Friday, August 8, 2008

My New Enemy

An attack on trashy YA lit. Nothing new, right? Anyone can say bad things about the Clique books. But somehow the Guardian's Anthony McGowan can't even manage that.

My first reaction--"Yeesh, what a creep." Those snide remarks about Jane Austen and Philip Pullman made me want to go through my computer screen and punch him in the neck. He reminded me of that obnoxious kid in high school. The smartass who would undermine the teacher and destroy half of English literature with the assurance that he "knew what he was talking about." Pretentious ass.

Anyway, so I read through the article and I came to this conclusion: it's not a very good column.

Initially, he claims that he's setting out to talk about "which books, if any, [he'd] ban from school libraries - in the unlikely circumstance of me being in a position to ban anything." So he mentions Austen, Pullman, Nietzsche, De Sade (the two former he wouldn't ban, the two latter he wouldn't be so happy about teens ready.) So not a huge list of banned books here. But then we get to it:

OK, so not many teenagers are going to be reading Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade, but there's a whole world of books that I'd ban straight away if I got the chance: pink books. Yes, down there with Nietzsche and De Sade I'd place those terrible teeny-chick lit "novels", the ones about snogging and boyfriends and make-up and nothing else. The novel is supposed (says who? says me) to exalt the soul, to show humanity what, in its greatest moments, it might achieve; and yet also to reveal our vulnerability and our helplessness.

The leathery-skinned hacks who churn out the Pink books present a vision of young people as self-obsessed, shallow, blind automata, swilling about in a moronic inferno. Reading these books will leave your soul as shrivelled as one of those pistachios you sometimes find, blackened, in the bottom of the bag. Teenage girls, read the Bront√ęs, read Elizabeth Gaskell, read George Eliot, read anything else - even Jane Austen - but keep the pink off your shelves.

So...what are these "pink books?" I can certainly think of some--the Gossip Girl books, the Clique books, the It Girl books, hell, even Sweet Valley High. I hate these series. (Okay, I did have the first few Sweet Valley Twins books, but they were never a favorite.) They are shallow, moronic, etc. But why doesn't McGowan mention any of the books I've just named. My guess is that he's never actually run into one of these books. He's just heard they're out there in the same way a parent might know crack or oral sex parties are out there. So why even write a column about something about which you don't have any first hand experience? Did he even do any research? Maybe he just read the back of a Gossip Girl novel? Put a little more effort into this next time, please, Guardian.

Sorry, Anthony. You knew you were going to be my enemy when you insulted Jane.