Public Service Rant
This is one of those articles that makes me wonder why so many people feel insecure about their intelligence. Because of their fiction-reading! If you dislike or don’t understand a popular and well-regarded novel, there must be something wrong with you. Everyone will tell you so. The author homes in on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a book everyone raves about. She didn’t like it. And everyone who got into her discussion about it on Twitter told her, yes, you’re stupid, or you just don’t have the background.
Having read American Gods and disliked it, I chalked it up to personal taste, as any intelligent person would. At least that’s the position I took. I felt no guilt or inadequacy. It was a genre I’m not terribly crazy about, though I do enjoy a fantasy now and then. There are a lot of books that are highly regarded that I don’t like. Some of them I couldn’t even finish. But there is more than personal taste at stake here.
The truth is that a lot of books (and authors) are overhyped. But while they’re at the top of the best-seller list or being examined under a microscope in college courses that deal with “important literature,” there’s no point arguing. In the long run, many of these “You just have to read it!” books disappear and are never heard of again. Just browse through the fiction section of any well-stocked used book store. Read a few reviews that explain very clearly why a book isn’t as good as everyone seems to think. Read retrospective analyses that do the same.
Public acclaim isn’t a measure of intelligence, either the enthusiasts’ or yours. Fiction isn’t written to separate the sheep from the goats. Enjoy, or not, as you please, but don’t question your own judgment or your intelligence.