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Joel Stein & Adults Who Read YA Are Silly

bad day kitten
The wonderful Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress has written a short and succinct article (with a lovely mention for me!) about satire writer Joel Stein's much-debated Adults Should Read Adult Books article that's being bounced all around publishing and the internet.

I think you'll find his article, and Alyssa's, and the comments on Alyssa's article (to which I contributed) pretty interesting, and of course you can say your own thinks right here. I hope you will, since I'm interested in what you have to say!

Replies from me won't come for a few days, since Tim and I will be at Marcon in Columbus, OH, but once I'm home I look forward to reading your comments.

I think Stein is a fathead, by the way. If he really is being satiric, as some have claimed, then I think he's a troll.

Comments

( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
riotfolk
Apr. 4th, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
It amazes me that people feel the need to be critical about what others read, particularly other adults. Isn't it enough that people do read?
l33tminion
Apr. 5th, 2012 08:03 pm (UTC)
Boy is that ever the perfect icon for this post.

(My first thought when I read the original linked article was literally, "There's the sort of guy who's too stuck-up to eat a grilled-cheese sandwich.")
missedith
Apr. 4th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
I think my favorite argument so far as to why adults should "stick to adult books" was "if (adults) don't read them their maturity level doesn't grow".

Guess that means I can only read Harlequin romance novels now since those are definitely for adults only!
lbfmusic
Apr. 4th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
I completely agree that what he said is total bull. NO ONE can tell me what to read. I may be an adult, but some of my favorite books are YA. I also love how elegantly Alyssa put things.
mac_arthur_park
Apr. 4th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
Some of my favorite books are YA. You know why? Because they helped shape who I am today. I still enjoy going back to revisit them.

And my inner 12 year old loves reading YA. So there. *sticks tongue out*
anderyn
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
Man, where to start?

To me, half the time, YA books are better-written and more imaginative than most of the adult fiction I see on bookstore shelves. So why shouldn't I read it?

And dissing Pixar movies as dumb brain-numbing entertainment? Where does this Stein guy get off?

Augh.

Possibly coming back later when I am not leaving work.
eavanmoore
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
My mom read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the same time that I did. We both enjoyed Judy Blume's oeuvre. I appreciated her insights into the characters and the opportunity to share an experience with her; I don't know what she got out of it, exactly, but I can tell you it didn't turn her brain to mush.
windancer
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that line from him made me go...Parents who read what their kids are reading are good parents! o.O
viherminttu
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
They can pry the YA from my cold, dead fingers!
lied_ohne_worte
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, what nonsense (the article from that Stein man). I'm an adult who reads both adult and YA books (and anyone who throws "Twilight", "Hunger Games", and HP into the same pot pretty much disqualifies themselves), or even children's books. I was also a child who read "adult" books, because my parents let me read pretty much every book I wanted from in our shelves, and I generally realised which ones weren't for me, because they bored me.

I read the Shakespeare historical dramas (mainly the ones with Henry IV - VI in them) at about the same time as the Lioness novels (both in German translation). And I still read both of those (now in English), although of course I read them differently now. Whenever I visit my parents, I pull a stack of my old children's books from the bookshelves they kept there, and I re-read those books. With most of them, I discover things that I didn't see as a child, I reflect on the messages they contain, I try to find out what about them appealed to me particularly, but I also simply enjoy them.

"Adult" books are not automatically more worthwhile than children's books - all Dan Brown novels I've read were flat, badly researched, full of one-dimensional characters and either illogical or completely foreseeable plot developments. And at the same time, you can have extremely dark, complex children's or youth books that are well-written and use almost poetical imagery, and which I would count among "high literature", whatever that may be. Take books like Krabat for example - that's one book that is really scary and makes one reflect about things like friendship, love, temptation, good and evil, courage and cowardice... When I last talked with my mother (who is 69) about book illustrations, I mentioned the illustrations in that book, and she said that she had just thought about the book a few weeks ago, and she had gotten it out and re-read it, and once again found how great it was. I won't have that person insulting my mother.

My guess is that Mr. Stein was a very bad reader as a younger person. Either he didn't read at all, or he read only very easy books, or he didn't understand the ones he read... or possibly a combination of all.
windancer
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
Ugh. Serious troll.

So looking forward to seeing you at Marcon! Looks like it's going to be a really great con. :D
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
So looking forward to seeing you at Marcon!

And? Did I live up or down to your expectation?
cereta
Apr. 4th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
Stein basically is is troll. Every few years, he says something insulting about the latest Big Thing (last time, it was Harry Potter) to try to keep himself on VH-1 shows and in Newsweek. I mean, his whole argument comes down to, "Adults shouldn't read YA books because it's dumb. Because I said so."
auroraceleste
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
This. So this.
adelheide
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
Just... *sigh*

I will never understand why people are so worried about what kids or adults read. I was reading Poe around age 7 and Lovecraft around 10. When I didn't understand something in the story, I looked it up. It taught me how to reason and research.

I don't care what people are reading. I just want them to read. If a kid finds something disturbing in an "adult" book, that is the perfect opportunity to sit down and discuss it with them. What scared them, why it scared them, what it means to them, etc.

I read some books for information. I read some for the love of reading. I read some because they are fun. It's like saying, "Adults should only go to R rated movies, plays, and the opera." Stein is far more impressed with himself than I've ever been with him.
muffin_song
Apr. 4th, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
Add me to the list of adults who read YA.

To quote a friend I was discussing this with: Under Stein's standards, should adults not read Catcher in the Rye? Throw Huckleberry Finn out the window?

I'm okay with people not liking and/or having critiques of the YA genre. But Stein's arguments come across and uninformed and poorly thought out.

Edited at 2012-04-05 02:05 am (UTC)
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
Under Stein's standards, should adults not read Catcher in the Rye? Throw Huckleberry Finn out the window?

Originally these weren't thought of as YA. I'm still shocked to see TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, JANE EYRE, and ENDER'S GAME in YA!

But Stein's arguments come across and uninformed and poorly thought out.

I don't think a whole lot of thinkage was involved. "Oh, here's a book/movie that a whole lot of people like! It must be trash!"

The literati give me a pain in the patooti.
gauroth
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
*sigh* nobody's going to tell me what I should or shouldn't read, certainly not this pitiable geezer who obviously hasn't read any decent YA.

Also, surely it's vital for parents or carers or anyone who has anything to do with children or young adults to read what they are reading so as to engage with them? Just as it's vital to watch the tv they watch and play the videogames they play?

Elementary.
iqeret
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
Was it just me, or was there a distinct implication that 'adult' actually meant 'adult male' in the article? Does that mean I'm automatically exempt from Stein's pronouncements about what I should and should not do with my spare time?

Anyhow, if he's being serious, then it's no more or less than 'intellectual' asses have been braying throughout history. If he's being satirical, he should find a new day job.

I wonder if he would shrivel up into a whimpering ball of mortification if he were dropped into a Tokyo train with a bunch of manga-reading salarymen…
meranthi
Apr. 5th, 2012 01:16 pm (UTC)
I definitely got the sense that adult was male and tween was female. So "real men" read real books and girls read that crap like Dr. Seuss? Right.
riotfolk
Apr. 5th, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)
Iirc he used mail pronouns in the beginning of the article, and you're right, that does make it even more insulting. So men are too good to read YA but it's expected from women?
iqeret
Apr. 10th, 2012 09:07 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how deliberate it is, but there certainly seems to be a gender line present: Good=male/neuter-perceived material like Pixar, Donkey Kong—even porn is a step up. Bad=female-perceived material like Twilight, Beiber, Cinderella's castle. I'm not insulted as such; it's more of an eye-rolling reaction in that it seems that men are so much more sensitive to slights against their (and apparently other people's) masculinity. Which has some measure of irony considering his book is subtitled 'A Stupid Quest for Masculinity.'
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
that 'adult' actually meant 'adult male' in the article?

You're not alone in getting a whiff of that.
votemarvel
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
Adults should read books. Does it really matter who they were written for as long as you are getting enjoyment from them.
smurasaki
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
Who is Joel Stein and why on earth should anyone care what he thinks? Judging by his column, he's a self important windbag who thinks he's far more clever than he really is. I suppose hiring a professional troll is one way for a magazine to get page hits.
alicetheowl
Apr. 5th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
I've heard a similar argument to why people shouldn't read science fiction and fantasy, or romance, or any other genre. Honestly, the stuffy pseudointellectuals can have their damn stuffy, pseudointellectual books. I'll be over here enjoying what I read.

As there is evidence that I'm actually experiencing the story along with the characters, I'll take my fluffy, enjoyable stories any day.
bunnikat
Apr. 5th, 2012 10:16 am (UTC)
Makes me think of this quote:
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

― C.S. Lewis

Stein sounds like a wanker.
saiena
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
Meh, no one tells me what to read. I shall spend my money how I like, and since I'm not hurting anyone I can break my brain any which way I wish. If I want to be educated I'll read non-fiction.

I dread to think what he'd say about the Horrible Histories tv series we have here in the UK, based on Terry Deary's best-selling books. After all, a couple of years ago it won best sketch show at the comedy awards.

*gaspshockhorror* Not only is it a kids show, based on kids books, but it isn't even a comedy show. And yet it beat adult shows for adult people! Oh, the humanity! They even repeated it, taking it from the kid's channel to a mainstream one, at prime time when adult people might have been watching. Will nobody think of the adults!

Foolish troll, get back under that bridge where you belong.

Edited at 2012-04-06 10:53 am (UTC)
ladygzb
Apr. 5th, 2012 01:37 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I just finally had a chance to read Mastiff and I loved it. I did NOT see that coming! Now that I'm in my 30's I've found that the YA authors of my youth didn't stop writing when I was no longer a youth... I am so enjoying revisiting their work and reading their newer additions.
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I just finally had a chance to read Mastiff and I loved it.

Thank `ee!
l33tminion
Apr. 5th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
If the original article is satire, it's poorly-written satire.
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
If the original article is satire, it's poorly-written satire.

The whole aim of even the most straight-faced satire is that at some point any moderately intelligent adult stops and says, "Oh, wait--this is a foolie." To wit I give you Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" in case you haven't discovered it yet.

Edited at 2012-04-19 07:42 pm (UTC)
vixenmage
Apr. 6th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
What a moron. Like most of the commenters above, I spent my childhood reading mostly adult books until my siblings and I got out of the Christian Homeschool Bubble and were allowed into libraries without supervision. And then we all discovered fantasy, and the world was magic. (And then I stumbled onto Wild Magic, and holy shit, girls don't have to be sidekicks?!)

Seriously, this is the kind of bull that kept Tolkien down for so many years. The dude clearly needs to grow up.

(Edited because I can totally html, I swear)

Edited at 2012-04-06 12:20 am (UTC)
Deanna Toxopeus
Apr. 8th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
Stein
First, Tamora thank you for the links to the article. I had somehow managed to miss it. Second, as a middle grade teacher and someone who does some writing and reviewing of the exact thing he is talking about, I have some strong opinions on this. But I won't clog this space with them. The final paragraph from the rambling on my blog sums up nicely how I think we all should deal with this man. "Instead, read. Read a lot. Read a variety. There is a lot of good literature out there. Some of it was written for adults. Some of it was written for teens. Some of it was written for children. There is also a lot of crap out there. Some of it even appears on the New York Times opinion pages. Don't waste too much time on the bad. We have so little time on this planet. Spend it looking for the good. Because as Joel Stein has proven to me, your reading will change you, and sometimes not for the better." Keep up the good work! I love your works.
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Stein
Some of it was written for children.

Dr. Seuss! Jannell Cannon! OWL BABIES! HOW DO DINOSAURS... DON'T LET THE PIGEON... Nancy Willard!

Keep up the good work! I love your works.

Thank you!

shadowspun
Apr. 10th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
Okay, as a kid I read "adult" books as much as I read "kid" books. I'd go from reading Nancy Drew mysteries to Shakespeare's plays to copies of my father's sci-fi from one day to the next. Most of the classics that were shoved down my throat in school weren't even written for younger people in mind. They have just been put into the category of YA at this point. I'll read anything that interests me, whatever genre it falls into.

To be fair, I still haven't read the Hunger Games books. I've never liked dystopias and just have no interest in the books or movie. My neohew and a bunch of my adult friends loved the books, so I know I'll give in eventually, but for now I'm holding out. However, that is merely an indicator of my taste. I hated The Great Gatsby, The Pearl, Of Mice and Men and quite a few of the other books I had to read as a kid and teenager. Even re-reading some of them as an adult, they still don't appeal, like 1984. Others, I absolutely adored from the first moment I read them, like Animal Farm and a lot of Shakespeare's stuff.

I'll read whatever books I like and if someone doesn't like it, he can take my library of books of every genre that spans at least 4000 books and choke on it. The huge history and anthropology hard-covers should give him a small problem. ;p
tammy212
Apr. 19th, 2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
The huge history and anthropology hard-covers should give him a small problem.

I doubt his brain can encompass them.
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )

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