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View Full Version : Does a writer like ALL literature?



DystopianGypsy
03-02-2010, 12:22 AM
There are preconditions for being a writer: you have to read, and you have to write. Just recently I've taken a shine to both. I'm discovering a passion for literature that I never knew I had. But the problem is that I don't like ALL literature. I'm enamored with Susanna Kaysen's work, but I find Steinback an insufferable tedium.

Do you have to like ALL literature to be a writer? Is an exclusive taste a bad thing? Or is it OK to be picky?

mscelina
03-02-2010, 12:29 AM
There are preconditions for being a writer: you have to read, and you have to write. Just recently I've taken a shine to both. I'm discovering a passion for literature that I never knew I had. But the problem is that I don't like ALL literature. I'm enamored with Susanna Kaysen's work, but I find Steinback an insufferable tedium.

Do you have to like ALL literature to be a writer? Is an exclusive taste a bad thing? Or is it OK to be picky?

Of course you don't have to like all literature. Thurber makes all the fillings jump out of my teeth and Hemmingway can cause spontaneous projectile vomiting in this house. However, I think it is important to read the great writers even if you don't enjoy their stories. It helps you to develop that individualized taste I think is so important for a writer to have. Be picky in what you like--that's fine. No one is going to think any less highly of you because Steinbeck grates your oats.

Hell, Steinbeck wouldn't either,probably.

sohalt
03-02-2010, 12:34 AM
Oh come on, do you honestly expect someone to tell you that you have to like everything that's ever been written in order to qualify as a writer?

Chris P
03-02-2010, 12:37 AM
Of course not! I write the type of stuff I like to read, and I don't read or write in every genre or style. I like modern-day, real world stuff.

veinglory
03-02-2010, 01:03 AM
You don't even absolutely *have* to read, although it certainly helps.

AnonymousWriter
03-02-2010, 01:07 AM
You like what you like. Nobody should be critisizing you for your reading tastes. Nor should they be pressurizing you in to reading what they see as the "best" literature.

Bartholomew
03-02-2010, 01:12 AM
Do you have to like ALL literature to be a writer?

Thank God, no. Mark Twain said (and I'm paraphrasing) that literature is something everyone wants to have read, but that nobody wants to read.

That said, it's better to have been exposed to an author and not have liked him than to not know who he or she is.

gothicangel
03-02-2010, 01:29 AM
I don't like all Literature; but I do respect all Literature.

I only like Northanger Abbey and P&P out of Austen's books; I love Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates; and Roth.

You can dislike something, but repect it too. I've always struggled with Russian Lit, but I bow down to the masters. :D

CEtchison
03-02-2010, 01:32 AM
A writer liking all fiction would be similar to a musician liking all kinds of music.

I don't know how Tchaikovsky would feel about Slipknot.

Bartholomew
03-02-2010, 01:38 AM
A writer liking all fiction would be similar to a musician liking all kinds of music.

I don't know how Tchaikovsky would feel about Slipknot.

I imagine it would be a fascinating experience for him. Whether he'd care to repeat it, though, I cannot say.

scarletpeaches
03-02-2010, 01:45 AM
I think you have to see the value in it all, but liking? No, that's not compulsory.

CEtchison
03-02-2010, 01:59 AM
I agree with scarletpeaches to a point. Stephen King has respect for Nora Roberts and John Grisham even though their stories are very different from his own work.

Stephen King respecting Lauren Conrad's bestselling "work" of "L.A. Candy"? Hmmm.... I'd bet against it. :D

scarletpeaches
03-02-2010, 02:01 AM
Oh, I disagree. Respect? Not so much. Seeing the value? To me that's seeing what works and what doesn't, recognising what good and bad books can teach you. There's value in everything I read, but do I like it all? Good god no.

PoppysInARow
03-02-2010, 03:02 AM
I do indeed think its important to at least give it a try, and for famous works, the "classics," I think its important to understand why they are great.

I can't stand Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, but I understand why its a classic and why a lot of people love it. It just wasn't for me. Yanno?

Claudia Gray
03-02-2010, 03:48 AM
Nobody likes everything -- it's just not human nature. I think, though, that it's important to realize that just because you dislike a book, it's not automatically worthless. I've learned a lot from books I didn't especially enjoy, even if it was just what not to do. And I think it's important to try to read widely, as a writer, even if it means sometimes being out of your comfort zone.

Cybernaught
03-02-2010, 03:52 AM
Often times, you can learn more about the craft from a bad book rather than a good book.

Mr Flibble
03-02-2010, 04:03 AM
I think, though, that it's important to realize that just because you dislike a book, it's not automatically worthless. Absolutely

There's stuff I hate that other people love to death. I can even see why ( to an extent) - it's just not my bag baby.

Ruv Draba
03-02-2010, 04:18 AM
Yes, you have to like all literature -- all of it! Whatever tastes or values you may have, abandon them. If you can't like a work, at least try to pretend that you do. It will help your writing enormously!

More seriously, I think it's great that you're reading stuff outside your regular habits. When we push our customary boundaries we realise what can be done with fiction, and how. We can also get a feel for how the novel as a literary form is changing.

I have a bunch of old classics loaded up in e-book form on my phone. Some of them are stories I'd read for pleasure, but many I read for historical context, or literary technique or just critical interest. I don't sit down and read them for hours as I do the books that I pick carefully from the shelves, but I often find time to grab a chapter between doing other things. The flaws and weaknesses in literary classics are every bit as interesting to me as their strengths; it's always illuminating to see how writers select and approach their subjects, and how some literary values wither, while others remain evergreen. You can learn a lot by reading outside the latest bestseller lists.

There's a down-side though. The more you read, the less satisfied you can get with stuff you used to like. I used to love certain genres and while I liked some stories better than others, I'd suck down just about anything from my favourite genres like popcorn. Nowadays I'm getting awfully picky. When you start getting better-read than some popular writers, it gets harder to ignore their bald-spots.

stormie
03-02-2010, 04:38 AM
Does a writer like ALL literature?
Nope. Does a teacher like all methods of teaching? Does a musician like all types of music? Does a public works department employee like all types of weather? (Okay, I'm being silly now. :gone: ) But...nope.

bigb
03-02-2010, 04:49 AM
Everything changes. I couldn't read Hemingway when I was young, seemed old to me. I remember reading Miller's Tropic of Cancer and wondering if it was banned because it sucked. Now I love Hemingway and enjoy Henry Miller at least enough to read a few of his books.

I have favorites, Keraouc, Bukowski and Vonnegut but my opinion changes about other writers and genres as I age or become better read.

Maybe you don't have to like it all but at least give it a try.

leahzero
03-02-2010, 05:14 AM
There is something to be said for being widely-read. If you cloister in certain genres or authors, your writing--and your thoughts--may become myopic. Since all you are taking in is one particular type of content, eventually it will be all you churn out.

Reading outside of my comfort zone improves my writing. It lets in new ideas, new ways of seeing things, new subjects, new blood. I assimilate these elements into the genres and topics I prefer writing in, and they are enriched for it.

stormie
03-02-2010, 05:22 AM
Of course it's a good idea to read what you normally don't, but the OP asked if a writer should like all lit. I mean, I'd even read the back of the cereal boxes. Or if I see a book in genre I don't usually read, I might just give it a try. But liking all lit? No.

poetinahat
03-02-2010, 05:37 AM
I'd think it would be near impossible to be a writer without having opinions about specific works. If it's all good to you, what are you aiming for - and what are you avoiding?


A writer liking all fiction would be similar to a musician liking all kinds of music.

I don't know how Tchaikovsky would feel about Slipknot.


I imagine it would be a fascinating experience for him. Whether he'd care to repeat it, though, I cannot say.

I imagine the more inventive composers of the early twentieth century - the Schoenbergs and the Richard Strausses of the world - might not baulk at a lot of modern rock music, even that which we think of as edgy. Some of those cats were waaay out there.

bigb
03-02-2010, 05:43 AM
Often times, you can learn more about the craft from a bad book rather than a good book.

Everybody should be reading my crap then.

BenPanced
03-02-2010, 06:05 AM
I think I like enough literature for people to say who I don't remind them of.

LuckyH
03-02-2010, 11:21 AM
Apart from enjoying the process for most of the time, I write to make money, and I need to know the changing tastes of the reader. For that reason I read most of the bestsellers that capture the public mood and try to learn from them. I canít read them all, there are too many, so I concentrate on those that fall roughly within my chosen genre.

Before I started writing seriously, I read as many classics as I could, or as many as I had to while studying, and forced myself to plough through some writing that I thought was abominable. Re-visiting those occasionally, Iím surprised that my tastes have changed over time, in the same way that vampires and other mysticisms are now at the top of the bestsellers, while weary war stories are no longer as popular.

If I was purely a reader, and not a writer, I wouldnít have got through Twilight, pages 150 to 300 would have been too much for me, but as a writer I was pleased I got to the last 100, which taught me something.

Ms Hollands
03-02-2010, 01:11 PM
Thank God, no. Mark Twain said (and I'm paraphrasing) that literature is something everyone wants to have read, but that nobody wants to read.

He was talking about his own literature, right?

*runs and hides from people who love the guy whose literature I really can't stand*

jana13k
03-02-2010, 04:37 PM
I run screaming from literature, mostly. I appreciate the talent, but can't stand the depression. I read to escape. If I want to be depressed, I'll watch the news. If I want to know about how evil man is, I'll watch Law & Order SVU.

I write mass market fiction, so I try to read books that I see everyone reading, IF I think I can learn something from it. If it's way too far out of my genre, then I usually don't bother. Not because I wouldn't like to, but because I simply don't have the time.

NeuroFizz
03-02-2010, 04:56 PM
It's highly likely the good fry cook doesn't like everything on the menu, but he sure as hell knows how to grill it.

CaroGirl
03-02-2010, 05:06 PM
It's highly likely the good fry cook doesn't like everything on the menu, but he sure as hell knows how to grill it.
Is that analogy apt? I mean, I sure as hell don't want to know how to write like an author whose work I despise. I might want to know what he did that I think is wrong but I'll never try to emulate it. Not even as an exercise.

NeuroFizz
03-02-2010, 05:29 PM
It helps to understand how other authors use the tools of the craft, even if you, personally, don't ever want to use them in exactly (or even remotely) the same way.

scarletpeaches
03-02-2010, 05:58 PM
What Fizzy said.

It's similar to my relationship with my mother. She taught me exactly the kind of woman I don't want to be. How? By showing me the bad effects of her behaviour. In comparison to women I admire, she fell way short, and enabled me to use her as a warning.

kuwisdelu
03-02-2010, 07:46 PM
It helps to understand how other authors use the tools of the craft, even if you, personally, don't ever want to use them in exactly (or even remotely) the same way.

Yeah. that.

There are plenty of writers I think are hacks. I can see what works in their writing. And I could probably replicate it is I wanted to, but I don't want to write like that, because, well, I think they're lousy writers, regardless of whether they're bestsellers or not. Being able to identify what's appealing to other readers is good for a writer, though.

But yeah, there's "literature" I love and "literature" I hate and don't think deserves to be called "literature" at all. I'm picky.

Phaeal
03-02-2010, 10:50 PM
I like my lit high, I like my lit low, I like my lit comfortably in the middle. As long as it's good.

I'm willing to try anything, but I'm also willing to stop reading after a chapter or two. I feel no obligation to like or read it all. I do feel a little obligation to sample what's spectacularly successful, just for my own marketing education. I like to figure out what makes a book work -- perhaps especially if I don't like the book myself.

brainstorm77
03-02-2010, 11:07 PM
no.

Lady Ice
03-02-2010, 11:13 PM
No, you don't have to like all literature, but you have to appreciate it. For example, if you don't like writer X, why don't you like him? And what might appeal in his writing to the people who do like him?

You can learn as much from a book you didn't like than from one you did.

Jamesaritchie
03-03-2010, 01:42 AM
Of course you aren't going to like everything. But you should read as widely and as deeply as possible. If you read only crap, you'll write only crap.

Ken
03-03-2010, 03:09 AM
I find Steinback an insufferable tedium.


... fine. You're entitled to such a view, though to be honest such declarations as these are so often made by new writers, which are the equivalent of "Look out here I come with my own masterpiece of literature." (I've heard such all too often.)

As to [sic] Steinback, I think that even if one doesn't care for his writings that they should be respectful of his aims. In Grapes of Wrath he addressed the heavy-handed tactics that the US government was taking against wage-earners who tried unionizing and improving their lot and insufferable working conditions. Steinbeck not only had the talent but guts to address the issue, thereby safeguarding democracy for us all.

He didn't do this single-handed, of course, but played a part in it. So we owe him our thanks, I'd say. So too of all writers who champion good causes, rather than merely writing fiction to make a fast buck and see their name in lights. Not saying there's anything wrong with the later, but just that their is a difference between the two aims that needs be recognized.

S.J.
03-03-2010, 04:39 AM
I think it's impossible.

brainstorm77
03-03-2010, 05:11 AM
Crap is in the eye of the beholder.

charlotte49ers
03-03-2010, 05:13 AM
Goodness no. There are entire genres I can't stand no matter how well they are written!

Libbie
03-03-2010, 05:23 AM
If a writer has to like all literature, then I'm sure as hell no writer.

kuwisdelu
03-03-2010, 07:08 AM
... fine. You're entitled to such a view, though to be honest such declarations as these are so often made by new writers, which are the equivalent of "Look out here I come with my own masterpiece of literature." (I've heard such all too often.)

As to [sic] Steinback, I think that even if one doesn't care for his writings that they should be respectful of his aims. In Grapes of Wrath he addressed the heavy-handed tactics that the US government was taking against wage-earners who tried unionizing and improving their lot and insufferable working conditions. Steinbeck not only had the talent but guts to address the issue, thereby safeguarding democracy for us all.

He didn't do this single-handed, of course, but played a part in it. So we owe him our thanks, I'd say. So too of all writers who champion good causes, rather than merely writing fiction to make a fast buck and see their name in lights. Not saying there's anything wrong with the later, but just that their is a difference between the two aims that needs be recognized.

That doesn't mean many of us don't still find his writing insufferable, tedious, and heavy-handed on its own.

;)

Similarly, I can't stand Hemingway's prose, but love Fitzgerald's.

I see what other people like in each kinds of their writing; doesn't mean I enjoy it all, or would want to write like them, either.

C.bronco
03-03-2010, 07:13 AM
I like some "Literature" in the classic sense. Please, however, don't make me read Portrait of a Lady again, ever. I think it was the most boring, sleep inspiring works of all time.

Give me some Melville short stories, on the other hand, and it's all good.

shaldna
03-15-2010, 03:53 PM
I have writers that I absolutely cannot stand, even within genres that I love.

Taste is subjective, and that's what sets us apart.

Lady Ice
03-15-2010, 10:53 PM
Have an opinion on everything, even if some may disagree. At the end of a book, sit down and think about what you thought of it. Decisions like this can help your writing.

shaldna
03-16-2010, 12:03 AM
Crap is in the eye of the beholder.


and you can;t polish a turd