I found myself sympathizing with Lev Grossman in his TIME Entertainment article about a book he’s reading that he absolutely hates. He doesn’t tell us what book or what author, and he doesn’t have to. I, too, have hated books that were wildly popular by everyone else in the universe.
The first blog idea this article sparked in me was to write about books and bemoan how many really talented authors are going unnoticed in the literary world today–especially in today’s glut of self-published works.
But a deeper question to me is why people react differently–not just to books and movies, but to ideas, to societies, to people. To everything. What we like and don’t like, how we act/think and our opinions of people who act/think differently is more nurture-based than nature. The culture you are raised in, the family you were born into, the society you keep as you age: all these mold, in great part, what kind of books you enjoy, who your friends are, how you react to the world around you. It is these differences that cause wars, promote intolerance, and foster hate.
If we all loved the same things and thought the same way, there would be peace, right? Many regimes and madmen have committed genocide to show their commitment to that idea. Even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and instantly put all people on an equal plane, think how boring life would be then. The only way to maintain that “sameness” would be to have every human advance in knowledge at the same time at the same level.
So it isn’t Uniformity that would bring peace to the world and joy to the heart of every human being. What we need is to embrace our Diversity. Instead of fearing or judging someone’s “otherness” why can’t we just accept it? If EVERYONE did this, you could let people be different from you without fear of having your own lifestyle compromised.
Some people would call that kind of acceptance Love. If loving all humanity seems too huge a task for you, try this one: Curiosity. If we contemplated other lifestyles with an inquiring mind, we would find the world more interesting than even the most popular reality TV show. We might even find out that maybe we were wrong.
[Wow, I’ve digressed completely from the original article I mentioned. It’s still worth reading, however, so if you’re interested, click the link below and read the whole thing.]
I wish I could put up my hand and say, you know, I hate to be the one to point this out, but this guy’s work is actually not amazing? And maybe we should all just step back, re-assess, and re-assign him to his proper place in obscurity?
But there’s no point. It’s too late. The machinery grinds on while other, better books are passed over. It’s enough to make you despair. In fact I do despair sometimes, at what a totally broken culture we live in.
And then I stop and think: wait. Maybe it is just me. Maybe this book is perfectly fine. Maybe I’ve completely missed the point. Maybe other people will find joy and sadness and richness and beauty in this book, even though I didn’t. Maybe it really is a great book, and the problem is that I’m just not a great reader. Maybe it’s not the book, it’s me. Maybe the culture isn’t broken at all. Maybe I’m just wrong.
And I find that possibility perversely comforting.