This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Litter-ature, and a note about negativing...

Sorry. By the end of this post I will have been guilty of negativing. I don't really mean to negative anything. But when speaking about certain aspects of literature these days, I find it difficult not to negative. Actually, they seem to deserve to be negatived.

Now then, I think I have sufficiently introduced into my vocabulary the verb negative, (presumably rhyming with derive or revive.) The verb negative, you ask? Yes, I timidly answer. But I confess that I, too, am not convinced it's a true verb. Having run across this odd usage of the word in some scholarly tome about English language negation, I've been peppering my informal conversations with it as a way of expressing 'to be negative about,' (as in, That's a perfectly good score for such a difficult final exam, so just don't NEGATIVE it!). And, since my discovery of this term dovetails with my plan to reflect on my rather dim impression of some of today's young adult literature, I thought I'd put it to written use.

I believe that will conclude my use of negative. Don't want to overdo it all at once...

Unfortunately, it does not conclude a bit of a rant on a sub-category of books which I think would warrant much more use of the term.

A disclaimer: I haven't read these novels. I'll admit it. But I've tried. As a matter of fact, I have two of them, both library books, sitting on my desk waiting to be read, but I doubt I'll be able to do much more than just skim them. The A-List by Zoey Dean and Don't You Forget About Me by Cecily von Ziegesar are each one of a series called the A-List books and the Gossip Girls books, respectively. But I lump them together, books of this ilk. To me they're just those awful-looking books that we adults are feeding kids, the mental equivalent of serving junk food for dinner.

Why awful? Aren't I being terribly unfair? Well, I have tried to read them, as I said. So, I'm not totally their stranger. And I've read about them, for what that's worth. Check out this article by Naomi Wolf from the March 12, 2006 edition of The New York Times entitled, Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things.

While covering mature themes, these books do not seem to aim to educate. They seem, to a self-confessed non-reader, to glamourize the inane and the mean. At least, this is what I've gleaned from surveying their covers, captions and content. The titles are catchy, I'll grant you, but what do they mean to impart to the people of that impressionable age for which they're written? Nothing, I imagine, but a sense of fascination that will persuade these kids to plunk down their money in exchange for insipidity like All I Want is Everything, Nothing Can Keep Us Together, Dial L for Loser, Best Friends for Never. The cover art is often photos of glaring, sullen teenage girls glossed up and looking disdainful of whomever dared to pick up the book.

It's not hard to find fodder for criticism. Even if the inanity only goes as far as a few twists on popular sayings, why give that particular age group more superficiality to absorb? And why try to make it attractive? Who does it help? I assume it helps the publishers and authors, but does it do anything for the kids reading the books? This is a far cry from the the young adult reads of yesteryear. Wet bars? Martini's? In a kids' book?

But I guess it's par for the course in today's world. Still, does the book industry really need to be aiding and abetting in the dumbing down and spicing up of the upcoming generation's entertainment? And, if there are saving graces buried somewhere in these books, why must they have titles that reflect and promise to deliver such negativity?

So, now I don't know. Should I actually go ahead and try, again, to read one of these books? There are only so many hours in a day and there are so many actually good books I wonder if the investment of time is worth it. Unless I find a redeeming quality there, somewhere.

Maybe, I'm just negativing.

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