Why Fight Twilight?

In the last week or so, MFP and I have taken to educating the youngsters in the evening. Specifically, one youngster, aged 12, female, who is a first-generation and whose parents own a Mexican restaurant we sometimes patronize. All in all, a cool kid who is quite smart but--in a typical pre-teen manner--doesn't really apply herself. So, her mom asked if I would help, and I agreed as long as I could sometimes drag MFP along for the food and frivolity. Long story short, I'm amazed at how well I remember my fractions.

Last night, as we were working, she brought up the book Twilight for like the fiftieth time, and we started talking about it. I said that I'd read a review (thank you, Defective Yeti) and, consequently, have no interest at all in the book. MFP said that I shouldn't judge a book by its cover and that he's glad she's reading this book because he couldn't remember reading over 500 pages of anything at her age. I responded that 500 pages of bad writing can't be good for anybody, and the conversation moved on.

From then on, I've been wondering: Is it worse to have read and loathed than never to have read at all? Since reading and writing are well-known BFFs, does reading 500 pages of bad writing diminish a one's own ability to write well? Sadly, my Google skills are failing to help me on this one, so I've been struggling to recall my own dalliances with young adult literature to determine how much damage they may have inflicted on me. But there also, I'm at a loss. I can't remember a single young adult novel I read as a young adult. No Sweet Valley High, no Babysitter's Club, nothing. So, either my pre-teen books were so bad that I simply blocked them out, or I went straight from Shoeshine Girl to The Godfather with nary a Judy Blume detour along the way. Anything's possible, I guess.

But what about bad books I've read as an adult? I can't remember its name but I'm pretty sure I read a book about horses recently. Or maybe it wasn't about horses, but it had horses in it....I think. Truth is, I don't recall exactly, but the book was a gift, and I had to read it. And then there was one about a female detective who, quite unpredictably, was just competent enough to need her hunky male on-again/off-again sidekick to get her out of danger right in the nick of time, which made for a handy pretext for them to have sex. Another gift. While I'm sure I've read other bad books recently, those are the only two I can recall. Which I guess helps answer my question.

If nothing else, at least the bad books I've read have been incredibly forgettable. And, on the plus side, they may have even served as periodic reminders of what to avoid in my own writing (such as it is). But the complicating factor remains: When I read those books as an adult, I knew that they were replete with cliche and hyperbole. All error, no comedy. But what about the bad books that creep in unnoticed? Especially for those youngsters whose writing styles are still being formed? I still don't know. But one thing's for sure...if my young friend starts engaging in dazzle-speak in a chagrined fashion while meditating on the redolence of freesia, she and I are going to have a little chat.

Nothing New byslag at 2:28 PM

4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here):

WNG said...

When Mama G was a little mama she read biographies. She loved them. She liked novels and did well in Language Arts classes, but she really loved biographies. She still has a huge one of Lincoln. There were always huge tomes by her bed. Now I don't know when, I think it was when I was small, but at some point she just got tired. She didn't feel like thinking anymore when she read, she just wanted to be entertained. So now she won't read anything more taxing than a romance novel.
She still loves to read but her tastes have changed.
I guess the point I'm rambling towards is that I don't see anything wrong with your young friend reading Twilight...or even Sweet Valley High. I think it's great that she's so excited about a book, or series of books and it creates a chance for you to open her up to Literature (with a capital L).
I did read all those young adult novels when I was younger. I also read everything else under the sun, because books have always been my heroin. So if Twilight is what it takes to get your friend hooked...maybe you should just be there to help steer her towards the hard stuff.

that was a really bad drug metaphor on SO many levels.

slag said...

G: I do hear what you're saying and it is definitely the prevailing viewpoint. Just sometimes, as a public school kid who has been exposed to all manner of low rent cultural byproducts throughout my formative years, I wonder whether or not the hermetically sealed environs of upperclass private schools provide kids with more than just access to the "hard stuff" by way of educational tools. I think that really getting a good education might also involve limiting access to the "soft stuff". That said, you and MFP do make excellent points and since you use yourselves as examples of excellence, I definitely find it hard to argue against you.

And drug metaphors are always welcome.

Gye Greene said...

My dad and his sibs subscibed to at **ton** of "funny" (i.e. non-superhero) comic books as kids -- so, whenever we went to my (paternal) grandparents, we'd raid the upstairs dresser drawers where they were kept and read a foot or two of comics.

My (paternal) grandpa was of the opinion that all reading was pretty much good reading -- because at least it gave you practice in reading and interpreting the written word, which would then be helpful in school (i.e. reading textbooks). (He didn't say it like that -- but that was the gist of it.)

Likewise, my youngest sister never read much. To encourage **any** sort of reading, my folks get her a subscription to Cosmo. or Glamour, or some-such -- just so she'd at least be reading **something**. Same reasoning.

I'd say that reading cheezy stuff is a "gateway drug" to reading the "quality" stuff: if people aren't reading much, getting to read **something** at least puts them on the road.

And, even the cheezy stuff tends to have adequate grammar: so there's at least a moderate amount of modeling going on.


Cativer: sounds like a feline-related profession. ("What do you do for a living?" "Oh, I'm a cativer.")

slag said...

GG: Comics can be really well-written as can fashion mags. But you're right, adequate grammar is a start.

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