The OF Blog: Reading a book as opposed to consuming a book

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reading a book as opposed to consuming a book

In my post on Tuesday, I discussed briefly the notion that there are fewer "great" readers than there are "great" works of literature.  Today, I want to expand the parameters of that discussion to discuss perceived differences between "reading" a book and "consuming" a book.  It is, more or less, a continuation of the old but never dead-end argument regarding why critical reading is a fundamental part of cultural diffusion of ideas.  Futhermore, I want to touch upon what I perceive to be a deep-rooted fear for many book consumers about the art of reading.

A great many book buyers are book consumers.  They buy a book with the intent of consuming it as a product.  For such readers, books are a product, meant to provide a bit of entertainment to while away the hours spent on a bus, train, plane, or waiting in an office for an appointment.  A book is, to them, akin to a movie or CD - a source of entertainment that can be disposed of after its completion, likely with little thought given to it afterward than "Well, yes, I found that book to be enjoyable", or in cases of books that did not provide the sought-after passive, easy entertainment, "I didn't like it and wouldn't recommend it to you."

The book (or in the advancing digital age, the e-book) is seen here as a product.  Something produced by writers, perhaps following a formula that allows for easy communication of ideas.  Only occasionally is the book-product viewed as being something idiosyncratic, something that may contain ideas that will clash with our expectations.  Oftentimes, the consumer will reject those books that run too counter to their expectations, as they find these books to be "dull," "difficult," "uninteresting," and if they are more honest with themselves, "non-engaging."

The book consumer and her attitudes dominates book matters these days, just as it has ever since mass readerships emerged (and likely before then).  For them, the book is to be consumed, it is not something to waste a lot of time thinking about or arguing for or against.  For these people, those who do engage in this sort of textual wrestling may be viewed, in the words of one such consumer, as providing "wanker's answers."  Even in their bafflement, they fail to go much further than a very general like/dislike divide.

Too often the question surrounding books is "what should I read next?" rather than "how and why should I read this?"  I am currently reading Harold Bloom's 2000 book on the joys of reading and its mechanics, How to Read and Why.  He begins his book with the prologue "Why Read?"  I want to quote a few passages from this section to support what I will say shortly about book readers as opposed to book consumers:

Sir Francis Bacon, who provided some of the ideas that [Dr. Samuel] Johnson put to use, famously gave the advice:  "Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe or take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider."  (p. 21)


Let me fuse Bacon, Johnson, and Emerson into a formula of how to read:  find what comes near to you that can be put to the use of weighing and considering, and that addresses you as though you share the one nature, free of time's tyranny. (p. 22)


Opening yourself to a direct confrontation with Shakespeare at his strongest, as in King Lear, is never an easy pleasure, whether in youth or in age, and yet not to read King Lear fully (which means without ideological expectations) is to be cognitively as well as aesthetically defrauded.  A childhood largely spent watching television yields to an adolescence with a computer, and the universtity receives a student unlikely to welcome the suggestion that we must endure our going hence even as our going hither:  ripeness is all.  Reading falls apart, and much of the self scatters with it.  All this is past lamenting, and will not be remedied by any vows or programs.  What is to be done can only be performed by some version of elitism, and that is now unacceptable, for reasons both good and bad.  There are still solitary readers, young and old, everywhere, even in the universities.  If there is a function of criticism at the present time, it must be to address itself to the solitary reader, who reads for herself and not for the interests that supposedly transcend the self. (p. 23)

OK, I'm sure that for some reading this, as soon as I said the magical words "Harold Bloom," their eyes rolled back and a bit of a snarl emerged from the guttural depths.  He is, after all, somewhat outspoken about books that millions have adored that he found to have little to no redeeming literary value and he said so, quite bluntly.  For these readers, chances are dim that what he has to say here will be considered because they just don't like the man.  In this age of instant communication (and a dearth of reflective commentary), what writers and critics say off-the-cuff tends to be recorded, cataloged, and used to delegitimize the arguments made by that author/critic as well as anyone else who may sympathize with the viewpoints expressed.  Referencing again a single internet forum remark, the puerile argument that a work can be dismissed through ad hominems is frankly ridiculous.

Now with that little obstacle hopefully out of the way, let's look at what Bloom says here.  In these three quotes, two of which are really summations of earlier authors' viewpoints on reading, Bloom argues against a passive reading.  He doesn't say it in quite the words I used above, but he is arguing against a simple consumer approach to literature.  Writings ought not to be boiled down to whether or not they agree with one's own sentiments.  If that were the case, then such a rigid orthodoxy would be established as to make the worst excesses of the Spanish Inquisition seem tame by comparison.  There has to be room for multiple interpretations.  Conversely, one should not read just to find things to fling against its author.  After all, the Devil may quote Scripture for his own purposes.  To peruse a book just to find condemnatory materials is not reading, but rather prosecuting a work and its author for crimes that may not have been committed. 

In composing this, I thought back to the most recent rounds of discussions surrounding "sacred cows" and "sacred bullshit."  In Paul Smith's article yesterday (the second link of the two in this paragraph), he mentions J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as only a small part of his argument that there should be no sacred cows.  As a test (and to attract more attention to his argument), I relabeled his post title as "Tolkien as a sacred cow of fantasy" and posted it on a forum I frequent.  The responses were illuminating, and I am not being sarcastic in noting this.  It was interesting how detailed of an argument against criticizing Tolkien was made in response to a post that had a far larger scope than just one author.  Perhaps they were misled in part by my more provocative title, but I suspect that for some, as soon as the word "Tolkien" appeared, they felt the need to rush out and "defend" a work that has sold hundreds of millions of copies over nearly 60 years.  Amazing.

The admonition to avoid reading to "find talk and discourse" is an interesting one, particularly in this day and age of book clubs (in-person and online) and social media surrounding books.  It is one that I am not sure I agree with much at all, considering how highly I value discourse, but I think I see the point being raised.  Stories, unless composed to be read or sung aloud, are intended to be digested by individuals.  Perhaps afterward, there can be a discussion with fellow readers (not consumers, mind you), but the purpose of the reading should not be centered around what others have to say in agreement or in argument against.  This I believe ties in to the point Bloom makes that in reading, the story "addresses you as though you share the one nature."  Reading a book, as opposed to consuming a book, is an act of dialogue, one that the reader engages in to see if s/he can commune with the Text that the Author has composed, a communion that is almost as mystical and timeless as the Holy Eucharist is for Catholics and Orthodox.  Dialogues aren't yes/no, agree/disagree axes that a Likert Scale can measure.  They are conversations in which the reader opens him/herself up to what the Text has to say.

This is, I believe, the tricky part in reading.  It is not easy to open one's self up to strangers.  Much easier to maintain a pleasant façade toward strangers, both living persons and ideas found in books, while maintaining a detachment from commitment.  Conversely, sometimes we might fear to delve further, lest something beloved (like Tolkien's work for many) turn out to be not as wondrous as we first imagined.  Last year when I re-read LotR, I certainly found myself having a complex, mixed reaction to the story (and to other Tolkien works that I read).  Perhaps in the near future, I'll distill what I hinted at in those March 2009 essays on LotR into a single post that can be considered by others.

Consideration is the most important point that Bloom raises here.  Everyday, a person has to make thousands of evaluations, considering whether or not to take one course as opposed to another.  Some of these evaluations are well-considered, while others are rash.  In reading a book (again, as opposed to consuming it), a reader ought to weigh and consider the text.  Trust, but verify.  Test it out, kick the tires, if you will.  Then turn around and do the same to yourself. 

Yes, do such weighing and considering to yourself as well as to the text.  You are not an infallible creature.  You may not "get" the text.  You may confuse ignorance for profundity.  You just may be flat-out wrong and just are too mule-stubborn to admit it.  A lot of people are that way and not just about stories.  Get over it.  Admit that you can and often are wrong.  Reconsider, if only after a space of time has elapsed, what you have concluded, perhaps rashly.  You may find that your original take still holds true to you in large part, but likely you will have gained a greater understanding and appreciation for how this occurred.  You may learn how to judge ideas better once you learn how to weigh and judge your own self.  Consideration and testing forge deeper bonds with stories than any book consumption could ever manage.

So, are you a book reader or a book consumer?  I'll let you be the judges of that.  For myself, there is always more to weigh and consider.


Andrew Liptak said...

By picking up a book, paying money for it, you are consuming the book - what you get while you read it and afterwards is something else entirely. I don't think that there's ever been a time with popular literature that anybody has not been a consumer.

Larry said...

I would agree in part, except I purposely chose a word that also connotes the devouring or using up of a product not not just its purchase. It is that sense of chewing up and disposal that interests me here, not the monetary transactions.

Alec Johnson said...

Interesting stuff, and I agree with a lot of it heartily. In particular, your descriptions of the dialogue between text and reader and the ways of interpreting seem pretty spot on.

A few things I'm not so sure I (I, the irrelevant stranger on the net, but hey, I suppose that's half the joy of comments boxes) agree with. Yes, there are different ways of reading, and some of them are more conducive to finding pleasure and enlightenment in certain kinds of books. Yes, in the long term, these are the readings that offer more respect both to one's own mind and to whatever text you're examining.

However, I think you make too much of a distinction between different kinds of people, rather than simply different kinds of reading. Instead of saying that there are readers and consumers, perhaps halt at 'there are readings and consumings'? Because I think most people will do both at one time or another. I'd guess a typical pattern is to 'consume' until something shows signs of stirring something in the soul, and then switching into a more intense reading, or perhaps coming back for a more detailed second reading at a later date.

I doubt anyone is always a 'reader'. Not just because of Bloom's 'tyranny of time', which is a right bugger to get around, and no mistake, but also because, unless they're very lucky or very limited in the range of books they pick up, a person is unlikely to want to invest too much effort in everything they read. I've read plenty of things that I've not been interested enough in to warrant picking apart in greater detail. Perhaps this decision isn't always fair, but I for one often prefer to save my real attention for things that seem to offer me more in return.

Another thing I take mild issue with is your desire to separate the act of reading a book from that of watching a film or listening to a record. I'd say that both of these are just as open to being 'read' rather than 'consumed'. Also, music is almost always an art to be experienced through repeated exposure, even when taking a shallow, swift, pure entertainment approach.

Paul said...

It's of course natural that the dichotomy you present in your post, like most dichotomies, is a simplification of the reality - an attempt to sort a whole spectrum of readers or reading styles into two polar opposites, for the sake of making a point. As long as these two categories are used abstractly to show why it's desirable to "read" a book instead of "consuming" one, that's all fair enough, and you've made clear in that other post that this "reading" is a goal, something one can never do perfectly but should strive to do as well as possible.

It is unfortunate, then, that you feel the need to start pointing fingers at certain specific people or groups of people who in your opinion merely "consume" books and don't "read" them. Because as soon as you do that, the oversimplifications in your model do become a problem. (And your comments on your RAFO thread are even more unfortunate, while we're at it; you are of course free to have your opinion on the replies you got there, but to blame the authors of those replies for focusing too much on Tolkien and too little on the topic in general, when the title of your post was "Tolkien as sacred cow of fantasy" and when Paul Smith's article clearly focuses on Tolkien as well, is rather absurd).

I think it's safe to assume that most of the people involved in either that Westeros discussion or the RAFO one have in fact read "great" works of literature, and have done so in an intelligent and critical manner. I also dare say that most of them are perfectly willing and able to acknowledge that their favourite books and authors have flaws like all books and all authors. What puts their teeth on edge and provokes angry and sometimes petty reactions is not criticism itself, it's the derisive and elitist-sounding tone in which said criticism is usually delivered, particularly when - as is often the case, sadly - those comments implicitly or explicitly condemn not only the book in question, but also the people who like said book. And suffice to say that posts like this, or that incident a few months back with Mark at RAFO, are not helping.

Put a different way, it's a natural human tendency to divide the world in "us" vs. "them". Deplorable, and something that I would hope most people try to avoid as much as possible, but natural all the same. But it seems to me that in a post like this one, you do precisely that, creating a dividing line between yourself and like-minded people on the one hand, and those "consumers" at Westeros, RAFO and wherever else on the other hand. And in a way that's remarkably similar to how Tolkien/Jordan/Martin/... fans will band together in communities, being plenty critical of their favourite author among the in-crowd, among the "us", but reacting with hostility when it's the "them" who utter criticism.

This comment is getting ridiculously long already, so I'll just end with referring you again to what I think is a rather relevant point in Rahkan's reply to the other post: "Put that way, being a "Bad" reader is no longer some sort of moral failure. They just haven't read enough books. And that's fine. It's perfectly legitimate to decide that there are better and worthier things to do in the world than read fifty or a hundred (or five hundred!) books a year. "

And also (yes, this is really the end), what Alec said.

Eric M. Edwards said...

I am tired of hearing the argument from elitism raised time and time again, against your and to a lesser extent, Paul C. Smith's polite and reasonable arguments.

Let me state that those who have done so, have to my observation, done so entirely in ignorance of its meaning and are using the word "elitist" to thinly disguise attacks of an ad hominem abusive nature. They also appear to use this to cloak emotional responses to intellectual questions, often tied I suspect to early formative exposure to the works in question.

See below:

An elite (from wikipedia) : Elite (occasionally spelled élite) is taken originally from the Latin, eligere, "to elect". In sociology as in general usage, the elite is a hypothetical group of relatively small size, that is dominant within a large society, having a privileged status perceived as being envied by others of a lower line of order.
The elite at the top of the social strata almost invariably puts it in a position of leadership, whether it be expected or volunteered, and often subjects the holders of elite status to pressure to maintain that leadership position as part of status.

Viewing the attacks on the sacred cows of literature as the work of elites is wrongheaded. I don't agree that they are attacks to begin with, but even so, they are not work of elites (sorry Larry and Paul). They are instead, well considered jabs landed by sceptical readers and highly critical thinkers - hardly the elites in this or any society. They are the very opposite of elites, questioning aspects of already established and dominant texts which hold a high status and leadership position in the canon.

The role of the sceptic, the scoffer, the nay-sayer, the satirist, and the critic, yes, the much maligned critic, are of vital importance to literature and culture at large. They are incorrectly identified as gatekeepers when if anything, they are more gatecrashers and unruly students at the back of the lecture hall who dare to suggest, the lecturer isn't wearing any clothes.

If people have come to confuse their own sense of self worth as readers with the unassailability of a cherished text, then it is no one's fault but their own. Outside of fiction, we see this all the time with religions and their holy texts; the comparison to sacred cows and the response of many of the posters with vitriol, is telling apt. If their teeth are set on edge by someone suggesting a fresh look or a new approach (or even reopening an old one) in critically appraising a work of fiction, why on earth should it be seen as the fault of the advocate? It is hardly an elitist tendency to suggest a re-evaluation nor is it an attack of any sort on the popular ranks of readers who may feel strongly about the book. They may feel strongly and identify their shared valuation all they wish, but again, they are completely off the mark if they insist that questioning the book somehow questions their own critical assessments and hence, in some strange linear fixation, their own validity.

To accuse a critic who raises a question about a work of popular literature of criticizing all the other readers of said work who do not share his or her criticism, is simply lazy, imprecise cognition - and that's something for once, you can take personally.


Eric M. Edwards said...


That was strange. For some reason, my post was posted seven times!

Hence the deletes. Sorry for inflating your comment count.


Larry said...


You anticipate some of my discussion points for my fourth related essay, I see. Yes, these are idealized states that I present here in parts two and three (the first being the sacred bullshit post, which perhaps is more of a prologue than an essential part of these more recent essays) and much of what you address as concerns I do plan on covering in a follow-up essay either Friday or Saturday, time permitting.


I will first suggest that you read (or re-read) the essay I wrote on Tuesday; this essay is a follow-up on it and in the Tuesday essay I'm referring to idealized states and thus have taken a more rhetorical approach to this, which the creation of two idealized states is more ideal for argument's sake. I'm quite aware of the nuances and fluctuations in reader states and as I said above, that will be addressed in a future essay.

The part about the "finger pointing" is a bit off. Considering that I have a habit of using recent discussions as a reference point for much more generalized points (I do like inductive approaches when constructing my essays, after all), your reactions I believe are ill-founded in some aspects. After all, you might want to re-read the part where I state quite baldly that I reworded Paul Smith's title purposely to see who would get the point that it's about the creation of unnecessary "sacred cows" and that, similar to what I like to do with inductive processes, he uses a couple of specific instances (I'm guessing you have not read his earlier piece on Lovecraft and the discussion that resulted from that?) to discuss a much larger issue.

The last part of your response is risible, considering that I have gone to some pains, particularly in the essay on Tuesday, to note that I don't consider myself separate from any of this, nor are there "sides" being taken. If I wanted something akin to a gang-like situation, I'd go flash the signs I know and join the local Bloods or Crips. There will be more on the pragmatic issues later, which will likely illustrate the complexities that I really want to explore. So maybe just without your judgment just a bit there and consider doing a closer reading of what I'm arguing in a series of essays, rather than jumping to conclusions from reading one?


Good points about this really being skeptics questioning the whys and hows of matters. I am a skeptic in most things, whether it be praise given to me or condemnation given out to another. The points you raise I might also address more fully later, as I do have a few more points I wanted to cover, but this essay was starting to become unwieldy enough at nearly 1900 words without bolting on more topics to its frame.

P.S. I deleted all the extra messages, so the post count is a bit more accurate.

David Moles said...

I think the distinction is valid, and I've been musing over something similar myself, but calling one "reading" and the other "not reading" is unnecessarily inflammatory. Under this system the vast majority of all reading would probably be considered not reading, which is about as dumb as the lit-fic community defining the vast majority of all books as not only not literature, but not books.

Paul Smith said...

As Larry has pointed out, my post was mostly a thought experiment on why Tolkien invokes such fierce defence from the fantasy scene despite the fact he suffers from some of the same problems that plague Lovecraft's work, who has become the black sheep of the family. At no point do I take sides in regards to those criticisms, I only note that they are valid concerns that must be discussed in an adult way and very rarely are.

Larry posting it under that title, I would think was also a thought experiment in seeing if anyone who read the post actually got the point of it, and as the reply shows, they do not. The post as it stands contains a bunch of posts saying how wrong I am "about Tolkien", how this sort of thing is what people do these days (and I guess they have been doing it since Epic Pooh, so "these days" must cover a long period of time), a person calling writers I admire "morons" (and China Mieville and Michael Moorcock are two of the most intelligent people I've ever had the pleasure to talk with), and one person making a repugnantly misogynistic comment comparing women having a heroic role in The Lord of the Rings to sending women into the coal mines.

I like Lovecraft, I have never and would never try to defend the racist or misogynistic undertones in his work as it is clearly there and can be proven ad hominem. There are legitimate concerns about the same thing in The Lord of the Rings, but if you try to discuss this in a civil manner then the hoi polloi, for being a “moron” and a “Tolkien hater”, shout you down. I don’t believe that any book should receive a blanket immunity for all forms of criticism just because you “love it” and I think, frankly, anyone who does clearly has a problem.

Martin said...

A book is, to them, akin to a movie or CD

Larry, your prejudices are showing: a book is akin to a movie or CD. They can all be treated as product or as art. Otherwise, yes, I agree entirely.

Richard Morgan said...

Larry - I think something core here, which you imply but never really nail down is the sense of entitlement that comes with consuming rather than reading a book.

Book consumers apply the same logic to a novel that they would to, say, a vacuum cleaner or a car. If you buy a car, you have a right to expect that it will carry you safely from A to B at speed, and that it won't break down or wear out for the foreseeable future. In other words you have some tangible and fairly reasonable objective assumptions about the product and what it will do. Thus far, thus perfectly reasonable.

What gets missed when you make the jump to a book (or a CD or a movie - like Martin, I'm calling you on that comparison) is that you can't quantify the required performance stats for a piece of art. What should a novel do? is an almost entirely subjective question. It may do (or not do) a whole variety of things, depending on the author's intentions - but how much you like them is another matter. The critics of MJH at Westeros are complaining that he sold them a duff car, when in fact their real complaint is that he sold them a grey car and they really, really like red.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with really really liking red - and numerous authors and movie makers are very happy to stuff their bank accounts by churning out red products. The problem only arises when you start judging the guys who are more interested in grey or pastel shades of blue as failed makers of red, and getting angry with them for that perceived failure. Red is expected, red is good, everybody likes red eventually becomes I got a RIGHT to expect red every time I buy one of these things. And to bolster this rather childish monochrome focus, anyone who claims that hey, no, actually they quite like grey can be conveniently dismissed as elitist, or, less elegantly, a wanker.

Larry said...


I probably shortened things down a bit too much in an attempt to not have clunky groups. I was think of "Reading as akin to consumption of products, to be processed quickly," and "Reading as a solitary, reflective exercise," which is not just too verbose, but also would destroy the timing of the points. But I hate to admit this, but when there is a functional illiteracy rate that according to some estimates surpasses 1/3 of all Americans, there could be a separate case made (not in this argument, mind you) that reading itself is far more narrowing done than any of us would like to admit.


I should have worded that better, perhaps thinking of how many in that idealized group would view their movies and their CDs in much the same way, as something to provide quick, cheap entertainment. My prejudices are not as bad as you seem to fear, as I love music in general (an old handle name being based on my love for Bob Dylan's music), but I just never really have gotten around to expressing that much here. Perhaps in the near future. Movies are hit-and-miss, I'll admit, but I do love watching on occasion some of the more masterful productions. More of a theater person, stranded too far from most good playhouses to attend these days :(


Good points. I'll add that I think underneath the entitlement view, for some lurks the fear that they've backed the wrong horse, or that they feel insecure about what they do like, which I suppose is a natural tendency, but one that tends to short-circuit so many discussions, unfortunately. It's interesting how for some, when another points out shortcomings in a favored author's stories/techniques, that some jump to the conclusion that s/he is being "mocked", when in several cases, that is not the case at all. That irrational defensiveness is certainly part of this as well.

Paul Smith said...

Richard> I think you nail my objection to a lot of a criticism in that thread. Criticizing Viriconium for "worldbuilding" when they know full well MJH's thoughts on the matter is akin to reading the symbolist manifesto, visiting a Gustav Klimt exhibition and complaining his paintings do not depict real things like those of the naturalists.

Anonymous said...

I love the point made early on about this entire discussion not being elitist. the reason people think it is elitist is that this sort of "skeptical" reading as the only True Reading belittles every other function of reading. sometimes it's just for entertainment. maybe spending 500 pages in someone else's mind gives you a new perspective, maybe it doesn't, but if the point is merely escaping your own mind for a few hours, what's the problem with that? it's an equally valid activity. perhaps it's something people engage in after a long day of thinking. i, for one, am not always up to reading something that's going to make me think or reevaluate my life or myself. how did i used to put it in high school? oh, yes. You have to be in the mood to have your mind blown.

For the average kid (or person, but this started for me when i was about 10) who reads fantasy (or horror, or comics, or romance, or chick lit, or any other fucking GENRE type of book), their teachers at school and their parents and/or adult mentors and then their professors at college scoff at it. call it stupid. ignorant. not worth reading. The entire perspective of literature being either Literature with a capital L or dross for the unwashed masses is probably half of why people get defensive. When you take a lit class in college that focuses on tolkien and get instead of a respectful, if skeptical, exploration of the works a discussion of why hobbit holes are homosexual kind of lose your respect for the establishment. you get suspicious of people who get critical.

am i saying that's right? no. i can find flaws in almost all of my favorite books. but sometimes you're getting the brunt of anger at other people who have not trod carefully on those favorite works, and not necessarily a reaction only incited by your own words.

Also. dude. Some films are just as rich and engaging a text as any book, if you know how to read them. Clearly you don't. If you ever meet someone who wants to show you, take them up on it. It's worth it. Just as frustrating, but worth it. :)

Larry said...

What an impressive misreading of this essay.

Anonymous said...

Larry, I think that you are overstating your case, and I say this as someone who routinely does enjoy the sort of reading that you/Bloom are advocating. First of all, there is an element of pure 'entertainment' reading when one reads some of the canonical work. This is especially true of much of the classic nineteenth century writers. Think of someone like Balzac or Stendhal; one one level they're simply writing what for us is historical fiction, and for their contemporaries were potboiling romance/adventure/soap opera type stories, albeit extraordinarily well crafted ones. But this is even true in part of more self-consciously 'difficult' fiction. Think Proust - we get the story of the affairs and jealousies of the narrator's upper class milieu, and we get a detailed portrait of that world itself.

Secondly, there is nothing wrong with reading for pure 'consumption'. I love food and wine, but that doesn't mean that I want to have to expend effort my eating and drinking on a daily basis. Sometimes I just want something simple and satisfying. You don't judge a burger by the same measure as you do a dish at a top restaurant, nor a top Mosel by the ones of a simple quaffing rose for a sweltering day.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, that previous comment was by 'nycfan'.

And now to continue. The problem arises when the genre seeks to be judged by high literary measures and vice versa. On the one hand, just because something is excellent on the 'consumption' measure doesn't mean that it is on an artistic one and those who are firmly one one side of that divide may find the judgement of those on the other difficult to understand. But there's also the problem that many works of genre can't be understood by those who don't have an extensive experience of that world; of its conventions and codes. Something like John Crowley's Little, Big or Aegypt cycle, are going to be much mroe comprehensible to a Bloom than a secondary world fantasy.

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