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Lost in The Wood -- Leonard and Ann Marie Wilson

The Books We Love to Hate--or Something

So I've noticed a thing since I started joining reading groups: Even the most beloved books have a lot people who hate them passionately.

When someone comes out and declares a book I consider sociopathic rubbish to be a masterpiece, it's hard not to think of it as a personal attack.

When someone comes out and declares a book I love to be trash, it's hard not to take it as a personal attack.

And--clearly--from the patterns in the conversational threads, that's just a basic human reaction.

It puts me in mind of my college days and all the snobbery I had to endure from the gatekeepers of literature who were determined that they knew what constituted true "art".

And you know what their definitions of art never involved? They never involved either fantasy or science fiction. Never, that is, unless it was fantasy or science fiction that had gotten slipped into an anthology that some supposed higher authority had declared contained only great art. Then it was fabulous. It was "in".

My point and my take-away are this: Literature is art, and no art is inherently great except that thinking makes it so.

Even sales figures are an arbitrary measure of greatness because so much of sales is about who you know, what budget you have, marketing savvy that has zero to do with the art itself, and plain dumb luck.

If not for the efforts of just two of Shakespeare's friends a few years after his death, his plays would have disappeared into oblivion and we never would have heard of him.

Given all that, as far as I'm concerned, it really doesn't help anything to proclaim a book is wonderful or awful outside of a purely technical sense.

Instead I'm going to try to start saying I had a great (or not-so-great) personal experience with it.

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