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Jezebel recently published an article by Joanna Mang entitled “We Must Save Books from Book People”. I’m here to tilt my head to the right, raise a questioning eyebrow, rinse my lips a little, and say, “Excuse me? ”
Join me, dear reader, and see why people who publish spine poems are suddenly enemies of the book.
If I read it correctly, Mang has two main points. First, Book People are shallow bookstagramers who prefer to complain about the cis het white male canon and especially hate F. Scott Fitzgerald when it comes to writing letters to former teachers thanking them for their crime and teaching Punishment. (I refuse to make the obvious joke here, but I’m welcome to make your own.) Second, well. Your. I don’t know if you know, but there are books on government education lists, and those lists are hundreds of books! but! The teachers still choose The Great Gatsby and Lolita so these texts obviously have deep literary meaning and if you call them problematic you are a book person and therefore someone from whom the beloved books need to be saved. Even if you hated TGG or The Scarlet Letter in high school, it is your own fault and you clearly have no standards.
What makes you a book person and therefore someone we should all follow right away on Twitter? Forgive me for quoting a full paragraph:
A book person participates in the book culture. Book People refer to themselves as “bookworms” and publish book diagrams of their “stacks”. They lean towards languages like “I love this so much” or “It made me feel all right” and enjoy mellow memes about buying more books than they can read and the travesty of dog-eared pages. They build Christmas trees out of books. They write reviews of Goodreads and read book blogs and use the hashtag #amreading while reading. They have TBR lists (to read) and admit DNFing (not finished). You look at BookTube and BookTok. They love a stuffed shelf, but don’t turn down audiobooks and e-readers. To a book person, reading is reading reading.
Joanna Mang, Jezebel
If you are feeling confused, that seems reasonable. I’m not entirely sure why these things are bad either – they sound cozy and fun to me. Also, I don’t fully understand why Mang’s precious canon suddenly needs to be rescued from a group that, by their own definition, sounds like the harmless, smiling yellow Labrador of the Internet. What exactly is our crime? Since I’m pretty sure that while #AmReading is literally wrong (you’re not reading, you’re typing!), It’s not worth twisting into inviting people to post on their own social media and (CFSP) . Enjoy audio books and e-books.
I enjoy The Great Gatsby and I enjoyed teaching my students while teaching high school. Students also seemed to enjoy it for the most part – especially when we started comparing love triangles and talking about how it could be carried over to school life. You have your jumps, your bougies, your mysterious new man in town, and a river of champagne (please drink responsibly and legally). Not to mention a questionable film with – in my opinion – an excellent musical selection. Hey i like what i like
But I haven’t always done it. When I started teaching, I had very serious opinions about what students should read. However, over the course of my teaching career, I found that what we read was nowhere near as important as the fact that the students were reading. That is, the reason many adults don’t read is because they were forced to read books they didn’t identify with, and that made them unable to read. Instead, what if we tried to bridge the gap and teach them to see the connections between what was on the page and the movie they saw last weekend? And so, my friends, I began to give extra credit to clever book reviews of the similarities between Twilight and Gatsby.
But here’s the thing: literally none of this matters to our writer because I’m a book person and not a reader (the difference is that “a reader is someone who is in the habit of reading. A book person has an identity out of it.” made ”. whatever that means) and therefore my opinion on the modern experience of hallucinating while staring at dead trees is inadmissible.
I’m not entirely sure why we’re overseeing the sound police’s book culture here, and I find that both insulting and crappy. Mang seems to be claiming that anyone who posts a review of Goodreads is a … what? A book poser? Not a reader? This is weird since I (probably) read the book to write a review, but whatever. If someone says they don’t like a book – in “capitalized, weird baroque swearwords” (weird specifically? Who hurt you, Joanna?) – it’s not interesting or noteworthy because books are not sacred – a fact that will come after 1900 we informed that anyone who didn’t like Gatsby is likely to be digging up a vault of books in a first edition of Catcher in the Rye. very. Moment.
The irony, like the poorly constructed point of the article, is twofold. The first was that Mang noticed. A LOT OF. And after sleeping over why this article bothered me so much, I think I stumbled upon the second irony: Mang seems to believe that Book People aren’t just playing identity politics with books and about our love of writing (etc .) to pose. Word, but also trying to keep who should read what or not. It smells like a lot of “thinks the author doesn’t protest too much” as almost all of the charges she makes at our door relate to how individuals think about books as opposed to what Mang does: a whole, feelings and Attributing opinions to a diverse group of people and telling us that our actions do not render our concerns about the canon worth hearing.
I wonder what she would say if she knew I had five (5) book related tattoos …