There is something wrong, really wrong, when a site dedicated to book-lovers has the same community etiquette and literacy as YouTube’s comment section. Maybe it’s just another sign of the times: readers no longer really know how to read, commercial books are more passive, digestible in a single sitting even, and nobody seems to be interested in growing up. So much like Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, every book I love lay scorched on Goodreads.
I can understand not liking or even hating a book. When I was a teenager, I hated Fitzgerald—despite his genius and having being born and raised in the same city. He just didn’t write anything which targeted my adolescent mind: there weren’t any characters with ridiculous hair styles boasting power levels of over 9,000, or androgynous males with gigantic swords, that in no way compensated for anything. And I did everything in my power, at the time, to read as little as necessary of Gatsby to pass English class.
If I were to write an honest review of it from my viewpoint at age 15, it would look something like this:
DNF (did not finish). It was really, really boring. A whole bunch of stupid, ordinary (having no supernatural powers) characters did things I couldn’t even bring myself to care about. I had a very hard time focusing or paying attention to it because it moved too slow and had little action. I don’t know why they forced us to read something so irrelevant. P.S. Jazz sucks.
Sadly, this wouldn’t even be the worst review I’ve ever read as I’ve seen people rate / review entire books based solely on the first page. So why allow this? When did freedom of speech become the freedom to crap on everything while being automatically published? But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s not just your average trolling. Throngs of people, who also avoided reading assigned literature for school, seem really compelled to take to the discussion threads and go to town on how bad the book they never really read was. I have friends who love talking about books but won’t join the site because of this atmosphere. And I don’t blame them. The negativity just takes the spotlight.
The idea that good books are fun and bad books are boring couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, sometimes a book is like a gold mine. If you put in the work, digging and tunneling your way through it, you’ll unearth treasures that no amount of money can buy.
And it’s not like I’m opposed to literature that is purely entertainment. Some recent examples of books I’ve enjoyed were Warm Bodies and John Dies at the End. But it’s candy. It’s not something you get real sustenance from. What happened to having a balanced diet? Does somebody need to make a book pyramid?
I know nobody forced me to use the site or read any reviews / discussions. That’s not what this is about. Really, I just feel like we’re losing something important as a civilization. Kids and adults are knee jerk when it comes to works that can take a lifetime to digest. It’s like all those DFW speeches about hedonistic, instant gratification trends in entertainment are coming true, maybe even more so for books than he predicted.
But how deep does this rabbit hole go? And is it too late already to turn back. All I’m really asking is to please not make Mike Judge’s Idiocracy a documentary of the future and maybe moderate the levels of hate books get. Logical, reasonable critiques are one thing. Claiming 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was “dogshit [sic] writing” is blasphemous.