Giving readers a bad name.

I’ve never met this guy, but I don’t like him.

Joe Queenan professes to be a lover of books, and I will admit that he reads a lot, but he’s a snob. People like him are the reason readers have a reputation for being highbrow and superior.

Here are just a few of the elitist comments he made in his NPR interview:

“[The ordinary person reads] maybe one book a year and it’s by someone like Tom Clancy or James Paterson.”

So what? Reading is reading. One book is better than no books and who cares who wrote that one book.

The Tom Clancy / James Peterson slam sounds like sour grapes to me. Is Joe jealous of their success? Does he wish he could sell as many books as they do?

“Self-published books are so, so addled… They’re just insanely bad books.”

How can you possibly make such a sweeping generalization? I’m sure there are plenty “bad” self-published books (although I’d argue “bad” is entirely subjective and no one has the right to label a book bad, only that they didn’t like it themselves) but there are just as many bad books produced by the big, old-fashioned publishers.

This ridiculous statement made me want to introduce Joe Queenan to one of my favorite authors, Jon Clinch who, in spite (or maybe because) of the publication of his previous amazing novels, has decided to self-publish his next work.

I haven’t had the opportunity to read The Thief of Auschwitz yet, but if it’s half as well-written and stark and true as Finn or Kings of the Earth, it will still be brilliant.

And self-published.

I’d challenge Joe to read it before denigrating all self-published books.

“…most of the books you see in the library shelves are terrible books.”

I recently wrote a blog post lamenting my local library’s lack of newer books, so you might think that I’d agree with Joe’s assessment.

I don’t.

Again, he’s making an unfair and personal judgment of books, like he is the definitive expert on all things literary.

Even if he read every single book in every single library and decided that none of them were up to his standard, he still doesn’t have the right to call them terrible. He just didn’t like them.

I can’t stand it when people impose their personal taste on everyone else.

Besides, where does he think the “ordinary person” finds the one terrible book he or she reads each year?

“My problem with book clubs … is one week they discuss something like Anna Karenina and War and Peace and the next week they discuss the stupidest book imaginable. They just discover whatever book Anita Shreve just happened to write or something like that.”

First he laments that people only read one book a year then he puts down book clubs, organizations that encourage people to read?

This guy may be well-read, but he’s clearly an ass.

And what the heck did Anita Shreve ever do to him? “Just happened to write,” like she puts no effort into her books? Like she dashes them off in her sleep?

This man is a writer, yet he disparages other writer’s process and quality without thought. Does he think that he’s the only author since Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson that has toiled at his craft?

I normally feel great kinship with other readers. It’s usually a pleasure to meet a well-read person and I’d jump up and down at the chance to talk to someone who once attempted to read a book a day for entire year.

But I’d have to steer clear of this guy.

I wouldn’t want to offend him with all the trash I read.

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