LSS: Literary Snobbery Series, Whatnot
Comments 25

A Bit on Literary Snobbery

There is a war being waged on literary snobbery. It has been discussed since I’ve learned to follow bookish sites and forums, most likely even earlier than that, of course. It seems that this is something that will never end because there is so much to talk about it and the results are always open-ended. Hence, the restlessness of it.

I don’t mean to jump in, but the term literary snob strikes a deep chord within me. I realize that for the past few years, I’ve been trying to prove to my friends that I am not one. Sure, people get that impression, but what can I do? Maybe I am. Are you now jumping into conclusions? Why judge me? Why hate me?

But before that, just what is a literary snob? Who can we call as such? Literary snobbery is probably one of those terms whose definition cannot be pinned down, but one knows one when he or she encounters one.

I hope there is litmus test for literary snobbery to make this easier, but the fact is this isn’t as easy as that and it probably never will be. My being complicated, which I am loving, kind of makes it harder. So yes, I will try to gauge my level of literary snobbery. I say that because I think there is a literary snob in each of us. While we’re at it, I will also try to identify the kind of literary snob that I am.

1. Do I only read classics, literary fiction, or translations? Do I avoid self-published books, bestsellers, genre fiction, feel-good books, easy books, or books published after a certain decade?

No and no. If you’ve been following my blog for the past few years, you’ll see that I’ve dabbled into various genres. I admit though that my preferred genres are classics and literary fiction, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can’t bash my head with a baseball bat for not choosing genre fiction as much as I can’t do the same to those who prefer it.

I guess this is a case of double standards. But since I proclaim preference over the highly arbitrary “literary fiction,” well fine, that’s one notch higher on the snob meter. At least I’m not bashing.

2. Do I hate ebooks?

No. I don’t have an eReader only because I have too many paper books. A lot of my books are gathering dust and mold, so a newfangled device will most likely induce more hoarding than what I can handle. At least eBooks don’t gather dust and molds.

The fact that I’m making an excuse not to buy an eReader raises the snob meter a notch higher. Yeah, yeah, I love the smell of books, even if they are moldy and they make me sneeze.

3. Am I a diehard fan of Assumed Literary Writer (ALW)?

I guess I am a diehard fan of ALW if I have read all his or her novels. Now this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Read #1; this is a merely a matter of taste. How much of a fan I am and how I rub it on others is what matters.

I may have recommended the novels of ALW, but only because at certain times, I’m such a rabid fangirl. I shove books to people’s faces, I lend my copies to them, I get overeager, but I don’t remember recommending condescendingly, something like this: if you’re going to read ALW, you have to drop everything. I’ve heard this offline and it made me raise my eyebrow. I wasn’t entirely sure what the speaker is driving at. Is the speaker mocking my ability to focus and understand? Or is the speaker merely hinting at the power of ALW?

Either way, it’s snobby. When it is already imposing and has this tone of superiority, that’s it. No changes on the snob meter.

4. Do you read ALW in public places?

I read in public places, ALW or not. Another one of those double standards. Snob meter is steady.

5. Do I quote ALW during unlikely situations?

I quote books, ALW or not, once in a while because sometimes, it’s fun to quote. Snob meter is still not moving.

6. Do I hate another ALW for being so good?

Yes, I kind of hate James Joyce and Henry Miller but not because of their respective critical acclaim. I don’t let my hatred for them take over me. Perhaps what I mean to say is that I don’t dig their novels. I find them uncomfortable. We all have those books that we don’t like, right?

A few lines up on the snob meter. Why? Because I think I get these writers but really, I don’t. So I’m just going to sneer at everyone who says Ulysses is amazing. After all, it’s something supposedly written for academic debates. Maybe this should be more lines up on the snob meter?

7. Do I tell people what they should read?

I tell people what they might want to read. It’s one of the reasons I have this blog. But to put up a placard and join the campaign is something that I’m not keen on doing. I do wish that people would read more ALW, but that’s it. I will not go out of my way to tell them what his or her novels “really mean” and impose their importance on our lives.

A level up on the snob meter because of my secret wish.

8. Do I look down on other readers and flaunt an assumed superiority over them?

No. Why would I do that?

A dip on the snob meter.

So yeah, the snob meter declares that I am a literary snob. A lukewarm snob, if that’s possible. It is because I read genre fiction (I like sci-fi), young adult fiction (I like John Green), bestsellers (I like Harry Potter), but I wouldn’t go out of my way to wallow in these. I doubt that I’ll declare one of these as my best books (but I still like them).

And you know what? The fact that I am in a book club and that I religiously read all our selections, which are all sorts of books, lowers my literary snobbery. Again, the snob meter’s reading fluctuates, but really, I am fine with it. I’m used to being called one and so far, no one has threatened my life. Yet.

This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).



  1. I am sometimes embarrassed that my tastes run to the literary with the odd diversion because I rarely encounter anyone in real life who reads anything. Frankly I don’t care what other people read – I am just glad to see people reading.


  2. Monique says

    I think it all really just boils down to preference. If I prefer a certain type or genre, should people – especially people who don’t read the same kind of books – take it against me? Judge me for it? I think not. And it works both ways, right? :)

    I think book snobbery (not just literary snobbery) is when a reader actually disses the books that other people read. Because reading is a matter of preference, then all readers should learn how to respect others’ opinions. If he has negative thoughts about a book (or book genre), then he would do well to keep it to himself – unless asked. But if he goes around dissing or trashing a book that he doesn’t like, that is the ultimate in snobbery.

    Just my two cents. :)

    ALSO: wow, new layout! :)


    • When I’m bored, I change my layout. LOL.

      I have more bits on this topic (I have a draft waiting), some of which are similar to what you said. ;)


  3. Louize says

    OMG, a new layout! Nice!
    Literary snobbery for me is merely a term dished by other people, who are not confident with what they read, on people who knows exactly what they want.
    I don’t think you are a snob, dear. You just happens to have an unmistakable palate.


  4. Do you have a specific author in mind when talking about ALW? It kind of sounds like you do, haha.

    I think people who are still trying to form their own cultural tastes–especially when they are young–have a tendency to choose a side and try to define themselves by dismissing the types of art that are not what they like. With time, this tendency hopefully disappears, although I’m fairly sure that it doesn’t in some people. :P I still do quick judgments on people’s reading tastes sometimes, but I do try to evaluate that about myself and not assume that I am right because I feel a certain way.

    I listen to this fascinating NPR podcast called Pop Culture Happy Hour where one of the panelists said something like, “Good taste is what you can passionately defend.” I guess the kind of literary snob I am is not in people’s choice of genres/writers/what have you, but in the way they talk about or evaluate books.

    The kind of reader with whom I like to discuss reading are people with idiosyncratic tastes. If you tell me that you like a certain book because you can “relate with a character” and that’s it, then we have nothing to talk about. I like the kind of people who like certain books in their own unique way, even if their tastes rarely coincide with mine. For example, I’m fascinated with the way you loved Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher even if I reacted to it in a totally opposite way. It tells me that you enjoy transgressive and edgy stuff as long as there is a philosophical or literary angle to it. That’s the way I want to get to know people, not whether they’ve read the “right” kind of books.

    For myself, I like thinking about archetypes and tropes, which is why I’m fascinated with genre fiction. I like reading books and seeing how writers either follow formula or complete defy it, and how skillfully they manage such a thing. This probably means I am also a “prose snob” in that I totally judge the writing skill and appreciate it more than character or plot.

    I enjoyed this post! I’ll probably try to quiz myself with your checklist and think more about my snobbery. The one thing I’d probably point out is that literary fiction is also somewhat of a genre with its own set of formulas. For example, there are Look At These Weird and Wretched People books (hello there, Faulkner), Women Angry About Gender-Based Double Standards books, Novels About Young or Middle Aged White Guys In New York Thinking Thoughts, and so on. These vary, of course, but so do some stuff within genre fiction.

    (This is such a long comment. Geez. Sorry Angus!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Long comments are welcome! I’ll address some of the items that you mentioned in the next part of LSS. I’m kind of excited to finish my draft.

      I’ll let you in on a secret. While I was typing this, David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon were the names that I summoned for ALW’s face.


  5. Huwaw! New layout! It’s loverly.

    You are right, the war on literary snobbery will never end. Just look at the anti-YA, anti-new adult and anti-(insert genre here) articles that surface every now and then.

    I was just reading an article (from The Independent website) on David Mitchell, and it looks like he too is fighting the war on LS. He says this:

    “Who cares about ‘brow’? I don’t care,” he says. “Is it one of those books where you’re turning the pages and your glands – all your glands – are being affected?… Your heartbeat is being changed by words about things which aren’t real. Isn’t that amazing? That’s what I want to do. Highbrow, middlebrow, lowbrow – if it’s doing that, great. And if it’s not, I’d rather read something that does.”


  6. I used to say mean things about books I don’t like but I don’t anymore. I am so sorry!

    You don’t strike me as a literary snob although given your reading lists and favorites, I guess you are always in danger of coming off as one.


    • I used to do that, too. But being around so many readers of different tastes taught me how to reconstruct my mean comments.

      Anyway, I think there’s another point to chew on (your last sentence). Will think more about it.


  7. Pingback: Week in review, week ending 9/21/14 | Random thoughts of 210Darryl

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