchageable situation, really, and will remain so until Harvard, Yale and Oxford start hiring people like Grisham, King and Rowling to teach their literature classes. (Man, how cool would it be to take creative writing from those guys!?)

Geoff, if people don't get worked up about a situation it doesn't usually change. The arguments about what makes a story "literary" are so contrived and idiotic that I want to scream.

I look at some of my friends who scoff at Stephen King or Neal Gaiman or any of the other "fantasy" writers and yet stumble through yet another dry, dusty and boring book because that's what they're told is on the literary edge. The result? They read less for pleasure. They would rather be seen enduring the right book than enjoying the wrong one.

Stephen King has talent. Anyone who denies this (in my opinion) has got to be just a little blind. He's written some real lemons, but so did Shakespeare and every other writer I've seen. Not every work can be genius. He has done a lot to make reading interesting and terrifying and ultimately enjoyable.

What good is literature if no one appreciates it? Popular literature does more to feed the imagination of the masses than anything written by Faulkner. Why? Because your average Jane or Joe doesn't just get a fancy to pick up Faulkner to read on the bus. Most people just don't care about the "Great Novels." Some of those novels aren't even that great in the first place, it's just that the right people gave them acclaim.

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