Thank You, Mighty Samurai…

Okay, I was just wondering what to blog about today–my choices are limited by my pissy mood (it IS that time of the month, after all…) and my @#$%ing computer at work. My sutdents are so tired/amped by the impending spring break, that (and this is the weirdest thing) they are BEGGING for worksheets…I mean…ICK!!! But that’s okay, because if I try to teach, they just mumble incoherencies to each other as though the exact shade of lipstick worn by so-and-so as she got chatted up by her two-thousandth guy were that magic force that causes the planet to revolve around them! Anyway, when I went to The Samurai’s blog (after my computer got fixed, because I was too pissed off to grade!!!) she was talking about that book-list meme that’s been going around–and she promised to go off on a rant about literature vs. entertainment and suddenly…


I hope she doesn’t mind–anything I can rant about, she can rant about better, but Julie I’m going to riff on your rant… (and if you do mind, sweetheart, let me know in the comments…if I’m violating a hard and fast blog-etiquette rule, I don’t want to do that again…)

Okay, so the thing is…

People say Shakespeare is culture–everyone who is well-read has read Shakespeare. But what nobody understands is that SHAKESPEARE WAS THE STEPHEN SPIELBERG OF HIS DAY… back then, everybody thought “Oh yeah, Willy’s good for a laugh or a good action show, but, really, if you want CULTURE, you want Ben Johnson–now that guy–he’s gonna be around for a few.” Now I’ve read a few of Johnson’s plays–they were witty, they were satiric, they were on-point and intellectual…but they didn’t MOVE me. Romeo & Juliet? I will weep over those dumb-ass teenagers for the rest of my life and thank the Goddess for it. Hamlet? God love his sweet, angst-filled, gender-confused soul… But Johnson? Quite honestly, don’t remember any of his people, and am not getting all hot and horny to open that book on my shelf again either.

And that, right there, is the problem with branding what we read “Entertainment” or “Literature”.

Does what you read move you? Does it make you laugh? Does it make you cry? Does it make you think? Does it stick around in your chest and keep time with your breathing for a few days?

If it does, then it is, absolutely, positively, unapologetically, LITERATURE!!!!

I don’t care if it’s a Silhouette Romance or a comic book or a knitting manual…it’s LITERATURE!!!!

Orwell, Huxley, Ayn Rand? They wrote Science Fiction. Science Fiction is still often considered by the ‘educated’ to be some sort of red-headed bastard son of true literature–and romance is it’s deformed twin. (The mix between the two, paranormal romance? Trust me–I work with predominantly male English teachers…as far as they’re concerned, it’s not even real words.) So Science-Fiction isn’t legit, but my Sci-Fi class in college (where everybody I work with assumes I went to get high and study the stars…) was one of the hardest and most influential courses I’ve ever taken. And anyone whose ever read romance will tell you that women’s history is more accurately seen through Harlequin’s evolving nature than through any historian’s eyes.

What we consider entertainment often resonates deeply in our hearts–anything that vibrates inside us with that intensity must truly reflect some sliver of the human experience accurately and beautifully–and that folks is literature.

(I don’t know how I managed to italicize the whole post, but I hope Julie’s still talking to me now.)

0 thoughts on “Thank You, Mighty Samurai…”

  1. I’m confus-ed. Did blogger hiccup and post your post before you were done?

  2. Amy Lane says:

    Hey–you can all comment now…I’m not sure how that happened

  3. Amy Lane says:

    Julie has left a new comment on your post “New Digs…”:

    Dude! I’m leaving you a comment on the old blog ’cause I can’t on the new one without your e-mail address or something insane. Go through and check your comment settings. Seriously. If you’re wondering why you aren’t getting any, this is probably it.


    I’m fine with you ranting on any subject your heart desires, particularly when I agree with you. 🙂 No toes stepped on, and I’m not sure there’s any etiquette rule to follow.

    And how come we never read Aristophanes in school? I’ll tell you why. HE WAS FOUR THOUSAND YEARS OLD AND STILL FUNNY.

    Posted by Julie to A Yarning to Write at 4:11

  4. NeedleTart says:

    I took the Sci-Fi Literature class in high school (way back in 197-, you figure it out…) and as I recall there were 24 novels to be read in a 9-week period. We were supposed to pick our top three choices and the teacher assigned 2-3 students to each novel then we were to report on them. Guess who read all 24? And wound up on 4 separate teams because no one wanted the “Literature” Sci-Fi, oddly these were the ones that took me a week or so to read, while the others lasted a night or so becuase they were so compelling.

  5. Amy Lane says:

    If I couldn’t guess, I might have a suspicion or two:-)

  6. It’s amazing how the romance novels have changed. 20 years ago, it was the weak woman who ended up with the strong man. Now it’s the strong woman ending up with the strong man. Loved the reference to the “paranormal romance”, because those are the stories I perfer to read when I read the romance.

    Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time is a good series read. Altho, if something doesn’t happen soon, I’m going to quit buying.

  7. Louiz says:

    I agree about Aristophanes – I had to do Greek Civ before I realised that greek plays were any good. And hey, what about the Oedipus plays (The Theban Tragedies – Oediups Rex, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus which I haven’t read the last one). Talk about tear jerker – antigone always makes me cry, as does oedipus. Great great stories and not a bit faded for the centuries since they were written.

  8. Netter says:

    All we have to look at is who chooses the Cannon in English Lit. Since the field had been dominated by old white guys, that’s who we were reading. Now that Higher Ed is more diverse, the cannon will be, too. I loved my Am Lit prof in college because she didn’t just stick to the cannon. Neither did the poetry prof with his Fantasy course.

  9. roxie says:

    Literature or entertainment? I vote with my credit card. And I don’t usually rent “Important” films, either.It’s OK to like what you like, and buy what you buy (As long as you buy everything Amy and I write.)

  10. Susan says:

    Great rant! I feel vindicated for spending my limited Creativity time writing a genre I would formerly have mumbled until I read this. Romance! Romance! It’s Romance! And I’ve noticed, the librarians at my local don’t scowl, twitch or so much as blink when I check out Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Catherine Anderson.

  11. Rae says:

    Hm, I actually liked Johnson, though I agree with your entire post. I like the old guys, and the old girls (George Eliott, though she’s not THAT old). But I also like contemporary lit, mostly southern lit. But then again, it too is a lot like our mass fiction. Full of smarmy-ness (Flannery O’Connor comes to mind).

  12. Bells says:

    i’ve been accused of being really high brow. I’ve been accused of being really snobby about anything that isn’t Literature. Then I got a life.

    Studying English Lit does rather make you think that Literature must be part of some canon. Then you figure out then ‘canon’ is made up by some blokes in tweed who thought they were Literature Gods.

    I’m all for reading stuff that opens your mind. i mean, geez, if ALL I had read as a teenager was Sweet Dreams novels (and I did read a lot), I’d have probably ended up a screwier than I was.

  13. Catie says:

    I haven’t taken a lot of english classes. I took two in university because I had to. I liked them but liked science more. The classic books that I read were all in highschool. I loved Shakespear so much that I begged my parents for the complete works for my 14th birthday… The thing is that I find I get very little out of Shakespear unless I’m reading it for a class and with discussion – there are too many things that are lost on me. I’ve lost it now but I remember in grade 11 my social sciences teacher gave me a list of books to read before I went to university. I did read a few and they were good… I think I might go through the “have you read these books” list and read them – or at least try to. I was going to post my own list but I can’t figure out how to bold etc on blogger via an apple computer.

    On to bigger and better news… I finished Vulnerable and I really liked it. I was on the bus when I finished it and had to work very hard not to cry. I think it would have wierded out the stranger next to me.

  14. I read intelligent. I don’t care who wrote it, or what genre it is, if it’s mindless and doesn’t hold my interest or make me think, I won’t finish it.

  15. Amy Lane says:

    (Catie liked my bo-ok, Catie liked my bo-ok!) I’m glad you enjoyed it, Catie!!!! (Really–I worry, because you guys are my friends and I don’t want any of you to buy it and feel disappointed…) And go ahead and cry over a book on a bus…the fact that it moved you that much is a GINORMOUS compliment–thank you!

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