Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections on Peeta and Reading

Earlier today I saw a tweet that seemed to lean negatively towards Peeta (of The Hunger Games fame, one of my favorite book characters) This was really the case of eavesdropping or overhearing a conversation and so I went to investigate why Peeta was a boy in YA fiction that a blogger wouldn't want their daughter to date.

I was sort of shocked to see the blogger say Peeta was manipulative! I've heard things like, Peeta is a wimp, or clumsy and those arguments seem like reasonable interpretations of the books to me. But Peeta as manipulative and self-serving does not. (I should note that yes Peeta is manipulative of the audience of the Hunger Games but does he manipulate Katniss for his own survival?)

Of course it's possible that Suzanne Collins has a card to play that will reveal this to be true, but I suspect unless it's brilliantly done, I will feel deceived. I don't need for Peeta to end up with Katniss, in fact, I think the most reasonable outcome is that Katniss will end up alone. But I don't want this character that I love to turn out to be false.

This is all a really long way of saying that I set out for comfort and started looking up theories on The Hunger Games. I was almost immediately led to John Granger's Hogwarts Professor site and have unfortunately spent a good part of the day reading his many posts, not just on The Hunger Games, but also Twilight. It's funny because I've known of his site for a long time and did read some of his work on Harry Potter, but I clearly should keep reading because much of his approach towards books, and in particular his thoughts on the validity of popular fiction match mine. I often felt like cheering as I read what he said, not least because I just came off of Comic-Con, a weekend celebrating the critically disregarded comics and genre story-telling.

In any case, it was all quite timely, especially having just read Iris's post on liking Twilight. Her post bothered me (not because of what she said but because she had to write it), because I have noticed a tendency to apologize for liking Twilight or romance. I have even had the impulse in myself to apologize for my love of The Vampire Diaries and vampire fiction in general. Or to add a disclaimer.

It makes me sad that we live in a society in which we may be made to feel shame for what we like to read. Especially as reading is such a deeply personal experience and something we do out of need. I'm not suggesting we all have to like the same things, that's simply not possible. But there's a huge difference between not liking something and dismissing it as useless to all. The voice of Twilight dissenters is loud and at times quite cruel. It makes me wonder--why such a strong reaction?

Long time readers of this blog know this is not a new subject of discussion here, and it's something I am constantly thinking about especially as I read various blogs and sites and tweets devoted to books. I've been thinking about a lot of things in regards to book culture lately and hope to dive into a few of these topics in more depth in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I leave you with a paragraph from John's blog in which he responds to an article about literate women being ashamed of their love for Twilight:

These readers are consequently stunned when, having suspended disbelief and entered a “cheesy vampire romance” novel that by their arbitrary checklist of literary do’s and don’ts is “trash,” they have the mythic, borderline religious experience the best stories deliver. What is so stunning — and embarrassing? — is less the “out of nowhere” surprise of this experience (think Susan Boyle) than that their usual fare of reading, the right sort of books, is nowhere near as engaging, even transformative as Mrs. Meyer’s “junk.”
Read the rest at Forks High School Professor.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.


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