Monday, September 12, 2011

Embrace the Awesome—Don't Be A Lit Bitch

by Mindy McGinnis

Confession time—I'm kinda a lit bitch.

You know the type—the ones that like to carry around obscure authors in trade paperback and read them in really public places. Yeah ... that's kinda me. Or at least, it used to be. I had a breakthrough session with my sister a few years ago, when I was a post-college grad with two shiny degrees in English Literature and Religion, reading Euripides in the backroom at Hallmark on my lunch break. (Sidenote: Yes, BBC worked at a Hallmark. No, we're not going to talk about it.) Meanwhile, big sis is clocking in as the chair of the English department at a rural school, and rollicking around in the YA market that is about to explode.

BBC'S Sister: You really should read this Harry Potter book sometime. It's pretty good.

BBC: Yeah, that's what I hear.

BBC'S Sister: No really. It's good.

BBC: Right, okay.

BBC's Sister: Stop blowing me off. You might actually like it.

BBC: Sorry, I've got some big person books to read.

BBC's Sister: You're just being pissy because it's super popular and you don't want to look like you've bought in to it.

BBC: You're just being pissy because I like to read books with words like "transubstantiation" and you don't know what that means.

Well, if any of you have sisters then you know that the conversation totally degenerated from there. For the record, I did not wizen to the awesome until ORDER OF THE PHOENIX was released, at which time I sullenly asked to borrow the series from big sis. We made a summer deal—she gave the smoldery hot and intelligent OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon a shot, and I gave JK Rowling the time of day.

Uh, yeah. We spent the summer sprawled on beach towels untangling tiny plot details and discussing these amazingly talented authors whose backstory weaving is remarkable. We also both ate a lot of crow, but that's besides the point.

My next lesson. Lit Bitch status aside, the OUTLANDER series has had my heart since word one. Whenever anyone (adult) asks me for a book recommendation the conversation goes like this:

BBC: Alright, I'm going to talk to you about an awesome series, but you have to get past the first phrase out of my mouth without losing interest or mocking me.

Friend: Okay.

BBC: It's a time travel romance—

Friend: *eyes glaze over, nods politely* Okay

BBC: No seriously. Here, just take it. You have to promise me to read past page fifty before giving up.

Friend: Yeah sure. I'll give it a try. *gives it dubious glance, tucks it away into purse*


Friend: Hey, I'm bringing this back to you.

BBC: C'mon now—did you read past page fifty like you promised?

Friend: Er ... uh ... I'm done. *blushes* Can I get the sequel?

It's also true that the magic isn't always there for everyone. I haven't found a vampire attractive since Gary Oldman played one, but I'm old school like that. The point is—don't be a snotty snot face when it comes to your reading material, like I did. You might miss out on some awesome.

And the same goes for your writing. Are you cracking away at a piece of historical fiction that will need appendices, but there's an erotic paranormal romance lurking somewhere in your gray matter?

Hey, that's what pen names are for ;)


Christopher Hudson said...

Many musicians dismiss Elvis because of he was pop-culture phenomenon/lunatic and much of his material was so sappy ... but the guy could sing. It's tempting to pass on art that is readily accepted by the public, but sometimes it's still good.
Okay, I'll bite ... BBC?

Mindy McGinnis said...

Very good point Christopher - just b/c it's highly popular does not devalue the worth!

Oh man, I just realized the possible confusion. This is a repost from my personal blog where I go by BBC - a shortening of my handle from AgentQueryConnect - bigblackcat97.

I'm still me :)

julie fedderson said...

I hop through all genres, and some of my favorite stuff comes off the shelf at *shudder* Wal-mart. I think you can be a friend to all literature. I always liked those kind of people in high school--the ones that could hang with the brains and the jocks and not change at all.

Matt Sinclair said...

I sometimes fear I'm a literary snob, so I understand where this post comes from. As a lifelong Star Trek fan, science fiction and fantasy have never bothered me, though I have on occasion been slightly embarassed to read broadly commercial fiction. In general, I've gotten over that. Ever since college, my writing has tended toward literary fiction, but there are fun stories of goofiness I really look forward to writing.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Julie - yes, I try very hard not to judge a book by a cover, or a person by the cover of the book they're reading :)

Matt - I hit a lit snob phase sooooo hard post=college. I couldn't read a book if it didn't have a five syllable word in the first two pages. Commerical fiction has its moments. It also has its not-moments, but you learn to weed those out :)

Calista Taylor said...

I tend to read & write romances and mysteries, so it's hard for me to be a literary snob with a half naked man on the cover of the book I'm holding. And absolutely LOVE the Outlander series. It' really influenced my writing. Great post!

Jemi Fraser said...

My favourite line --- Don't be a snotty snot face! Love it :)

I love all kinds of books and read pretty widely. I've faced a lot of snobbery, snide remarks and raised eyebrows from other folks depending on what book is in my hand. I tend to respond by asking them what they read - and they're often a little thrown when I've read in their favourite genre too and can discuss it with them. :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Cali- I'm often amused at the "new" covers for the Outlander series. The original covers were very romance-y, not quite a naked man, but definitely fantasy/romance with kilts spread (invitingly) on the grass, jewelry, winegoblets and the like scattered about. Now, they're solid color covers with Celtic symbols... slightly more cerebral.

Jemi - Oh yeah, fight fire with fire. And what do you read? Oedipus. That explains a lot.... :)

efjace said...

I have to admit I tend to pass off most books with anything displaying abs, split-skirts or long, luxurious hair as "crappy romance novel". I've probably missed out on a lot of amazing romance novels that'd sweep me off my feet. Buuut, I didn't want to be that woman on the train, nose buried in a book with a half naked man on a cover, possibly reading a steamy smut scene.

I wish you would have posted this a few hours ago! I was just at Hastings, I would've checked out this Outlander series. Now I've gotta wait till Friday. :(

Calista Taylor said...

Mindy, I must have missed those original covers! Damn! I'll have to go find them. lol.

Mindy McGinnis said...

EF - Sometimes you're going to hate yourself for it, but every now and then you've got to indulge your brain in a nice little "brain candy" read. Just pick your flavor - romance, chick lit, snarky, a book about a talking dog... whatever! And ohhhh my - you simply must read OUTLANDER.

Cali - Oh, I've got you covered - here's an example for the 4th book in the series, DRUMS of AUTUMN:

Melodie Wright said...

Oh, I'm such a former litbitch...then I decided I didn't care who judged me for my reading choices and pleased wait...that sounds wrong. *ahem* I read what interests me - it's rarely a Pulitzer-winner - and am sooo much happier.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Melodie - Thanks for commenting! Definitely - some books are for the brain, and some books are... er, not :) Here's to both!

Kathryn Elliott said...

Sisters, huh? Can’t live with em’, can’t kill em’ cause it will tick off Mom. Luckily my sister and I share a love of ridiculously-inappropriate-for our-age-group fiction, and filthy smut. Great post!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Kathryn -thanks for blog-hopping with me! Yes, sisters are something else. She says potato, I say why the hell are you saying that?