CS Lewis explains why you should be proud to read children's books


#21

Keep hitting the like button, but it only gives me one.


#22


#23

Styles look goofy unless you grew up with them, which probably means they’re all goofy. Somehow adults simply accept some and tut-tut others, but again with no particular sense (hoop earrings are for women, right?).


#24

Let’s sidetrack on this one for a moment, because it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about lately. Why are bronies so offensive? Here’s all the arguments I can come up with:

1. Some of them are whiny, obsessive, socially-inept, self-involved jerks with a persecution complex!

This is true of every hobby and fandom that has ever been. Next argument.

**2. The show is for kids! **

So are superheroes, Transformers, Super Mario Brothers, and a whole load of other stuff that BoingBoingers and other geeks love. Okay, one might object to those as well if one believes in a sharp line between children’s and adults’ entertainment. But even then, bronies get way more horror and vitriol than the usual lookit-the-freaks media circle jerk that surrounds, say, Comic-Con. What makes bronies more offensive, more transgressive, than all of those?

**3. The show is for girls! **

And here we come right down to it. Beneath all the other arguments, the real problem is that bronies are males who enjoy something intended for females, and that is simply not acceptable.


#25

I think Ruth Graham is wrong to say that adults shouldn’t read young adult literature, for numerous reasons: there are important cultural memes in YA literature. Some of it is very well written. Escapism is good, once in a while.

But Ruth’s post is not stupid, Cory. Adults shouldn’t ONLY read YA literature (and comics/graphic novels, etc), they should also move on to the complexities of fine English phrases and rich, sensitive portrayals of character interactions that can only be found in the likes of George Eliot, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, etc. Otherwise they are not challenging themselves; they are just riding on entertainment instead of developing a full adult brain potential. And they will end up becoming those kind of people who don’t understand and can’t argue real political and human complexities.


#26

Yeah, I’m pretty sure this isn’t true. In fact it kind of smacks of elitism while focusing no a very narrow range of the ways one can enhance the breadth of their knowledge.

There are plenty of authors now that are of a similar caliber to the ‘classic’ authors and their dialogue and environments are generally more approachable. Sure, there are a lot more crap books as well but there were plenty of crap books back in the day too. The real change is the cost and requirements to publish. . . putting authorship in the hands of more people has IMHO allowed a wider range of human experience to be delivered to us.

I gave up on classics when I was in my early teens because the amount of useful knowledge I could consume in a given time was much less than what I could obtain reading more contemporary works or ones that use language similar to what I speak. They’re less ponderous and I waste less neurons re-processing the information.

Meanwhile, a focus on highbrow novels adds another limitation to improving one’s mind. . . that’s only one format. Having semi-visual mediums (graphic novels), poetry, various forms of video entertainment, short stories, novellas, and even comics available to us allows us to again expand who we are.

As far as I’m concerned we need more people reading SMBC rather than Ulysses.


#27

Women, pirates, and Mr. Clean.


#28

How does “The Internet” earn its distinction as the central agent behind our present decadence?

It is certainly a prime delivery mechanism (intense struggle on the part of certain legacy media being more or less futile on that point); but that isn’t the same as agency.

Does it get the spot because of certain special properties it has as a medium that shape the message? Because it has allowed the rise of agents who would previously have had no influence?

I’d be the first to (only partially tongue-in-cheek) wax downright jingoistic about the rightful rise of the internet and its superiority over weak, fixed-function, legacy media; but I’d need a lot more convincing when it comes to claims about how the internet has changed culture.

Most notably, the internet (because it is searchable and because the cost of operating a low-traffic website is well down into the hobby range) is a fantastic anecdote machine: If you want a juicy demonstration of the existence of an esoteric hobby, freaky subculture, deviant sexual behavior, or unnerving enthusiasm for a particular flavor of violence, it now has a web page if even one obsessive somewhere cares about it. However, as an anecdote machine, you’ll find it more difficult, often markedly so, to actually glean anything useful about the present-day popularity of what you just dug up, much less what percentage of the active users were assimilated after discovering it on the internet vs. came to the internet looking for it, or how it compares to historical popularity levels, especially for subjects that didn’t produce much literature of the sort that librarians care to catalog.


#29

Amen to that.

The money quote from Lewis: "I now enjoy Tolstoy and Jane Austen and Trollope as well as fairy tales and I call that growth.’

If you are 30+ and read comic books, zombie thrillers, and Star Wars fan fiction, that’s OK. But if that sort of thing is all you read, you are a loser.


#30

Lewis’ Christianity has always puzzled me a bit: on the one hand, he wrote The Screwtape Letters, which are not the sort of thing you’d write without a distinct dose of cleverness, a freedom from the ultraliteral fananticism of the sort that verges on inadequate theory of mind (the hacks behind Left Behind couldn’t even write atheists who weren’t basically Christians who were rejecting or denying god because they were angry and/or didn’t want to give up their sinful lifestyle, how well could they have managed a devil that is both hilarious and convincingly effective at corruption and perdition?), and similar useful qualities.

On the other hand, he used the ‘Liar, Lunatic, or Lord’ argument. In public, as though it were convincing. Kill. Me. Now. Even there, he starts off well:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.”

By (correctly) pointing out that even a fairly plain reading of the gospels has Jesus doing a variety of either supernatural or overtly delusional stuff, along with some moments of serious dickery among his more popular platitudes. A welcome skewering of the fashionable-but-content-free “Well, y’know, man, Jesus was, like, a great teacher and stuff…” drivel. Obviously, if you believe in the existence, and importance, of Revealed Truth, the guy with the revealed truth is a great teacher; but if you reject that, Jesus was distinctly second rate, or worse, by the standards of moral philosophers and/or nice guys.

Then he jumps off the Epistemology Bridge and concludes that, since those other two options are just off the table, He is Lord, hurrah!

It’s weird. I’ve met really, really, dumb Christians, I’ve met Christians (smart, dumb, and middling) who identified with some church pretty much entirely as a cultural and communal exercise, more or less orthogonal to epistemology or even theology, and I’ve met some smart to very smart Christians who, while they embrace certain metaphysical propositions I find wholly alien, tend to either sign wearily or hiss and spit venomous bile in the presence of Hallmark-grade apologetics slurry.

Lewis seems to oscillate between being a brutally sharp guy and the sort of person who bolsters their faith with Precious Moments figurines. I don’t quite know what to make of him.


#31

Nothing that begins with a lazy lumping of humanity into a rhetorically convenient group is interesting. Doubly so if ‘they did it first’.

The adjective you’re looking for is either ‘unwise’, or ‘immature’, or ‘rude’.

Not ‘interesting’.


#32

Actually, the Screwtape Letters itself has your answer.

By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who
can foresee the result?

Once a person takes to thinking about things, there is no telling what will come out the other end.

Linkbaity, I agree, is a bad criticism. All controversial points of view are “linkbaity,” but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them. “Shaming” is obviously true since the article literally heaps shame on people.

Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.

I think “embarrassed” will do for “ashamed.” As to whether or not it is “stupid” that was an expression of an opinion and is hardly absurd. It is Cory’s proposition that the article was stupid, and whether or not it was stupid is the very thing we are discussing.

I have two quotes from the article that, combined, are are stupid as it gets:

Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers.

This is, after all, a book that features a devastatingly handsome teen
boy who says things like “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the
business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things” to
his girlfriend, whom he then tenderly deflowers on a European vacation
he arranged.

If the point is that we should avoid the books because they are for teenagers, not because they are bad, then appeals to how cringeworthy the writing or the plot is are absolutely beside the point, and that is actually the only point she has. She’s pulling a bait-and-switch. I would never read Twilight. I would never read Fifty Shades of Grey either and for the same reason.

She has absolutely no point except “I can find some popular books that suck that happen to be written for teenagers.” Well most books suck and most popular books suck. She seems to think that having protagonists we don’t like and endings that leave us feeling unhappy is a virtuous state of being when really it is just her preference. Emotional ambiguity can be done well or cloyingly, just as likeable characters and happy endings can be.

Whether or not all of that is “stupid” is a question of a threshold. Deciding upon your conclusion and then making up a story that fits it is probably too common to actually be stupid, but it certainly looks stupid if we use the CS Lewis quotation in the blog post for comparison.


#33

That person is missing out on a lot, but less than with the still-popular choice of reading nothing at all. If only Graham had invited them to read more things instead of telling others to read less.


#34

And the person who only reads ‘literature’ and doesn’t read good YA fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, graphic novels, choose your own adventures, and so on is missing out on much, much more.


#35

It seems to me that she is using YA as a smokescreen for “low brow” since claiming you shouldn’t be reading YA sound much less elitist than claiming you shouldn’t read “low brow”. My first foray into adult books was horror: Stephen King, Anne Rice, Poppy Z Brite and Clive Barker. Adult though they may be very few if any of the stories could be considered literature in the sense of the word she uses.

I’d argue that the books of Roald Dahl (which aren’t even YA so much as children’s books) offer more to the reader than any of the Fifty Shades books despite one being for adults and the other not.

CS Lewis seems to argue that enjoying children’s stories as well as literature is a good thing but doesn’t seem to support reading only children’s stories. I don’t think that’s a fair criticism. Your time on this planet is short and if you want to spend it reading YA instead of literature who am I to claim that is a wrong use of your time. Maybe they are missing out on interesting expansive literature but maybe they get that growth in other ways and when it comes to reading they just want entertainment.


#36

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