Maggie Koerth-Baker at 8:05 am Wed, Dec 22, 2010
ADVERTISE AT BOING BOING!
I'm no expert in financial markets, but I think this is what they call "a bubble".
Photo taken by RichardKimNYC. Submitterated by Jack.
I keep telling her she needs to get on that before the kids move on to mummy-fucking fantasies, or whatever.
Who did you call a mummy fucker? Ooooh! I’m telling!
Seriously, this kind of insane ultra-niche categorization comes from marketing departments. Just like record companies creating ultra-subcategories for music like alt-country and trip-hop.
I’m so happy to have grown up in a world of broad categories where one could explore multiple dimensions of a genre like Sci-Fi and general Fiction rather than this nonsense.
Wow, I’m amazed at how judgmental and condescending some people are of the reading habits of others.
I’m also amazed at how awkward that sentences ended up.
What’s even funnier/sadder than teen trends is the outraged histrionics of the adults over what a 13-year-old likes. Seriously…get over it already.
Dear god, we can only hope. They might also want to save on sign footage by just calling said genre Girl Crack.
It’s not just teens. I have a female friend who reads what she calls “Paranormal Fuck Books”. She’s 30 and an executive.
She said she is frustrated because she is running out of books to read.
Spotted earlier this summer at a flea market in North Carolina:
That’s what they said about Urban Romance too.
My favorite is the Vampirate series.
“Me, I’m thinking of writing a ‘literature’ novel about a dysfunctional family. That’ll be groundbreaking.”
Ha! Me too. Here’s a tip: Literature can be differentiated from regular fiction by the inclusion of least three of the following:
– Multiple POV, including at least one character with a mental deficiency of some kind.
– Boorish but sensitive but philandering but secretly romantic aspiring author/popular but flawed professor at a small private college.
– Faithful wives who are so unlikable that the audience cheers when the protagonist repeatedly cheats.
– Tortured, closeted self-loathing gays.
– Pets or uncompleted creative projects as emotional stand-ins for the children never conceived/aborted so long ago.
– An aimless, pointless drive between multiple locations for no clear reason that nonetheless is meant to carry a great deal of symbolic meaning, during which nothing specific is resolved. Bonus points if this takes up more than 1/3 of the total pages.
– Characters must exhibit no growth or change as this is incongruent with reality. Minor sexual identity revelations are permitted, as long as the precipitating event is sufficiently demeaning.
See you on Oprah!
I don’t have photographic proof, but I have seen a Teen Paranormal Romance section with the original “Pride and Prejudice” shelved there.
My fav is the Bigfoot series.
Big hands you know you’re the one.
But if they rename it “Popular Drivel Teens Read” it will last forever! Or at least until teens stop reading, in about 2018.
I don’t know, we’ve been seeing superhero comics for 70+ years now. If someone would have said that it would be the dominant genre in the form at the beginning, readers would have thought it absurd.
Maybe 70 years from now, the majority of all novels will be teen paranormal romance.
There’s ghoul-fucking in Fallout: New Vegas. Robot fucking, too. You have to provide your own robot, though.
Jeez, spoiler alert, wouldja? I haven’t gotten to that section of Freeside yet.
If it’s a spoiler for you, how do you know it’s in Freeside?
Yet another vote for the “at least they’re reading” viewpoint. When my half-siblings were kids in the 50s, they read a fair number of comic books. Many of the other mothers in the neighborhood would raise an eyebrow at my mother and sniff, “You let them read this garbage?” To which she’d always reply, “At least they’re reading.” And at least one of those children grew up to make millions as a writer and director of genre fiction and movies.
And he also likes literature just fine, too.
When I came along in the 70s, our modest doublewide was fairly crammed with books, not all of them respectable. I was a voracious reader, consuming comic books, science fiction anthologies, Poe, Twain and Shakespeare with more or less equal abandon.
I first became exposed to some literary classics through the Classics Illustrated comic books, and then eventually read the originals. I read Tom Tryon’s “Harvest Home” when I was eleven, and Blatty’s “The Exorcist” at twelve. I kinda liked “Catcher in the Rye” when I read it at fourteen, but then I’m an easy audience. I guess the point is that my parents encouraged reading pretty indiscriminately in their kids, and all of us kids became lifelong readers (and, in four cases, writers).
I once heard of a couple who came up with a novel policy for their daughter. From a very early age, she was allowed to stay up as late as she wanted, as long as she was reading. Didn’t matter what. I do believe I shall adopt this policy with mine own offspring.
If someone I meet admits to having an English degree, I usually ask them what they now read to relax.
People decide to earn university degrees in English when they have a passion for reading. However, once they have to read stacks of books with a pen in hand, ready to write that essay, then reading literature becomes a chore. So what to do when they’re relaxing?
Many former English majors get into non-fiction. I got into old pulp fiction. I read Tarzan, Conan, The Shadow, Doc Savage, etc. I look like a girly-girl, inside I’m Xena…Dr Xena…with a PhD in storytelling for digital media.
What gets thrown into the literature category are works that are heavy in descriptive language and characterisation, or alternatively are spare on all counts except absurd imagery and politics. These characteristics make them easy objects upon which scholars can write papers or a thesis.
Papers set a work’s place amongst the literary canon. A work can be exceptionally well-written, but if its message is too self-evident, then it is of less academic interest and may only ever be seen as popular fiction. Charles Dickens is escaping this fate because of age.
I am deeply grateful for my time with pulp fiction. It grounded me in strong plotting and the emotional engagement that comes from suspense. I appreciate authors who show the skill to engage in all the elements of storytelling in a balanced manner, not just one or two.
I believe that Harry Potter is well written. I find it bears re-reading. It may become “literature” when it becomes old enough that academics are needed to decode cultural references.
Peace be to the sparkly vampires. I just wish they presented more functional relations to the teens.
Oh, and I count myself among that number (my boyhood chum Tom is another) who dug up and read Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner only after hearing the metal song of the same name by Iron Maiden.
You never know where things will take you.
Speaking as a B&N employee (and as the poor schmoe who had to rearrange the Teen Fiction section to create these new categories in my store):
Yes, it is stupid.
Yes, it sells.
B&N now has three sections of teen fiction: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy & Adventure, and Teen Fiction. These roughly correspond to “Stuff only girls buy”, “Stuff only guys buy”, and “More Stuff for Girls, without vampires”. Cory’s books are in Fantasy & Adventure.
The labeling is dumb, I know. However, overall, it does tie into three groups of Teen readers fairly strongly. There’s the people (overwhelmingly girls) who like Twilight and the like and want more books like that. They go to the first section and overlook the other two.
There’s people who want science fiction and fantasy for teens (or more likely, preteens who are good readers, as a lot of the teens just go to SciFi/Fantasy). They go to the second section and ignore the first studiously.
There’s people who want teen fiction, but don’t aren’t really interested in SciFi or Fantasy, romantic or not. They go to the third section.
You can lament the arbitrary division of the section (as I do), as it pigeonholes both books and readers, and reduces the chance of cross-pollination of readers. You can roll your eyes at the neutering of every scary monster into a metaphor for teenage alienation (as I do). However, they’ve sliced up the readers pretty darn accurately.
Every person who walks by the Paranormal Romance section lamenting “these kids today” wasn’t going to pick up a book about sparkly vampires and well-waxed werewolves anyway, no matter where it was shelved.
I call for an Eldery Bromance bubble!
The mummy or frankensteins fits better in an old peopleÂ´s home.
Or a fat old elvis… or Bruce Campbell…
I love Bruce Campbell.
My friend and I have been sticking bible in the fantasy… section for years
I’m not sure I understand why Catcher in the Rye is shoved down every single middle/high-school student’s throat, but personally I loved it. Not sure where all the hatin’ in these comments is coming from. It may have just been because I strongly identified with the character at the time… I mean, the whole bit about the title (where he explains his fantasy of literally catching the kids in a rye field) never made sense to me, among other weird things in the book – but overall it felt like a tour-de-force. For me it was all about exposing the phonies.
In fact I can probably strongly credit it for making me even more inwardly bitter and cynical in high school. It led to an obsession with the Velvet Underground and some deeply cynical and vitriolic writing of my own for most school assignments. Thankfully, outwardly I was mostly a normal geeky kid and never got into any stupid sub-cultures, but Catcher in the Rye (among other things obviously) deeply affected me – ultimately in a positive way, despite what I’ve said here :)
I read a lot of trashy sci-fi (a lot of Star Wars books specifically) up to fourth grade or so, when I moved into classics and more challenging things. Once I moved beyond the Star Wars books, I’ve never been able to take that kind of thing seriously. I wouldn’t even consider reading such a book now – it feels like a waste of time, when it would be impossible to read all of the actually great books in one lifetime as it is.
I do hope that the people who are into paranormal teen romance eventually see the light in the same way, but I have my doubts about many of them. I think for many young people, an obsession with reading is a phase that’s grown out of in high school or college. What I’m getting at is that I’m not sure I agree that reading trash is better than not reading – on the surface I agree, but when they reach the point of growing out of reading trash (which for some people never happens, of course), these days there are so many other distractions that it’s not necessarily a given that they’ll jump to reading better books. They might get really into movies, or end up being TV couch potatoes, or browse cat videos all day, find some friends to hang out with all the time, etc.
Here’s one my bro sent me from a bookstore down south:
Our local library has a special room for Young Adult literature. In fact, if I want to check out Twilight, I have to get a chaperon to escort me back there to grab the book. The library is basically a giant square room with stacks, chairs, tables, etc. Behind that is the Pedophile Room — pardon me — the Computer Room. The Young Adult section is a small glass-walled booth on the back side of the Pedo Room, so that Young Adults can be carefully observed once they’ve woven their firm-but-nubile way through the aisles of muttering, raincoat-clad public computer users.
The real bubble is the dead tree books bubble. No matter what subject, printed book sales will decline sharply on the next 5 years.
*sigh* Gather ’round, childrens. Time was, that werewolves were all the rage. And by rage I mean rage! Them werewolves shore were sympathetic souls. Kind, sweet, gentle, but then ever’ month, Uncle Harry would come a-visitin’. An’ even that weren’t enough to drive the ladies off. It just gave ‘em somethin’ in common-like!
Now it’s blood sucker this, blood sucker that, an’ sparkles an’ all.
Wolvey men. Those wore the days.
You don’t see a lot of lycanthropy any more…
so weird, i just passed this section yesterday in barnes and noble and thought about twitpic-ing it.
I saw that for the first time this weekend, which is a reminder why I try to avoid B&N, if possible
I think that might be more of a statement about you than about Ms. Rowling.
Anything is possible, eh?
I like to compare her with Colfer, given the similarity of topic and target age group. He is a model of clear writing.
What you describe as ‘clear writing’ might be considered ‘absence of nuance’ or perhaps ‘technical writing’ by others.
Thank you for the nice laugh. I have to read (and sometimes produce) far too much technical writing in my day job. As for “absence of nuance,” I suppose that can be found in my list of favorite authors: Hemingway, Pynchon, Murakami, Capote, Faulkner, DFW.
I can certainly be as oblivious to nuance as the next geek, if not more so, but I doubt I’m missing anything Rowling is dishing out on that score. It’s more the sentences that have forgotten, by the time they finish, what they had set out to accomplish (if anything). The sort of sentence that makes me say (when I’m wearing my editor’s cap), “We had to destroy the sentence in order to save it.”
Bitching aside, I toss my hat in the ring with those who say it’s less important what people are reading than the fact they are reading.
Jo Rowling is a terrible writer of environment. After 4000 pages, I still can’t find my way around Hogwarts. But besides her obvious mastery of Chekhov’s guns, she writes character well and she’s brilliant at conversation and humor. I wouldn’t dismiss her for her defects anymore than I would dismiss Tolkien for clunkers like, “Fly, you fools!”
anymore than I would dismiss Tolkien for clunkers like, “Fly, you fools!”
Or for the whole Tom Bombadil thing …
Look, every generation of teenagers thinks they invented vampire-fucking. At least these days kids are picking up books to fuel their vampire-fucking fantasies, instead of staring passively in front of a TV or movie screen!
Not trying to defend television (I don’t even have cable) but how is reading a book more active?
“Not trying to defend television (I don’t even have cable) but how is reading a book more active?”
Reading a book forces your imagination to be active. You have to picture the scenes, and make a mental image of the characters at least.
Also, reading a book doesn’t foist extra unwanted passivity on the consumer, such as being the target of an advertisement cascade.
One of my best friends keeps threatening to write a graphic novel entitled, “I Love My Tragic Vampire Boyfriend, But I Think He Might Be Gay.”
I keep telling her she needs to get on that before the kids move on to mummy-fucking fantasies, or whatever.
Timing is everything, as the actress said to the bishop.
When I saw this aisle in Borders, I knew they were doomed.
It’s all Anne Rice’s fault.
This section has been in Waterstones in England for quite some time, not on highly prominent display mind, i usually don’t even acknowledge its there, mainly since its taken up a whole section which could just be regular scifi/fantasy books which i think we all agree would be better.
It’s becoming difficult to find the normal young adult books section in bookstores anymore. It’s all vampire/werewolf/paranormal romance these days… I was trying to find a couple of Cory Doctorow’s books for my son (16) in Borders, and found exactly 1. I ended up going on Amazon and ordering instead. If you don’t have a teenaged daughter who likes paranormal romance books, you are out of luck in a brick and mortar store… including the ones that stocked way more variety just last year.
I don’t care what aisles the stores have, as long as the kids are reading.
Start them out on the stuff that interests them. Hand them stuff you KNOW is better when you think they’re ready.
This. My kids can read whatever they want, as long as they have books in their hands. Sooner or later they get bored of crap and try something actually worth reading. At least the habit of reading is in place – the good stuff will come.
As a teen I read endless reams of fantasy schlock and pulp sf. Now of course, I read quality fantasy and excellent sf. But I did have a decade or so of ‘serious’ reading in there somewhere.
Me, I’m thinking of writing a ‘literature’ novel about a dysfunctional family. That’ll be groundbreaking.
“Sooner or later they get bored of crap and try something actually worth reading.” Funny that you should say that. I was recently talking with a colleague who has tween girls who are obsessed with Twilight and Harry Potter. My colleague tried to introduce them to Catcher in the Rye, but after reading a couple of chapters they lost interest. Maybe it was too soon for them or maybe, just maybe, there’s no turning back after being seduced by fiction based on fantasy instead of reality.
I was recently talking with a colleague who has tween girls who are obsessed with Twilight and Harry Potter. My colleague tried to introduce them to Catcher in the Rye, but after reading a couple of chapters they lost interest. Maybe it was too soon for them or maybe, just maybe, there’s no turning back after being seduced by fiction based on fantasy instead of reality.
Or maybe they’d just rather be entertained than bored by a book that their grandparents found relevant. I’ll let you get back to watching the Weather Channel now.
Tween girls not interested in books by old men? Should have tried Nabokov! Just kidding. Catcher in the Rye is overrated. I’d never read it again. Neither would I read Frannie and Zooey.
Not too many girls find literature interesting or entertaining. There is nothing in it for them. I’m surprised many of them don’t like Tolkien either, but there are no girls in it, so what does it offer?
That is totally and completely false. I think I sort of get what you’re trying to say, but a lot of girls find literature interesting. Maybe it’s just because I was one of them, and had several friends who were similar, but reading that sentence made me cringe. Not every girl is a Twilight-obsessive who reads nothing else. A lot more of them than you think like other kinds of books. Don’t let the popularity of those books fool you into thinking people aren’t reading other things.
Also, I don’t think you necessarily need lots of strong female characters in a book for a female person to be interested in reading it. It can be nice, but I don’t think it’s a necessity. I think whether or not someone enjoys Tolkein probably has more to do with writing style and plot than whether there are enough characters of their gender.
Tween girls not interested in books by old men? … There is nothing in it for them. I’m surprised many of them don’t like Tolkien either, but there are no girls in it, so what does it offer?
How about an escape from the crushing narcissism involved in being a “tween” girl? (When did Disney start manufacturing tweens anyway?) There’s no particular reason a pre-teen girl should read only books featuring a slightly older pre-teen girl as the main character.
Now I’ll get back to my book about a spunky middle-aged male (werewolf?) adventurer who makes testy replies to comments on blogs.
Absolutely, I am an avid reader, 32 and I have no interest in the classics, what an elitist. He would have had more success trying to get his girls interested in Janny Wurts Empire series. Now that has a truly strong female protagonist.
There’s a lot of good, fun literature that falls into the category of fantasy based fiction. I loved that stuff when I was younger, still do.
And the fact that I loved Tolkein and Douglas Adams, and a whole host of genre authors either as or less reputable, mainly meant that I read a lot. All that reading has made me a better writer and communicator, and it got me into the habit of reading. I mostly read news and current events content now, but as I say, the habit of spending all that time reading was formed by reading sometimes disreputable fiction.
People praised my vocabulary when I was a young person, and who they mainly had to thank for that were the scifi and fantasy authors I read. Those folks use a lot of $5 words, exotic metaphors and interesting phrases, dang skippy.
Would I have read as much if it hadn’t been for scifi and fantasy? I feel confident that the answer is no. I found most of the books we were assigned in class boring as all get out. If “reading” had meant nothing more than the possibility of plodding through an infinity of Johnny Tremaine, well, bugger all that for a lark. The whole point was escape. Aliens, laser guns, faerie-infested Medieval farming villages, etc. Lay on the weird.
So while I loathe Twilight for philosophical reasons, (and Anne Rice is objectively so much cooler, of course, ;) I’m glad knowing that it’s getting another generation in the habit of sitting down with a novel, reading it through and impatiently trolling the shelves looking for the sequel. Because some day, they’ll run out of Twilight books and at least some of them will get this sensation that something’s missing in their day. And they’ll go to the library or the bookstore in frustration and pick up something by another author, which they will eventually finish. Rinse, repeat.
Because seriously, have you read the comment forums at ’16 and pregnant’? Frak. I don’t give a load of dingos’ kidneys what the kids these days read, as long as more of them learn by example how to string words together into coherent sentences and paragraphs.
Yet another anon here: Why are you reading the comment forums at ’16 and pregnant’?
I was recently talking with a colleague who has tween girls who are obsessed with Twilight and Harry Potter.
Harry Potter is actually well-written, though.
Please … She’s a very entertaining story-teller, but she’s a crap writer. There are sentences I have to read four times to make heads or tails of.
I think that might be more of a statement about you than about Ms. Rowling. I have no trouble comprehending her prose.
My colleague tried to introduce them to Catcher in the Rye, but after reading a couple of chapters they lost interest.
Can’t remember when I first read Catcher. I might have been in my late 30s or even early 40s. It left me cold. Went on to read Franny and Zooey and loved it.
Re-read Catcher this year (late 40s, so there). (Was actually inspired by a fiction contest here on BB.) Loved it. Will probably read it again sometime.
I developed a deep and abiding love of the classics (some of them, anyway) from about the mid-30s onward. Ended up loving some books that I absolutely hated when I was told to read them in high school.
Long story short: don’t give up on the girls yet.
I thought pulp science fiction was excellent science fiction?
The Borders near me had a larger Twilight section than the entire math and science sections, combined.
Feels bad, man.
Really? As a graduate student of English I then have to ask, why are there so many girls getting Literature degrees? Have you ever heard of Jane Eyre or other works by the Bronte sisters?
What everyone said.
This ‘bubble’ has been growing since before the written word. Most romance involves youth or is interesting to teens and most of that involves some degree of magic. Faerie abductions, deity rape, night-stalking blood-drinking seduction. Shapeshifting. Has for millennium.
If I had any sense (I’d be a lot less fun but I’d also) rewrite the ancient greek and roman myths in graphic novel format and include the lurve scenes.
Greek and Roman gods indeed make the best lurvers.
I’m waiting for the day when a “Fan Fiction” shelf springs up there.
It’s already started. They’re just calling it “historical fiction”. Also if I see another Jane Austen prequel/sequel/rewrite I’m going to just avoid that section of my local bookstore entirely.
I think the stock-market-watcher term most appropriate here is “contrary indicator.”
At least they’re reading. That’s an accomplishment in itself nowadays. I teach 5th and 6th graders and while they do read SOME of the junky stuff, I see time and again that their tastes and reading choices really do become more refined over time. A lot of the popular tween/teen stuff is hundreds of pages long too. I’m impressed to see them gobbling up so many fat books.
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