I Didn’t Like ItApril 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Book Blather, Uncategorized | 14 Comments
Something has been on my mind a lot lately, and when I read this particular quote I sat straight up and wrote it down. Douglas Wolk says, in his quite readable Reading Comics:
But any reason people don’t like something is a valid reason.
Is that true, do you think?
I wonder whether Wolk thinks the reverse is also true. He suggests that criticism should be “brutal” and “harsh,” at least in the sense of maturing comics/graphic narrative as a medium. On the other hand, he also admits to enjoying some stuff he considers less worthy of critical praise. It suggests a sort of Quality Quadrant:
In the culinary world, I will provide my own examples. Quadrant I: kale. Quadrant II: zucchini. (Well, I’ll eat it but I sure don’t salivate over it). Quadrant III: Oreos. Quadrant IV: marshmallows. Now, in the literary world: I: The Brothers Karamazov. II: The Mill on the Floss. III: self-help books. IV: genre fiction involving paramilitary organizations.
I read the quote claiming that any reason we don’t like something is valid to my husband. He replied, facetiously, at his sardonic best, “I don’t like Jews.” Clearly we can only apply this aesthetic standard to creative works! (Although I guess Wolk did say “something” and not “someone.”) It would be an absolute disaster in the political sphere, as in fact we have seen throughout world history. It’s not very nice on the interpersonal level, either.
Anyway, in the literary world at least, I can think of a list of stupid reasons not to like something that I don’t think are valid at all.
I was put off by the cover art (over which the author has no say).
I wasn’t paying that much attention so I didn’t “get” some parts.
I was reading something else around that time and the styles didn’t play together well.
I heard something about the author’s personal life that bothered me.
I didn’t like another book by this author. (Well, maybe…)
The audio version wasn’t well produced.
It won an award that I think should have gone to a different book.
It was recommended by someone I don’t like.
(Corollary: It was on Oprah).
I didn’t like the protagonist. (Often we aren’t supposed to!)
We could probably go on from there, but I think I’ve made my point. Saying “I didn’t like it” and being satisfied with that is just a bit… spoiled, don’t you think? Just the other night I watched my friend’s kids eat only the noodles out of their soup, which is to be expected from preschoolers but not from adults. On the other hand, I feel the same about people rejecting opera as I do about people not eating their vegetables, so I’m probably a big snob.
Ultimately, writing something off with a knee-jerk reaction only hurts ourselves. When we refuse to make an attempt to appreciate something, we miss finding out it might have been our new favorite. We limit our potential enjoyment and, what’s worse, we often spread it to others.