Maurice Sendak, the guy who wrote the iconic WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE died recently. It was reported today, but I’m not sure when it happened, and for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he was an author that was beloved by a very great many people.
I liked the book. I didn’t love it the way that it is obvious that many people did, but I liked it. Ever since it was read to us in school, way back in the days of story time and laboriously hand-printing individual letters out on broad-lined paper, I’ve liked the book.
So when I mentioned briefly, over the lunch table today, I expected to hear things like, “Oh, wow. I used to really like that book.” Or, “I still love that book.” I’d have even been happy with, “I’ve never heard of him, but that sucks.” For the most part, those are the reactions I received. Except one.
This is that exchange.
“Oh, I’ve never seen that.”
“… They made a movie out of it. But it’s a book. I’m talking about the guy who wrote it. It’s a kid’s book.”
“No, I don’t read that stuff.”
“It’s a really popular kid’s picture book. They read it in school’s all the time.”
“No, really, I don’t read things like that.”
Each time, the words were said with a sneer. It was very nearly a hateful sneer, and this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten it. When I mentioned wanting to go see The Hunger Games, to see if it matched the book, I got the sneer. Whenever I mention a book I may be reading, I get the sneer. The Handmaid’s Tale? Sneer. The Avengers movie? Sneer.
The most messed up part of this is: this girl watched Twilight. But she didn’t watch it because she was a fan. She didn’t watch it because she was passionate about it. It’s obvious she watched it because it was popular and she’s a follower.
There are certain people who are so sheltered and so prejudiced in their opinions (and I’m not mentioning names here specifically because I’m not fond of libel suits and this paragraph does not necessarily relate at all to the person mentioned above, just to be perfectly clear) that they can’t see anything else. It’s such a narrow scope.
Like the girl who doesn’t read fiction because she “doesn’t believe in make believe” and only wants to hear about things that happen “in real life”. Well, good luck with all those serial killer biographies then. I’d much rather read about fantasy monsters than real ones. Like the guy who doesn’t read about vampires or zombies because “they’re stupid”, not realizing and not willing to hear that these creatures are metaphors for humanity’s own darkness. Not wanting to believe that genre fiction can say anything true or real.
Well, genre fiction is true. It’s more real most of the time then any crappy Nicholas Sparks book you could pick up. The Belgariad taught me values. The Rowan showed me that women can be more than baby-making machines — though there’s no harm in being that *and* saving the world while you’re at it. I Am Legend taught me that there’s two sides to every story. The Dark is Rising and A Wrinkle in Time taught me that science and truth and good can triumph over evil. The Wheel of Time brought me out of one of the darkest times in my life.
I could name dozens more. I bet you could too.
So all I’m saying is… If you’re one of those people who maybe wouldn’t read this or see that or enjoy whatever? Just unclench. Open your mind. Be willing to see value where maybe you didn’t expect it before. And if you want to be friends? Don’t fucking sneer at me.