Open Your Mind, Clenching is Bad For You

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.

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7 Comments

  1. Agreed! I have a dumb friend that says he doesnt read fiction for the exact same reason you mentioned. Now I know how to respond to him!
    Miss you, Kia. When you stop by DM again, come visit the Whites. I'm Head over there now.
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  2. So well said! I will never understand people who disdain the fantasy genre (or any genre, really) and/or its fans… or reading in general.

    I've encountered people that seem to think that readers are either stupid, boring or just have no life and no matter how much I might try to explain that books are gateways to other places, other worlds, other possibilities… I'm used to getting the sneer, too. I flat do NOT understand it.

    Which is one reason that I hang out on the internet so much with awesome people who DO love books and stories, and who understand how much they can mean to a person. You guys are so much more REAL to me than some of the naysayers that I actually see in person. Also, you're WAY cooler.

    One last thing… I get warm fuzzies and sniffles every time you link to that post. Just wanted to let you know. :o)

    • I like to that post every chance I get, you know. It's one of my favorite memories. :)

      Sometimes I think I need better people to hang out with. And then I remember that all the better people I hang out with are on the internet!

  3. Also, how the fuck could someone NOT know about Where The Wild Things Are?! How sad is it that people don't read to their kids? People miss so much when they don't grow up with the wild rumpus, or Goodnight Moon, or The Hungry Caterpillar, or… you get the point, I could go on forever. *smh*

  4. Nicely said!

    Too many guys I’ve know only read non-fiction. Very closed minded of them. Thanks for the perspective in your post.

  5. I have a lot of friends that give me that sneer. I also have a few friends that I've managed to "convert" to hardcore fans. It's a good feeling.

    And yes, I'm behind in my blog reading and I'm just now seeing this. Life has been weird. Give me a break. LOL

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