Sunday, October 24, 2010

[Twitter Talks] Guilty Reading Pleasues

As an early teen I had an impressive amount of time during the summer, because I usually spent it in our summer house far enough from the city to have no cable TV and computer, not to mention an Internet connection [not that at that time I had Internet at home either; I was introduced to that drug a lot later]. I had all that time and not much else to do, so I read and read and read.

At that time I knew I was into fantasy. I bought books with muscled men with swords and trademark bikini-clad women [Sword & Sorcery was my thing back then], the god-awful Pratchett covers and comically drawn monsters. I owned it. Chin up, embarrassing retro cover in hand and all that jazz.

That continued until I entered a specific hormonal summer and learned all about shame. I overdramatize a bit, it would have been a rather awkward situation for me had I needed to explain exactly why that book I was reading had a shirtless Fabio and a distraught young woman in his arms as cover art. So all the historical romances I bought [not that many to be honest] were wrapped up with newspapers and when completed, stacked in the lowest drawer in the house, where nobody looked for anything.

From then on I've lived through shorter periods of shame [when I entered the world of the comic book adventures and then paranormal romances]. Once you became self-conscious about what you read, I have to tell you it's hard not to feel a bit guilty whenever someone raises an eyebrow. Though personally I'm more annoyed that the person shuts down and plain refuses to hear why I enjoyed the books...

I turned to Twitter to seek what other people thought about guilty pleasures. I asked the following: Which is the book you feel most embarrassed about reading and why?

I got three detailed answers:

@kingrat says Mission Earth, because I was young and easily swayed by brightly colored covers. Also, Writers of the Future made me think he was legit.

@ShennandoahDiaz says probably Twilight, oh and Dr. Phil's book but I was recently "divorced" with a kid and claim temporary insanity!

Then there is @yagrrb who picked Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. The combination of incest and arsenic donuts is fascinatingly grotesque!

I have to add that Twilight does not surprise me as an entry. I knew it would be a must. It is the perfect guilty pleasure book [one which I would have to find a bunker to hide in, if I ever decided to read it].

Then the following answers all trend towards the romance [maybe the spicier kind]:

@readinasitting I reviewed a book earlier this year that I didn't want to take out in public. It was a bit suggestive!

@HiHighHigher Yikes, I have a whole 'Naughty' bookshelf in my closet, stuff I don't want my kids pulling off the bookshelf

It's funny really that people feel awkward to read about love [granted it's not very explicit like some books I have read]. Our culture celebrates love. From McDonald's I'm Lovin' It to 90% of modern mainstream music about relationships to almost 90% of all mainstream movies that simply have to insert a bit of a romance. Isn't it bizarre that the readers, who enjoy reading about love [the shared, the tragic, the forbidden, the passionate] feel as if they need to keep that them to themselves. But maybe it's the sexual undertones, which is also prudish considering that modern commercials are short softcore porn.

It's what the @booksmugglers say [though Ana is proud of whatever she reads]: Don't think so, dude I read and review romance remember? I am embarrassed by some of the covers but I own it. *grin*

Last but not least, I have an interesting opinion from @misskubelik, who is, of course, very right. She says:

I don't feel embarrassed about reading anything. Why would you? Librarians, writers, reviewers, etc. should tell ALL readers there's nothing embarrassing about ANYTHING they choose to read. From Goosebump books and comics all the way to James Patterson and romance novels. There's NOTHING embarrassing about reading, because, as a rule, we shouldn't be embarrassed about pleasure and leisure activities - and *that's* what reading should/can be.

The way I had planned this post was to gather people, who enjoyed a novel secretly. The sort of forbidden fruit, the rush of reading in secrecy the way little boys browse through their fathers' Playboys or girls browse through their mothers' wardrobes. A secret pleasure known only to you. Something innocent.

But after Angie's last comment, it has left me thinking WHY I'm guilty and WHY I allow something as fun as reading be invaded by guilt. Why do we say things like 'I wouldn't be caught dead reading that'? Is it because we are sure we will not like a book or because we know what the mass will think of us, if seen reading on a bench or in the bus or on the plane?

Thoughts anyone?

12 comments:

King Rat said...

I wouldn't have called Mission Earth a guilty pleasure! Just something I'm embarrassed to have read.

Harry Markov said...

You must have liked it at the time to have finished it or do you always finish what you start?

Mieneke said...

I think a lot of it is image. In this day and age, image is everything and first impressions count. So getting caught reading something less than cool, might be embarassing for some. There is a reason the Harry Potter books were published both with a kids cover and in an adult edition, for example. And while it might be perfectly cool to read and love Twilight if your a sixteen-year-old girl, if you're a grown up and you're supposed to have some literary standards, Twilight might raise eyebrows.

Me, I don't have guilty pleasure really, like Ana, I own what I read ;)

Harry Markov said...

Mieneke: You rule. :) It's kind of unbecoming for a man to read books with man boobs and such... SO I am less prone to reading them in public. The more suggestive I even read when no one from the family is watching... LOL

Demon Hunter said...

I read a lot of guilty pleasures. You're my friend on Goodreads, so check them out. LOL. ;-)

Harry Markov said...

Cheeky little devil. :D Thanks for the comment. Hah! I enjoy them, too. Secret, secret pleasures.

Memory said...

I don't know how it is for other readers, but I sometimes feel like my guilty pleasures don't conform to the standard set by the rest of what I read. I routinely talk up authors like Guy Gavriel Kay and Gregory Maguire, who employ a more traditionally lit-fic style. Their prose is elegant and evocative. It's a bit tough to admit that I love R.A. Salvatore and Mercedes Lackey after that, y'know?

The Evil Hat said...

I agree with the final quote; reading should never be a shameful activity...not that I live up to that too often. I'll admit it, I have yet to read an urban fantasy (Why is the girl on your back naked? And, come to think of it, why does she have fur?), Graphic Novels (Aren't picture books for people who can't read?), or anything with Conan the Barbarian on the cover in public.

Harry Markov said...

@ Memory: It's the old lit-fic vs. fantasy [but within fantasy] and the expectations and impressions they leave in other people. How about you start with Salvatore and Lackey and then progress to Kay?

Harry Markov said...

@EvilHat: I think that these are things you particularly don't like. I think you'd never read them in private, much less in pubic. BTW graphic novels are not as bad as you make them sound. Pretty pictures are awesome! LOL

The Evil Hat said...

A few years ago I would've agreed, but (as a result of a personal challenge) I've now read some Urban Fantasy (still mixed) and some Graphic Novels (some really great ones out there), so that's not quite true anymore. I suppose it's just the remnants of my old prejudices stopping me from reading them where I could be seen.

Harry Markov said...

Urban fantasy is tricky to find, as in good urban fantasy, but there is some, so it's not all that bad.

Graphic novels are a wondrous format and I can't possibly think of any reason at all to not like them. The art sometime can be a deterrent, but overall I enjoy reading all kinds of graphic novels. Now, on a bus I'm not sure if I'd risk it [they are very easy to damage and I am a klutz], but in public I wouldn't be ashamed.

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