Outrage Porn for Bored Authors

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Marium Parium

An Egyptian from Texas, living the CPA life, ex-liberal arts major, still writing bad poetry.

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  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    Wow. I wasn’t aware how deep that rabbit hole went. I heard some rumblings of it but because I generally don’t read current YA lit, I didn’t pay much attention.

    And it is funny how I association “trying to get books removed from public school libraries” with parents who are extremely politically or religiously conservative to the point where not only do they not want their child reading something (that is fine, that is their prerogative as a parent, but they should be aware that kids often find a way to consume “banned” entertainment) but they don’t want anyone else’s kids to be exposed to it. (I remember some skirmishes over certain books when I as a student. While I get that school libraries can’t have everything, and they probably need to be more choosy than a public library might be, some of the parent-outrage was pretty puzzling).

    But now, I guess the people trying to prevent others from accessing content are doing it from a place of “wokeness.”

    Though really, I don’t think the motivation is that much different: “We don’t want people ‘corrupted’ by this material” though the definition of “corruption” would differ – for an extremely conservative Evangelical Christian parent, it might be books with LGBT characters presented positively; for one of the people trying to police YA literature on Twitter it is that things like slavery existed and that the reminder of that might be painful to some.

    I don’t know. I do seem to see a thread in US culture right now of people who want to try to tell others “Oh, that thing you enjoy? It’s bad, and if you enjoy it, I think you’re probably a bad person.” I also wonder if some of what you call “outrage porn” is people wanting to feel special because, like the Gnostics, they have secret knowledge the other “followers” lack – they can see problems that other people can’t, and that makes them more special. I don’t know.

    I read a lot of stuff I’m sure people now would class as Problematic. (I am currently reading a fairly old Rosemary Sutcliff novel – a YA novel in fact – set in Roman Britain and I am sure my enjoyment of it would shock some people. I dunno.)

    The problem with demanding perfect purity from everything means you increasingly wall off a smaller and smaller area as the area you are willing to inhabit, and I’m sure it gets stifling. Did the Roman occupying forces do harm in Britain while they were there? Sure they did. Is there perhaps something problematic about a book where all the main characters are male, and the only female character is kind of a secondary figure? Maybe, but the fact that I’m a woman and can comfortably enjoy the book would suggest to me it’s less of a problem than some would thing.

    I don’t know. My concern with the rise of purity-tests is that eventually very few people will produce books or movies or the like, and then we’ll all be wondering why there’s nothing new to read.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to fillyjonk
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      “But now, I guess the people trying to prevent others from accessing content are doing it from a place of “wokeness.””

      I agree with your concern but just wanted to point out that there are still plenty (a majority) of kick-this-book-out-of-my-kid’s-school people who are doing so for the political and religious reasons you assume.

      Happens all. the. time.

      It can be easy to see the new disturbing trend that seems to be growing as quantitatively bigger than the still existing giant thing, but it ain’t true.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    Imagine if you saw the world as a zero-sum game. Like, if someone read a book, that meant that they weren’t reading a different book.

    I suppose this is trivially true, but imagine a world where people only read two or three books a year.

    If you wrote books, how important would it be for you to be one of those two or three books? Why, it’d be downright essential! It wouldn’t be enough for people to merely know about your book, you’d have to know why they should read your book instead of someone else’s and why they shouldn’t read someone else’s at all.

    And cutting down other people is part of making sure that they don’t read someone else’s book instead of yours.

    ——————

    Yesterday I saw a tweet talking about “sensitivity readers” being bad. Requiring a sensitivity reader is a sign that the author refused to do her own research and was forcing someone else to do her job as a crutch.

    There can be only one.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I don’t actually think it’s about personal gain as authors; I think that there’s a zero-sum ideology here, but the thinking is that there are a large number of [pick an identity] authors who *aren’t* getting to publish books because cishetwhitewestchristian authors are hogging all the spaces. If only the Bad Problematic authors who catered to racist misogynist transphobic Islamophobic readers would stop taking spaces they didn’t deserve, then there would be Representation.

      And, y’know. It’s not like it’s a *bad* thing to suggest this. But it does go back to earlier conversations about video games, and why there weren’t more video games that featured [pick an identity], and the answer was that video games that centered their featuring of [pick an identity] didn’t really sell better than the ones with Dudebro McWhitey.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
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        I live with someone who reads approximately googolplex books a year and so, from my perspective, the idea that one book would preclude another is absurd.

        Until I remember that I read about 2 or 3 books a year. And, yeah, one pushes out another.

        But *THAT* said, I can’t imagine pouring so many resources into a YA book only to yank it yards from the finish line.

        I mean, surely the twittersphers/goodreads folks aren’t the difference between a book turning a profit or not. I can’t even imagine them being the difference between a book making it to #n vs. only making it to #n-3 or not.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    Marium, great essay and I agreed with all of it.

    The OP and Fillyjonk’s comment mentions this but the similarities between the social justice Left and religion are striking. More and more academics are starting to point this out, which is a good thing, but they also speculate that we are just at the beginning of the arc of it’s existence. Long way to go but we need people pushing back and calling it out.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      Which then raises an interesting question.

      Is it true then, that the desire for transcendence and a “Rightful Order” such as that which was traditionally provided by organized religion, is enduring and universal?

      Isn’t it possible that what we are seeing is just a shifting of boundaries, where the lines around Sacred and Taboo aren’t going away, but just moving into different positions and controlled by different groups?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels
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        @chip

        “Is it true then, that the desire for transcendence and a “Rightful Order” such as that which was traditionally provided by organized religion, is enduring and universal?”

        I would say yes. I’ll use myself as an example. I was raised Catholic and while I still consider myself culturally Catholic, I have always been very skeptical of Christianity. I finally accepted that I couldn’t get onboard with it, but I am still a believer in a higher power even though my rationale mind often tells me it would just be easier to be an Atheist. Still, I persist in my Belief. Why? Because I find it allows me to compartmentalize the impulse to search for ‘enduring and universal’ truths and not allow it to bleed over into my political and policy interests.

        I’m not being original by pointing out that the social justice/progressive Left has become a secular religion. There are lots of academics and thinkers much smarter than me who are talking about this right now. What would be most concerning for me is if the people in that group acknowledge that at some point and embrace it. That’s a moment we should all be scared of.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      The OP and Fillyjonk’s comment mentions this but the similarities between the social justice Left and religion are striking.

      This type of critique strikes me as better situated in the worldview of someone who’s anti-POMO *and* anti-religion than coming from traditional conservatives. I mean, if the comparison is valid it’s actually a devastating criticism of organized religion and religious beliefs.

      Add: someone like myself, for example 🙂Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        @Stillwater

        Well I have never liked the linkage between conservatism and religion, so maybe I am a bit of an outlier there. Even though I am a Believer in a higher power, I typically don’t have much use for organized religion in general. It’s hard to find many religions/denominations that don’t have problems in their past.

        I will also say that most of the critique of the social justice Left is coming from liberals. Classical liberals, moderates, contrarian academics. Keep in mind, Progressive Activists are less than 10% of the population. There are a LOT of liberals that don’t buy into this nonsense, although i do believe the Team Blue impulse has them often defending these positions and mimicking them in some ways.

        I’ve seen the same thing on the Right. I know lots of conservatives who are not religious fanatics and are common sense folks but they have defended things like teaching Intelligent Design in schools because they are so Team Red that they can’t do anything else.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        Maybe what I’m about to say here is splitting hairs, but there’s anti-religion in a sort of epistemological, Richard Dawkins sense and there’s anti-religion in what I’d call a milder, establishment clause sense.

        One is against the concept of religion itself and wants to drive it out wherever possible. The other is general tolerance of cultural traditions and exploration of spirituality in non-scientific ways but opposes witch-hunting and use of the state apparatus or cultural institutions to punish heresy. That latter version has a long tradition that I think can include small-c conservatism, even if it would exclude the American Christian Right.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD
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          @inmd

          I agree with your breakdown of the main two types of anti-religion. When we’re talking about the recent phenomenon of academics/classical liberals starting to pushback against the social justice Left it’s hard to say exactly where they fall. Their criticism are based primarily on the type of intolerance you see among religious zealots and recognizing that this is a significant feature of the ‘priests’ of the social justice movement. But you will also hear them say that the intentions of the social justice crowd are good, they are just terribly misguided. So maybe they lean a bit more towards the establishment clause sense in that they have no issue with religion per se so long as it allows for debate and dialogue. That is increasingly NOT happening right now as the Left has started to exhibit some of the same regressive tendencies that hurt the Right so much over the last 20 years or so.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            @mike dwyer

            I don’t disagree, and I’m one of the people who sympathizes with many ideas derided as ‘socialist’ (to me a lot of it, especially around healthcare, education, and environmental protection is more aptly called reinvesting in ourselves, but I digress).

            I do see a lot of the non-falsifiable accusations of various isms and the application of dogmas primarily around sex, sexuality, and race in ways obviously at odds with verifiable facts to be downright cult-like. Even where there is some insight it’s washed away in by a mob mentality and rejection of nuance and empiricism. My wife has been seething for days after being on the receiving end of an SJW pile on in one of her mom’s groups for questioning some of the reactions to the cover of a recent issue of Esquire. She is a life long Democrat with a background in sociology and no time for the Republican party, Trump, or anything right wing and was still turned on for the crime of questioning an online circle jerk.

            I’ve said for a long time that the center left sanity dividend isn’t a guarantee and the more the SJW crowd morphs into a mirror image of the moral majority the more damage its goung to do to liberalism generally.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            @inmd

            Lately, I keep coming back to this quote from an essay called ‘The Preachers of the Great Awokening”. It very much matches what i have seen online in the last couple of years.

            “Also antithetical to the stated goals of Wokeness is the tendency of its most popular preachers to castigate sinners instead of calmly attempting to persuade them of the justness of the Woke doctrine. Antithetical, but perfectly comprehensible from a signaling perspective. Those who are Woke don’t really want to inhabit an entirely Woke world without the bigoted masses; instead, they want to occupy a world of good and evil, of the just and the wicked, of the high status and the low status, of the elite and hoi polloi. The Woke faithful almost certainly do believe that the world is unjust, even wicked, and they almost certainly do sincerely want to ameliorate the suffering of its victims. However, they also want to signal their membership to an elite and morally righteous club, and therefore they need an out-group, a foil, a morally wicked other for contrast. And, they can’t let just any kind-hearted person into their club, because then it would lose its exclusivity. So they must develop a strenuous vetting system, one that is vigilant and suspicious and quick to detect sin.”

            https://quillette.com/2018/09/21/the-preachers-of-the-great-awokening/Report

  4. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    At this point, Poe’s Law is in full effect. I honestly can’t tell if these gate keepers are serious, or if they are pulling an “OK” sign as a White Power symbol scam, and people are eating it up.

    I’m serious. Let’s say I’m someone on the religious right, and I don’t want a book about gay lovers in the YA market. If I openly complain about the sins of gay love, the target market will at best ignore me, and at worst attack me. But if I flip the script and attack the book on some social justice intersectionality grounds, before enough people have seen it to know I’m full of shite, I can destroy the book before it’s ever released, or maybe prevent it’s release, because the SJW crowd seems eager to stone their own.

    Sure, it’s a bit of 3D chess, but when the opposition is so eager to pile on a target…Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      @oscar

      Am I reading this right that you think the actions described in the OP are so outrageous that you believe it could be a conservative conspiracy? If I am reading you correctly, please allow me to offer you this red pill…Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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        says:

        Seriously? No, I think the Sacred Order of The Perpetually Outraged has plenty of true believers for this to be an true example of one such pious member.

        My point is that if the congregation is willing to attack on the word of a member, don’t be surprised if outside agitators figure out how to leverage that dogmatic enthusiasm for their own purposes.

        Witch trials very rarely involve any actual witches, after all.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon
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          says:

          Are you familiar with Titania McGrath’s Twitter feed? She’s absolutely hilarious.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon
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          says:

          @oscar

          I feel like even raising the possibility that the religious fervor of social justice warriors could be manipulated by conservatives is proof of how dangerous the movement is. Or it’s a dodge that implies these well-intentioned folks could only be led astray by outside actors manipulating them. I think they are going astray all on their own. Keep in mind, this has been nearly 60 years in the making.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            I’m very much in the “this is dangerous” camp, not only because the fervor is used to attack their own without outside manipulation, but also because it can be used by outside manipulators because it’s so unhinged.

            Again, back to my with trials analogy. Accusations of witchcraft didn’t get made because someone was convinced the accused was a witch, they did it to manipulate attention (either to bring attention to themselves as righteous, or to divert attention away from something else).Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            I heard someone recently talking about the way that Progressives love to throw around the charge of racism and he compared it to the Salem Witch Trials:

            Toby Young recently referenced the Salem Witch Trials:

            Prosecutor: “Not a witch you say, but denying you are a witch is a sure sign that you are a witch! Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.”

            Basically, denying you are a racist/misogynist/whatever is exactly what one of those people would do so it proves the charge.

            This is a good breakdown of what we are seeing:

            https://quillette.com/2018/09/21/the-preachers-of-the-great-awokening/Report

          • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            I agree with the main point you make, Oscar, but I’m not convinced your point about witch trials was consistently true. It may have been largely true, but I still suspect that at least some of the accusers sometimes were convinced the accused was a witch. Of course, there were a lot of incentives built into the way those accusations and resulting trials work to make people think they believed the accused was a witch when they were probably trying to “manipulate attention.”Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      There are ongoing, semi-organized efforts from the alt-right/chan-dorks/etc. (plus maybe Russian bots) to create sockpuppet Twitter accounts, which in turn will drive to drive social justice wedge issues. It does happen. Usually it’s pretty obvious to those familiar with the topics. However, they are often really opaque to those unfamiliar.

      For example, there is this: https://twitter.com/markhughesfilms/status/1100979728159105024

      (Ironically, I fully expect Jesse Singal to support these shitheads, because he’s hot garbage, but that’s a long topic.)

      That said, I have little doubt this is real. YA has had this problem a long time. Fakes would be obvious to insiders.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    This is the NY-SF pretentious snob in me but I don’t understand how all these adults decided that all they cared about was YA literature. This seems to have blown up in the past few years but you have a lot of seemingly adult people whose whole world is YA. All they do is read YA, write YA, discuss YA, etc. Haven’t these people heard that there are books written for adults too?

    One of the most interesting anthropological-sociological questions to me is how so many adults seem to reject the idea of culture that is aimed for adults. Into the Spiderverse might be a good movie but I’m 38, I would feel embarrassed to call it the best movie I saw all year.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      It’s just the xenith of consumer culture and capitalism. The most money is made when everyone in the whole family buys a seat, book, whatever.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Some of the most important books for me in my 44 years were YA. They are what made me start to think critically and fall in love with reading. I do think it’s very important to discuss them, just not to go full bananas.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Mike Dwyer
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        I find increasingly as an adult I am going back and reading (sometimes re-reading) YA books I either missed as a kid, or that were published long before I was reading and I never knew about. Often the writing is more “vivid” to me than many adult novels….and a lot of modern “literary” novels to me feel like cavalcades of dysfunction (e.g., people repeatedly cheating on their lovers and the like) and I’d honestly rather read stories about smugglers or magic or good fighting evil. Maybe I am just not very sophisticated, but at least I know what I like.

        (I really enjoyed Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” sequence and I wonder why no one pushed me to read it as a kid, given the other things I was reading at the time, it would have been right up my alley).

        I’m TRYING to read Pere Goriot right now, but it’s depressing me in how cynical several of the characters are and how useless the aristocrats are. That’s probably the point but not really what I want for “entertainment” right now.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to fillyjonk
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          @fillyjonk

          I read your first paragraph and kept thinking about ‘The Dark is Rising’ until I read your second paragraph. That series is a touchstone for me. My original paperbacks from the 1980s have a special place in my home office. We were required to read Over Sea, Under Stone when I was in 7th grade. I was already interested in archaeology and the Arthurian legends then so it basically blew my head off. Myself and a few other guys in my class found out there were more books in the series so we rode our bikes up to the local bookstore and ordered copies of the Dark is Rising sequence and devoured them when they came in. I can still recite the poem from The Dark is Rising from memory.

          Ironically, I’m not a big fantasy literature guy, but the Dark is Rising dovetails with some of my spiritual beliefs and a lot of my historical interests. It was also the first time I read a book series and not just a standalone and it gave me that same thrill as a good comic book series, except multiplied greatly. That total immersion is a feeling I continue to chase. Harry Potter obviously scratched that same itch and watching my daughter have that experience was priceless.Report

          • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            I’m not a big fantasy reader, either, but I think what I loved about “Dark is Rising” is that it was magic-in-the-‘real’-world: in that Will Stanton and the Drew kids seem like ordinary kids (though Will apparently is very not-ordinary, actually) living in this world, but they are called to do something….kind of beyond this world.

            In a way, it’s like the whole superheroes thing for me: I wish I could do great good in the world, but I know because I am just one person and I have my frailties, I cannot, but somehow reading about people in a more-or-less ordinary world doing great good and literally fighting off evil….somehow it makes it more tolerable that I can’t do it.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            As noted, I am not very knowledgeable about the fantasy canon, but for me this was the first time I ever read anything that was basically, “Normal boy discovers he was meant to do great things.” What it did for me was to give me the conviction that even though I was not the most popular kid (somewhere in the lower half of the social ladder) I began to understand that I had a whole lot of life left in front of me with unlimited possibilities.

            I also remember trying to fit the fantasy elements into my limited understand of Good and Evil and assumed that the Light was some kind of proxy for Christianity. I think that is debatable but now understanding how she wove in so many pre-Christian elements and having a much greater understanding of how the Church assimilated Germanic pagans by adopting a lot of the rituals…it’s masterful storytelling.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            “I also remember trying to fit the fantasy elements into my limited understand of Good and Evil and assumed that the Light was some kind of proxy for Christianity. ”

            As I recall, there’s a bit where the characters use their magic powers in front of a priest, and he starts running his mouth about how of course this all comes from God, and they pretty much tell him straight out “no, it really doesn’t have anything to do with your faith”, and they end up erasing his memory of the incident.

            And this is an interesting contrast to Madeleine L’Engle’s work, which is pretty clear about it happening in a world where the Christian mythos was actual history…Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            @densityduck

            I think you are right and all the more reason it’s probably time for a re-read on my part. I recall lots of language about the Old Ways, Old Magic, etc. Reminds me a bit of Game of Thrones and the Old Gods, etc. As noted, I have been going deep on Germanic paganism for the last several months so I really see the roots of that in these stories now.Report

        • Avatar atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk
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          says:

          OMGosh yes THIS.

          Cavalcades of dysfunction.

          It’s BORING. I honestly think these stories lack imagination. I recently read a highly acclaimed “grown up” novel and it was just this laundry list of who had sex with who and how it was justified because so-and-so had a slightly less than optimal upbringing and a mildly disappointing marriage. Then at the end someone died. While some of the writing along the way was insightful and I did enjoy the book, it was pretty much the identical story I’d read in several other highly acclaimed “grown up” novels.

          Then I reread A Series of Unfortunate Events and it was 10 times more entertaining and 100 times more insightful, and I was able to read it despite being tired and distracted.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      While I don’t disagree with you in spirit, I will point out that I read YA stuff (or chick lit, or romance, or fantasy, or whathaveyou) and watch cartoons many times because I’m tired, busy, there’s a lot going on, I’m constantly interrupted, and/or I am too stressed overall to concentrate on anything heavier. And I have the ability to read an adult level novel – not everyone does. I just lack the energy.

      The luxury to have the time, energy, and ability to sit down and wrangle with War and Peace or a Bergman movie, is just that, a luxury. Not everyone has it. It may be less a “rejection” than you think it is.

      Personally I think it’s great that people are reading anything they enjoy because life is hard and if YA helps someone cope with that reality by giving them a few days of escape, more power to ’em.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Those darn kids, and their rock and roll music!Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      YA books tend to have actual plots, where characters want things and do things to get them. Things happen. There are events, which are organized into a pleasant narrative arc. In other words, they tend to be good stories, long on action, short on self-indulgence.

      I’d rather read about a cool teen girl with a sword than another tedious novel from a “serious” guy about — I dunno — how he wants to shag his graduate students.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to veronica d
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        I am currently reading the Children’s Hour by AS Byatt and the the last novel I read was Talent by Juliet Lapados about a female graduate student and her quest to complete her thesis.

        Women write for adults too and it is an insult to define literature for adults as you did.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          @saul-degraw Live by the sword, die by the sword…

          (Or to spell it out, if you don’t want to have people sidelong mischaracterizing and insulting your reading preferences, maybe don’t start every conversation with a hefty dose of insulting theirs.)

          And if you think there aren’t a lot of Famous Prize-Winning Literary Authors who can be fairly skewered as, at least in part, writing tedious novels about serious guys who want to shag their graduate students, you’ve got a blind spot the size of the Grand Canyon.

          (As a long time lover of AS Byatt’s work myself, it irritates me that you could read her work and look down your nose indiscriminately at those who enjoy things that normally get slotted as “only for children” all at one and the same time. With the exception of her longstanding feud with Margaret Drabble, Byatt is quite reasonable and evenhanded about why people love what they love, particularly among those with considerable work as a critic under their belts. )Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to veronica d
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        says:

        You can read Elizabeth Harwick, Edith Wharton, Jennifer Egan, Helen Oyeyemi, Lydia Millet, Collette, Mary McCarthy, Meg Wolitzer, etc. All women who write for adults and don’t write what you seemingly smeared as all of adult literature.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          OK, I adore Colette (one L) as much as the next cat-owning bed-loafing bisexual Francophile but if I were making up a list of authors that wrote books that “tend to have actual plots, where characters want things and do things to get them. Things happen. There are events, which are organized into a pleasant narrative arc. In other words, they tend to be good stories, long on action, short on self-indulgence.” she is the LAST freaking person I would put on the list. Self-indulgence is a huge part of her appeal. As are meandering plots where not much appears to happen.

          What the heck? Have you *read* her or were you just trying to shut down an argument that you started?Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Maribou
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            I was just mainly upset by the crude and wrong stereotype of literature for adults.

            I find misfit teen gets sword and magical powers is also pretty indulgent. Maybe there is more of a narrative but the indulgence comes out in a different form.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou
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            says:

            Then if you don’t want to hear crude and wrong stereotypes about your preferred reading materials, don’t *start* with crude and wrong stereotypes of YA readers.

            Why is this so hard for you?

            You literally start so many fights by being a jerk about the stuff people like (even if you like it too, just not as much as they do!) and then when they push back about your own stuff, you get all upset.

            It’s puzzling as heck.

            Especially given that you often start with some reference to how you must just be a snob, but…

            That doesn’t mitigate the following insults. Asserting one’s snobbery increases it, not undercuts it, because you have just confirmed that you really do think your stuff is superior to other people’s stuff.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou
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            says:

            I mean in this very response to what I said, which I was mainly complaining that you *mischaracterized* Colette’s writing, you had to add in a repetitive complaint about YA stuff. There’s nothing *wrong* with a writer being literarily self-indulgent, I was praising her work, just disagreeing that it was a valid list of plotful non-self-indulgent writers.

            You attack at a 6 and then when you get 3’s in response you’re SHOCKED. It’s so baffling.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Maribou
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            says:

            A snob is someone who tries to make their (so called) good taste an identity issue, rather than being simply their taste.

            My point is this, the rise in popularity of YA among adults is in part a response to the needless association between “literary” and lack of plot. You can still trust YA writers to deliver a compelling yarn.Report

            • Avatar Maribou in reply to veronica d
              Ignored
              says:

              @veronica-d

              “You can still trust YA writers to deliver a compelling yarn.” Nah, not really. There’s as much plotless weird YA (some of which I also love) as there is plotless weird litfic, as a percentage. I will say that YA writers tend to STAY IN THEIR OWN DANG LANE rather more, so a writer who normally writes compelling yarns will not suddenly decide to write a barely veiled roman a clef about how much their much younger wife is in awe of them and their amazing wonderosity instead (I’m looking at you, Salman Rushdie’s midlife crisis).

              And short of me being annoyed by the dumb insults, there’s a lot of good literary fiction that has compelling plots. Plus Colette, for all her self-indulgence, actually strikes me as someone you would find pretty interesting both biographically and writing-wise – have you ever tried her stuff? She developed her skills writing erotica (some of which a modern mind finds quite baffling) under the coercion of her much-older husband, who more or less forced her to write and kept most of her earnings for most of her life, and then after he died she started going in new and different directions (including but not limited to highly literary cougar erotica) and became a darling of the same literary set that had previously either snubbed her, or just enjoyed the libertine scandalousness of associating with her and her crowd of male, female, and it’s-complicated lovers without taking her at all seriously as a writer …. I can’t say she didn’t make some moral choices that freak me the hell out, but so did de Beauvoir, so did literally hundreds of thousands of men in that time period without it being scandalous, and it is what it is now….

              Anyway, if you get past the weird age stuff in some of her books, and the thoroughgoing lack of plot in most of ’em, you might actually enjoy her stuff. La Vagabonde, La Naissance du Jour, Sido, are three that I remember particularly appreciating, although I was in my teens when I read them so it’s been a long time…

              Not saying you should stop reading what you know you like and read something else instead, or that anyone else should, I just can only take so much of a thread complaining about the state of any kind of literature before I get distracted and start trying to handsell books to people instead.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Saul: I don’t see much evidence here that YA literature is “all they cared about.” They may care about it greatly, but I’m sure they care about other things.Report

  6. Avatar Richard Hershberger
    Ignored
    says:

    This seems to me mostly an argument for ignoring Twitter. Usenet was wild west, but it didn’t restrict you to 140 characters. My curmudgeon response is that usenet was the peak of internet discourse. Everything since has been an inferior copy. This ought not be taken as high praise of usenet.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    I guess you can say they are consistent in their outrage if they believe a Black Gay man shouldn’t right about Albanians. Of course by this definition, authors of any sort should not be allowed to write about vampires, wizards, werewolves, and hot teens with superpowers because those things do not exist..Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      No, everyone can write about everything that doesn’t exist unless they do so in a way that seems like they’re really writing about something that does exist or their imaginary beings are tied to a particular underrepresented culture to which they have insufficient ties.

      Why do you think derivative mainstream fantasy is so much more popular than realist fiction these days?

      (somewhat, but only somewhat, tongue-in-cheek – I mean… most of my favorite books have been sneered at as derivative mainstream fantasy at some point. but still.)Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko
    Ignored
    says:

    I can’t help but think about a couple of white women who opened a taco truck here in PDX and got outragemobbed out of business, with the outragemobbers apparently led or inspired by a reviewer for one of the free weeklies.

    This story seems suspiciously similar.Report

  9. Avatar Aaron David
    Ignored
    says:

    When I was a teen in the ’80s it was the religious right doing this, trying to make explicit what had been implicit as they started to lose their moral and cultural power. Now, as the “woke” left is starting, just starting, to lose its cultural power we see much of the same type of actions. Think twitter mobs, campus deplatforming. If one’s ideas can only gain traction in the forced absence of other competing ideas, then one needs to look long and hard at the strength and truth of that idea.

    Society has always had its book burners, its witch trials. And more importantly, it has had those who defy them. When it comes to censorship, I will always be on the side of the defiers.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Aaron David
      Ignored
      says:

      Hrm.

      I may have been looking at this wrong.

      Instead of me seeing this as power being lost, I was seeing it as power being ascendant…Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David
      Ignored
      says:

      In which I play the Old Man card…

      When you speak and receive not praise and affirmation, but howls of outrage and condemnation, it isn’t always a sign that one is a brave iconoclastic truthteller, is it?

      I mean, I’m old enough to remember the early 70s when the boundaries of sexual freedom were being pushed, right up until the time NAMBLA and advocates of childhood sexual freedom joined in.

      The tools and arguments used against them were remarkably similar to the ones used today about sex trafficking and exploitation.

      Which side houses the bold truthtellers and brave explorers? Which side has the courageous defenders of human dignity and solidarity?

      Sometimes, if everyone is outraged by my words and conduct, it is because I have in fact caused hurt and pain.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Aaron David
      Ignored
      says:

      I am really, really cautious about movement hyperbole i.e. flipping out because I think some subgroup has gained too much influence. For that reason, I think the Tea Party really caught me off-guard and it took me a couple of years to come to grips with what happened to the GOP.

      With that said, I truly believe the Social Justice/Progressive crowd is just starting to come into their own. AOC is a remarkable phenomenon to watch. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have positioned themselves to run full-on Progressive agendas, so much that Bernie might end up being right of them. I really think Pelosi is finding herself in the same position Mitch McConnell was not too long ago. But as I mentioned, the foundation for this was laid in the early 60s (Port Huron Statement, etc). The academy has cycled several generations through now and it feels like they have reached a critical mass of sentiment to really press this agenda.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Mike Dwyer
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        says:

        “According to a Zogby Poll® of 1,744 likely voters, conducted randomly online from 2/14/19 to 2/17/19 with a margin of error of +/-2.3 percentage points, socialism is not fashionable among all likely voters, and especially among Democrats.

        Socialism is all the rage on the left and in the news. The Democratic Party is moving hard to the left and even branding their policies as “socialist,” but our polling shows this might be turning voters off. Multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls have embraced socialist policies like “Medicare for all,” “open borders,” “childcare for all,” the “Green New Deal,” and “universal income.” All of these ideas are very progressive and becoming more popular with the national Democratic brand and main stream Democratic candidates. Take for instance New York Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has praised some of these ideas as the future of the party and the country. Although these ideas are in vogue with some party leaders and coastal city elites, most voters are not that enthusiastic about socialism. Only 29% of likely voters have a favorable impression of socialism (very favorable–10% and somewhat favorable–19% combined), while 49% are unfavorable-16% somewhat unfavorable and a third are very unfavorable, while a quarter of likely voters are not sure how they feel.”

        https://zogbyanalytics.com/news/884-the-zogby-poll-voters-reject-socialism-half-of-voters-have-an-unfavorable-impression-of-socialism-a-majority-of-democrats-do-not-want-their-party-to-declare-itself-a-socialist-partyReport

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Aaron David
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          says:

          I don’t think a lot of liberals in geberal are quite as enamoured with socialiam as Bernie would have us believe (I think Millennials are interested because of the job problem). Democrats are being dragged leftward though, which is attributed to elite whites. That’s why I think Progressive or Social Justice Left is a good identifier because that is the core group that is getting the loudest voice right now.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      I thought of the same thing. I wonder if it’s a generational shift- I grew up in the era of “no censorship” and the people who wanted to pull books or boycott musicians for the good of the children were folks like Tipper Gore and the Rev. Donald Wildmon. Every time something like this comes up, that’s who I think of and wonder why anyone would want to be on that side. I think it’s very different for people growing up now.Report

  10. Avatar Maribou
    Ignored
    says:

    What drives me nuts is the superficiality of all this and the script-flipping. Oh, and how self-centering it all is.

    Like, there are people on Goodreads complaining about this who are *Albanians who read the book* and are (understandably) offended by the mustachio-twirling Albanian villain. They are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy further down the review dogheap than popular Americans with lots of followers (just like the author).

    I can’t help but think, “American author writes a good but clueless book, Albanians object, people learn stuff, write better books” – or *even* author learns stuff, changes author’s note, researches more next time, would be a good overall outcome, in which some people were deeply offended (hey, it happens!), but the overall arc was positive. Instead it’s all about which which American can be most offended by which other American on the topic of a war that most of them still know almost nothing about. Yay?

    And it *also* makes me a lot angrier about the state of publishing than about authors. Authors are weird. Authors were never meant to be publishing machines. Editors used to (at last in the ideal case, there were and are plenty of shitty editors being shitty about power) *help authors exercise some goddamn judgment and make authors’ books better*. I can easily imagine a scenario where some editor said “Hey, dude, this book is brilliant but let’s not with the ridiculously over-the-top Albanian villain, yes?” and they argued about it for a while and finally – because the author trusted the editor – that part of the book never saw the light of day and the overall book was a lot better as a result. that sort of thing used to happen *all the time* with both famous and relatively unknown authors.

    And Heidi Heilig’s first book was AMAZING (Amazing! Delightful! So fun to read!), so it wears out my heart to see her running around wasting all her energy on twitter rather than focusing on writing more books and otherwise enjoying life.

    Lately it seems like it’s so fiercely about the money and about rushing to be at the top of the twitterati, there’s no room for authors to be less than perfect, enacted upon each other by the authors themselves as much as anyone else….

    Which perhaps just makes me a member of some splinter sect of the church of SJW, but I swear, folks, there is a *there* there. It’s just getting overrun by people who are lacking wiser, more mature mentors.

    OK, this part below is new and I’ve never tried to spell it out before even to myself in this way, but here it is, in its messy just-formed rambling:

    It does make me think generationally in ways that stupid editorials about generations really don’t. Is some of this a result of there not being many Gen-Xers/early Millennials (hereafter Gen-Xers) to mediate between Boomers and late Millennials (hereafter Millennials)? To mentor the latter without *parenting* them?

    I had significant late-Boomer (or very early Gen X) mentors / friends / coworkers / etc in my life who didn’t parent me and whose values were significantly different from my own. People who were the same age or slightly younger than my parents and got me and my preoccupations, but didn’t wholly share them. Who were willing to be in dialogue with me and had my back and wanted to teach me things but were also willing to learn in the areas where they had gaps. (To *learn*, not to mea culpa on Twitter for financial or emotional reasons.)

    More and more it seems like
    1) there aren’t enough Gen-Xers who are willing to do that for Millennials so Millennials kind of did without mentors or had much older mentors who played more of a parental role (in *general*, not all Millennials, etc. etc. etc. Obviously these are sweeping generalizations, US/Canada centric, etc etc etc.)
    2) GenXers continue and intensify the Boomer trend of thinking of themselves as cultural *critics*, not culture shapers (albeit with more justification since there just aren’t that many of us) – or of wanting to be to one side of whatever cultural wars are going on, keep our heads down and stay out of the way. Either snark without trying to change things, or be invisible. It makes sense at 19, less so at 45.

    So I wish a lot more folks *my age* being incensed by the more idiotic strands of social justice (or conservative thought, or whatever – this happens all over the place) would roll up their sleeves and engage with actual 20-30 year olds, in supportive and non-directive ways, but without pretending to not be skeptical or disagree when something is just wrongheaded as young people sometimes *tend to be*.

    Instead it’s all about being above it, attacking it, or avoiding it. And I’m like that here sometimes, sure, but day to day I go to work and I listen and I talk and I try to be a positive influence and a good mentor without being an asshole in the predictable ways some people who should have been mentors to me were assholes, or inventing new ways of being an asshole. And I see other people in their late 30s and late 40s doing the same thing…. but there aren’t *enough of us*. Because there just aren’t enough Gen-Xers/early Millennials for the number of late Millennials there are. We’d have to *all want to do that work* to even have a shot, and there are plenty of people who just really don’t want to for entirely personally valid reasons, so that’s just not gonna happen….

    It’s like the damn elephants that can’t manage their social structures because of how decimated they are by poaching – and there are definitely worse results than just fucking up the development of YA authors, for sure, and there are older YA authors (John Green springs to mind) who are intensely engaged in exactly this way I’m recommending….

    But meanwhile anyone who tries to talk about that need loudly in public gets swamped with accusations of ageism from Boomers and younger Millennials alike…. which is probably why I’ve never put it quite like this myself before.

    Gnargh.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Maribou
      Ignored
      says:

      Editors help authors write better book unless an author gained so much popularity that they gained protection against editors. That way all sorts of weird, off-beat, and questionable crap like many scenes in Steven King or Ann Rice books get through. I am thinking of one particular Steven King scene in particular.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq Oh yeah, Laurell K. Hamilton suffers from the same problem. But the developmental role of editors seems to be going by the wayside insofar as it did *used* to at least work on the midlist and up-and-comers a lot of the time. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised – I’m not suggesting it happened but I wouldn’t be surprised – if the book under discussion didn’t used to have an Albanian villain and that at some point some clever (really stupid) person in editorial (or before he got around to actually seeing a traditional editor at all) was like “oooh, you know what would make this *more nuanced*????”

        Way too much overthinking about the wrong things, way not enough thinking about the deep things, that’s what’s wrong with a lot of stuff that comes out these days and especially with the twitterstorms around it.

        Which is not to say there isn’t a lot coming out that’s fabulous, still, and well-written and well-edited. It’s just that we’re not collectively paying enough attention to that stuff. The wrong stuff is getting amplified, IMO. And it makes it look like “publishing is totally jacked” (which is my own fault for saying) when really “some subset of tradtional publishing is totally jacked because it’s a disrupted market and disrupted markets can get really messy before they settle back into stability” would be a lot more accurate.

        YA and middle grade comics are doing particularly well, IMO. Especially if you take a broad view of YA as being 12-18 year olds, as is actually traditional in the field, which lets fabulous graphic novels like Paper Girls, Monstress, Hellcat ,etc into the YA sphere because actual 15-18 year old teenagers freaking love the stuff and they have teen protagonists.

        But even without that – it’s a strong field that’s really developed almost from nothing if you look back at the days of Bone. (er, nothing in this country anyway, obviously the situation in France/Belgium and Japan/China/Korea was quite different!)

        Gets a lot less coverage online than all the sturm and drang does, though.

        If I didn’t read the trade journals, and actual books, and only judged the state of YA from Twitter and book blogs/vlogs, I’d be deeply depressed about it.

        But then I read utterly delightful books like Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee (who is definitely interested in social justice, but definitely NOT part of any drama-ridiculousness stuff), and I’m all, naw, people, it’ll be fine.

        It just depends on what part of the whole you are looking at, at any given time.Report

  11. Avatar gabriel conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m not familiar with most of the literature and authors the OP cites, but I think I agree pretty much completely with the OP’s view.

    My only quibble–and it’s not really a quibble, it’s a tangent on the discussion–is that libraries will have to make some decisions on which YA literature (or any literature) they’ll have on their shelves. Along some margin, they also have to decide how to decide. They’ll have to answer at what point will they decline to expend the money and precious shelf space for another book. And sometimes, their social justice concerns (and other concerns about right and wrong) may legitimately enter the picture. That issue, I suppose, transcends YA literature, and I don’t mean to target it as a YA only, “what about the children!” concern. Just noting it.

    None of that quibble/tangent addresses what the OP is exposing, which strikes me as outrageous and deserving of criticism.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Aaaaaand the NYT chimes in.

    (Spoiler: They take the side of Team Evil.)Report

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