Don’t Talk To Me About Reading, Or, Cranky Much?

Have you ever noticed how much fantasy fans read? It’s really astonishing. My fantasy-fan friends have always had the most packed bookshelves, even more than mystery/thriller fans. (Sci-fi fans can’t even compare.) One time I saw an apartment whose owners had a large room devoted to their mostly-fantasy book collection. They had giant shelves lined up across the room library-style, all packed with paperbacks. You literally had to use an aisle between the shelves to cross the room. It was wild.

Of course, they’re really proud of this chew-through-the-phonebook capacity. Take for instance the recently concluded Once Upon A Time Challenge sponsored by the blog Stainless Steel Droppings.

The 80 people who did the “challenge” read four or five books from different fantasy sub-genres (Like, I guess, books with two-handed broadswords vs. books with crossbows) and then generated some 300 (!!!) reviews. Some read more than four — one person read 29!

DragonlanceHere’s the prob, though: There isn’t anything remotely “challenging” about this project. If you find it challenging to read a bunch of fantasy books, you need to … well, I don’t know what you can do, frankly. I was going to say “take some classes at your local community college,” but I’m not sure that would do it.

And the books … We’re talking Dragons of Autumn Twilight by that shining duo of modern literature, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, The Dragons of Krynn by Weis & Hickman, Kelley Armstrong’s werewolf books, The Princess Bride, miscellaneous stuff by That Goddamned Terry Pratchett, tons of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling and — you were waiting for it, weren’t you? — a bonecrushing load of Neil Fucking Gaiman.

Sure, there are plenty of genuinely talented authors in there, from Madeline L’Engle to George R. R. Martin. Also Sheri S. Tepper — and by the way, Tepper readers, why didn’t any of you go with The Gate to Women’s Country? It’s the one thing she’s written that deserves to go down in history as a significant work of feminist lit. Read it.gate-to-womens-country-cover

But none of these books are challenging. They aren’t daunting in structure or syntax. They aren’t hard to concentrate on. They don’t (or shouldn’t) provoke you to reassess your ideas about what literature should be and what it’s capable of. And only a tiny minority of them will still be talked about 50 years from now. They’re bedtime reading — superlatively crafted bedtime reading in some cases, but bedtime reading nonetheless. [NOTE: If you’re one of the handful who took on read-it-before-you-die works like Doctor Faustus or Gilgamesh, I’m not talking about you.]

I know, I know, big freakin’ deal, right? Like, who cares if a bunch of nerds want to congratulate themselves for finishing American Gods in three nights flat. But I can’t help it. Even though these people have nothing whatsoever to do with me or my life (beyond feeding a sort of amorphous anxiety about the future of Real Literature) they really, really irritate me. I just can’t stand it when nerds act all superior about their stupid crap. I read a lot too, you know. But I don’t want a freaking medal for it.

medal-girlOr maybe … maybe I do want a freaking medal for it. Maybe that’s my problem — I feel so intellectually anxious all the time that I’m bitterly jealous of anyone who can enjoy a rush of self-esteem upon completing Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart.

So cut it out, nerds! Take the FanDumb challenge: This month, read some fantasy-inflected Real Lit. Like Jonathan Carroll or Madison Smartt Bell. Or Mark Danielewski or Jonathan Lethem or Kazuo Ishiguro. You won’t finish as fast, but you’ll annoy me a hell of a lot less.

P.S. I heard about this contest via SQT’s entry on the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog. That’s right, SQT, you’re to blame!

P.P.S. Here’s my first response to the comments in this post, and here’s the second one.


  1. Wow, bitter much?

    First of all you obviously did not read the opening post about the challenge carefully at all. The whole point was not to see how many books one could read, it was to branch out into the many subgenres of fantasy to a): read a genre of books you’ve never tried before, or b): enjoy reading the kind of books you already love but have the chance to share that joy with a group. And reading 5 books over a 3 month period is hardly a big task. Some people are fast readers and they read alot of books. Good for them.

    Second, if you don’t see fantasy as a worthy genre of literature than I am sorry for you. Jonathan Carroll is a great example of a very good writer. But so is Neil Gaiman. You’re obviously not a fan, but to each his own.

    You also didn’t take alot of time to look at the books that were read. Sure, there were several books that people would like to classify as ‘trash’ fantasy in there, but there were also several very intelligent choices that seem to me like they should fit into your ludicrous “fantasy-inflected Real LIt” category:

    John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’
    Shakespeares ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’
    ‘Brazilian Native Folktales’ by Alberto da Costa e Silva
    The Illiad and The Odyssey by Homer
    Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling
    Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
    The Ramayana

    a 10 year old girl who joined in read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time.

    Not to mention several books by multiple award-winning authors like
    Charles De Lint
    Patricia A. McKillip
    I could go on and on.

    We’re not nerds. Housewives, elementary school teachers, grandmothers, published authors, social workers, salesman, students, etc, etc, etc…we are those. But nerds? Only if worn as a badge of pride, not as the slander you seem to intend it.

    Are we superior? Please! Did you read any of the posts I wrote during the challenge? This whole thing is about celebrating a love of literature and reading and community. People from all over the world participated in this, many who had never read this genre before, and together we had many wonderful conversations…both on blogs and through emails, about reading and our passion for it. And if you don’t see this kind of writing as literature then I am very sorry for you. There is great ‘literature’ and throw-away beach reading in every genre of fiction…fantasy and science fiction just get a bad wrap.

    You don’t know me. I am not superior and neither are the people who chose to participate in this. This was all about having fun…something I would hope you approve of in life, after all there is enough doom and gloom and seriousness going on in the world.

    You have no better clue on what will literature will stand the test of time than anyone else, so I would reserve judgement on the authors you dislike or put down until enough time has passed to prove or disprove your point. After all, many of the great literary minds that you seem to want to classify yourself in have just voted The Golden Compass as the best fantasy book in the last 70 years. If that doesn’t give you nightmares, I don’t know what will.

    As you no doubt have guessed by this time, your dismissive, superior attitude and obvious ignorance of what this challenge was all about really pisses me off. I shouldn’t be mad, I should take the higher ground. But frankly there is nothing fun about that, so here I am hopefully expressing my displeasure at your ranting with a bit of decorum, eventhough I’d rather just tell you how I really feel.

    I thank God that I have the kind of openness to reading that I can read what you would consider ‘great literature’ as well as that which you would consider ‘trash’ and be able to enjoy them for what they are. It takes talent to write good, involving, grab-ahold-of-you-and-won’t-let-go “trash” just like it does for a person to write War and Peace. It is writing to one’s audience.

    Next time you want to talk down to a bunch of people who read things that you do not enjoy, I hope you have the consideration to at least look a little deeper at the individuals you are criticizing as opposed to dismissing the lot of us as lesser beings than you.

  2. Coooool! I managed to offend you. I feel so proud right now.

    I never really thought that reading a lot would offend someone else though. I just signed on to do the challenge because I thought reading 4-5 books over a couple of months was no big deal. Plus, Carl wasn’t really trying to say fantasy is better than any other genre (if that’s what you got out of it, then you missed the point), rather, he was just trying to encourage people to try something different.

    As far as going to school in my spare time, well, I already have a bachelors and a post grad degree, so I’m pretty solid there. Let’s see what else, I go to karate class twice a week, run every other day, raise two kids, keep house, cook meals and read when I can find some spare time. Right now I’m reading an old favorite by Lee Child that incidentally isn’t fantasy– go figure.

    But overall, I’m really mystified at this post. I just keep wondering why on earth you would be so miffed that other people like fantasy. I picked up my love of it as a kid and just never outgrew it. I have a fantasy blog because it’s fun but not too personal. I didn’t want to do another mommy blog or try to be another angry-ranting-smug-I’m-so-much-better-than-you blogger. But somehow I still managed to offend someone. Apparently my blog makes more of a statement than I intended it to.

  3. I never realized people were so retarded until I turned on the internet. It was on that day I was introduced to a whole slew of morons like the one who wrote this post. I would be completely understanding if it made any sense at all, but it doesn’t. Some people like “real lit” and some like Fantasy. Deal with it.

    All I see here is the opinion of a child. If you’re not a child, then you need to grow up, fast. You need to read guidelines of challenges a -little- closer. I know you can read, because you cited some decent “real” lit.

    Some people like reading about the bullshit that happens in real life, and some like immerse themselves in the bullshit make-believe realms contained in Fantasy. Some like reading dirty rhymes and practical jokes. Some like to read magazines. How you get the idea that because you read “real” lit, and others read fantasy make them nerds, well…it just speaks depth of your childish insecurites and how miffed you were you can’t read challenge guidelines correctly.

    Seriously, grow the hell up. People who post rants on the internet like this can be funny, if they try. You either did not try, or you lack the talent. If this is serious in any way, then my faith in humanity just sank down another notch. -_-;

  4. Shannon Hale (an excellent fantasy writer, if you don’t already know) asked why it was that the Oscars always go to the dramas, why tragedy is considered more real, and taken more seriously, than comedy or fantasy. Sometimes what we want out of life is a little escapism, not more hard, grinding reality. Fantasy — good fantasy — provides that.

    Lay off, already.

  5. Theodore Sturgeon (a sci-fi author) once said, “Ninety percent of everything is crud.” That goes for “real” fiction, too.

  6. There’s some irony for you.. someone who devotes half of their sidebar links to comics and manga calling us fantasy readers nerds.

    I tip my pocket protector to you, sir! How’s the air up there on your high horse?

    And I say good day!

  7. Asara, Lol! I noticed that too.

  8. I will say this though, I think the point of this post was to get attention. All the comments we are making here are more action that I think this blog is used to seeing.

  9. “I just can’t stand it when nerds act all superior about their stupid crap.”

    First of all, that’s a smart sentence.

    Second, How was anyone who participated in this challenge acted superior to anyone else in any way, shape or form? I honestly can’t think of one instance during this challenge in which a single person acted in a superior fashion because of the “stupid crap” that they read. I’d love it if you would enlighten me.

    Fantasy may not be your thing, that’s fine. It’s not everyone’s thing. Westerns aren’t my thing. Not everyone likes every genre of fiction. But that’s no reason to not only bash a certain reader’s taste in books, but to actually bash the person who reads the books! I doubt that you know a single one of the participants of this challenge personally. I don’t either, but I know them somewhat from reading their blogs. From what I know of them, they are all passionate people and are all very open minded about what they read. I find it shameful that you feel you have the right to insult 80 people based on their decision to broaden their minds and read a few books. And you call yourself a lover of literature?

    Like Carl, it’s hard for me to not tell you exactly how I feel after reading this post, but I guarantee you it’s not as nice as what I’ve written here. I think you should rethink the logic behind what you’ve written. The chances of you finding someone who has your exact same taste in books is slim. If you go around hating everyone who disagrees with your taste in books, you’ll find the world quite a lonely place.

  10. Yes, we all deserve ‘thank you’ notes for increasing the traffic on this site! 🙂

    I fully expect a similar post come November first, criticizing the lot of us (as it will largely be the exact same ‘nerds’) after we participate in the second annual R.I.P (Readers in Peril) Challenge. I want to read about how Edgar Allan Poe was a hack and how the works of Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Daphne Du Maurier, and Charles Dickens mixed in with entertaining reads by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and…God forbid!…Neil Gaiman make all of us who participate readers who know nothing about ‘Real LIt’.

    Don’t forget the obvious stereotypes about reader’s of scary books…how we are all goth-wannabes playing vampire role playing games in our parent’s basements and having fangs implanted by our dentists.

    You have a few months to get to work on that one. Good luck! 😉

  11. I should get off of here now, but I wanted to share this:

    Probably the saddest thing about your rant is that you could have been such a great addition to the challenge. By reading books that you like, for example Jonathan Carroll (who is, in my opinion, an amazing author) and then posting links to your reviews, you would have exposed 80+ individuals to the type of literature that you like, allowing them to possibly discover great authors that they had never even heard of…which is one of the other major points of hosting a challenge like this one.

    Join in next time. Sign up for the R.I.P. Challenge in September or next year’s Once Upon a Time Challenge. Instead of being so quick to dismiss all of us, join in. I’d love to have you and I’d love to read the reviews of books you are passionate about. I’m always looking for something new to read…we all are!

  12. perhaps you haven’t taken part in many challenges but if you had you would know that the term challenge isn’t meant to be taken literally. a challenge is a just an opportunity to explore or celebrate books of a certain genre and to share what one has read.

    any congratulations that is given is light-hearted and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and the only sincerity in it comes from the fact that we have managed to focus on one particular genre for long enough to complete the challenge.

    yes, this may surprise, but those who participated read other genres as well. if you’d taken a moment to check out the various blogs you’ll see that we participate in other challenges to, be it classics or award winning literature.

    i don’t know why you think we think we’re acting superior? the only mention anyone made about the amount of books a particular person read was the person who read 29 and she was celebrated for the spirit in which she took part. other than her we all read about 5 books on average and there was no bragging involved about the amount of books we read. the only mention that was made was in terms of how close we were in completing the challenge, which, as i said above is simply an achievement (and i use the word light-heartedly) because we’d manage to find enough time for that particular genre.

    however, there are those people who exclusively read fantasy and read loads of books and think they’re superior. i also find them incredibly annoying and can understand your frustration with them. but the simple fact that one of the options for the challenge was to read merely one book illustrates the fact that the amount of books wasn’t the issue. it was about exploring the genre.

    to conclude, your post is utter bollocks. you were having a rant and thats all right, we all do. but next time you choose to focus on a particular group of people make sure you have your facts straight.

  13. you have friends?

  14. I am the person who read 29 books. I am SO ashamed of myself right now.

    Oh wait. No, actually, I’m not.

    You feel offended by my reading, and I pity you for your obvious close-mindedness and stuck-up attitude that will not get you to pretty places in life. Like Chris pointed out, just look at the irony of you saying we act superior.

    If you don’t like fantasy, that’s fine. But to actually be offended because other people do… wow. What are you, 7 years old?

    The concept of “Real Literature” is completely passé. I can’t imagine any intelligent person thinking in those terms in the twentieth first century. The fact that there are both good and bad books in every genre and shape and form is SO obvious that I should not have to spell it out for you.

  15. Yes. We’re all a pack of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing troglodytes. Well done.

  16. “And only a tiny minority of them will still be talked about 50 years from now”

    That is true about all books in every genre including your ‘real lit’. Need I remind you that the same things were said about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien? Like I said before, only time will prove whether the books you read were any more lasting than those the rest of us read.

    And you should feel bad about reading 29 books, Nymeth! It means you are getting through your ‘to read’ pile faster than the rest of us!!!

  17. Shame on me 😛 I will crawl into a hole and stay there!

    (Provided, of course, that I can take a book or two or 29 with me.)

  18. Huh. Virtually all of the responses to Ms. Tuffy’s cranky-but-spot-on post seem to embody the exact things she criticizes. And very few of them suggest a high level of reading comprehension, considering that most of them seem to completely miss the key points of Tuffy’s lil rant.

    So a few points, numbered so the nerds can keep track.

    1) You know how when you go into bookstoes adn sometimes they have various sections for genre fiction, then maybe one for “Fiction” and another for “Literature?” That’s because the vast overwhelming majority of books classified as genre fiction AREN’T REAL LITERTURE. Heck, that’s true of most mass parket fiction as well. As Tuffy pointed out, it’s cool that some people decided to read actual classics. But, uh, don’t try to tell me that books about dragons, or books by Charles DeLint are even remotely in the same category as The Illiad. If you like reading entertaining crap, yay for you. I tend not to read much crap, bu tI watch a lot of crap TV, and you don’t see me issuing “challenges” to see who can watch the most episodes of Cops in a month, though, trust me, I’d win that little contest. As you can see from Tuffy’s blog, she does in fact read/watch a lot of entertaining (to her) crap, but SHE’S AWARE IT’S CRAP. Well, most of the time, anyway.

    Also, Carl, it’s “bad rap.” A “bad wrap” is a kind of substandard sandwich-thingy.

    2) I like that so many of the the examples of “serious” fantasy you guys come up with tend to be completely unchallenging. Edgar Allen Poe? Bram Stoker? Dickens?No, they’re not hacks, but these are the sorts of books that get assigned in Freshman classes of English for Non-Majors. Come on, folks, try reading something that’s just a teensy bit hard for once.

    3) Melissa, you’re right that 90% of “real fiction” is crap Trouble is, that percentage rises to about 99.9% for fantasy fiction.

    4) Tuffy is not a man. That’s why she uses Lucy as her icon.

    I encourage you all to take the FanDumb challenge. Instead of “expanding your minds” by reading a book about elves alongside the books about dragons you usually read, try reading something that’s ACTUALLY DIFFERENT. One book. That’s all. And not the sort of thing that would be assigned in high school or your Freshman year at college. Aim a tiny bit higher.

    And let me make this challenge just a litle bit more interesting: If five people take up this challenge, I promise I’ll read one fantasy novel of your choosing.

  19. trite,

    I have now seen the light. Fantasy is not Real Literature. Now that I understand the Error of my Ways, my life will be changed.

    Thank you.

  20. Sweetheart, you seem so chafed and irritable! Why the reaction to a bunch of readers having fun sharing in a particular genre? Have you sponsored any Challenges with which people can share what they’re reading and communicate with one another? Do you offer fabulous prizes which brings us all back to the heart of a child? If you do, let me know, because I’d love to participate in a Challenge you devise.

  21. Nymeth: Perhaps I was too hasty. 99.9% of fantasy isn’t. As Tuffy points out, there are a few fantasy-inflected novels that manage to transcend the genre and that actually deserve to be counted as literature. Very few of these books were written by genre writers; they tend to be written by people outside the genre, with a broader and more complex understanding of literature, who incorporate fantasy elements into their works.

    That’s the whole point of Tuffy’s post and my response: if fantasy readers want to REALLY challenge themselves, they should try reading things OTHER THAN FANTASY NOVELS.

    I see from your blog that you recently read Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night..” That counts as different and challenging, , so in a spirit of generosity I’ll count that for my little variation on Tuffy’s challenge,

    Four more people, come forward and read something different and challenging, and I’ll read one of the crappy– sorry, brilliant — fantasy novels you love!

  22. Wait a minute. I just noticed all the links to comic books and manga in your side bar. And these qualifiy as Worthy Literature more than Fantasy how? Never mind, if you sponsor a Manga Challenge, I won’t be joining afterall.

  23. Belle, darling, read before you post. Tuffy issued her own FanDUmb Challenge, and I sweetened the pot. (See my previous comments.)

  24. Trite, why am I not surprised that you missed the point of Carl’s challenge as well?

    Of course, the whole point of your comment was to make yourself feel smug and superior. Congratulations. You’ve officially made a fool of yourself.

  25. OMG! I just made the mistake of clicking on Trite’s blog. I think any claims of intelligence or taste can be totally disregarded. Sweet Jesus, you make a fool of yourself on a daily basis don’t you?

  26. Trite, I’ve already read four out of the five authors Tuffy mentioned and Calvino, too, so I think I’ll be sticking with Carl’s challenges.

    But may I suggest Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo as a worthy choice for your fantasy challenge? I found it more difficult and brilliant than either Gilgamesh or Doctor Faustus.

  27. Dearest trite,

    Before you haul off and criticize people for a lack of reading comprehension, it would be a big boost to your argument if you went back and proofread your comments before posting them.

    “1) You know how when you go into bookstoes adn sometimes they have various sections for genre fiction, then maybe one for “Fiction” and another for “Literature?” That’s because the vast overwhelming majority of books classified as genre fiction AREN’T REAL LITERTURE. Heck, that’s true of most mass parket fiction as well.”

  28. Trite — I’ll agree. A ton of fantasy is crap. But you’re dismissing the genre entirely without even giving it a chance. Don’t dismiss what you don’t know anything about.

    Two. Check out my blog. Yeah, I read a lot of YA fiction (another “genre” without real “literature”), and I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately (for the challenge), but I read a lot. Period.

    Three. Ditto what Asara said. It helps, when making an argument and sounding superior, if you proofread.

    Four. I still don’t see why “real” literature is — by definition — the serious stuff. Could someone PLEASE explain that to me?

    Five. Challenges are to have fun. Got it?

  29. Asara: my comments have typos? That’s really the best you’ve got?

    And SQT, if you can’t see the artistic merit in posts like “Courtney Love Attacked by Pterodactyls” ( ) or “Kim Cattrall shows a little pussy .. literally” ( ) then, well, there’s not much hope for you, or for the world. I fear for the future of our civilization.

  30. Oops. Now the second link should be clickable:

  31. Trite, your points about me not understanding Tuffy’s post would have more validity if she herself didn’t include Jonathan Carroll as an example of ‘real lit’ and Neil Gaiman as an example of the stuff she doesn’t like. They are essentially the same writer, their books are often cross shelved in fiction and fantasy, and they frequently pimp each others works. If one is real lit, they both are.

    Edgar Allan Poe is one of the greatest American authors who ever lived, regardless of where in class his work is assigned. Hard doesn’t equate with good. Only people with a superiority complex have that kind of rigid view of reading.

    You missed Nymeth’s point that all of us read lots of other types of books besides fantasy yet we are criticized wholesale by Tuffy for our participation in this challenge as if that is all that we read. How you have so blatantly ignored that fact is beyond me. If you click on the links of the fantasy challenge participants, the larger part of us read and post about non-fantasy fiction more often than fantasy. And that is no criticism those who do read mostly fantasy.

    Your defense of her is admirable, if misguided. Her thoughts were based mostly on ignorant assumptions about both the challenge and those of us who read fantasy fiction. Which is her perogative. I just prefer people to do a little research before espousing an opinion.

    And all fantasy is not about elves and dragons, in fact most of it is not when it comes right down to it. It is okay to be an intellectual snob, just don’t use moronic stereotypes when doing so.

    And thanks for pointing out my spelling error, I don’t usually bother with going over comments to fix spelling and grammatical errors. Doesn’t mean I’m stupid, but does prove how childish you are in pointing it out.

    And Melissa, ‘real’ literature is not, by definition, serious. Only the myopic think that. The oldest surviving manuscripts are about fantasy, mythology, folklore, etc. It is the genre by which mankind has addressed issues and looked at the world since storytelling began.

  32. Carl, every response you make gives credence to a blogger who uses Lucy (the most self-important and often misguided character in the whole Peanuts lineup) as an icon, DUMB as part of her blog title, or ‘cranky much?’ as a piece of this post’s title. In my opinion, responding to such a person is useless. I mean really, who puts manga and comics down as links and calls herself a reader?

  33. The conversation about “real” literature is an interesting one. My Bachelors Degree is literature related and I had to read a considerable number of classics. I’ve done enough research papers to make a sane person weep.

    I have read, and continue to read across a wide number of genres. Occasionally I’ll pick up something weighty like Doctor Faustus and I am a huge Shakespeare fan. But I also like to read stuff that’s the literary equivalent of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Why? Why not? It’s fun.

    Plus, who am I to judge what will last and what won’t? Many people revere Hemingway but I don’t really care for his style.

    I guess the point is that there’s room for everything. If the only movies ever made were heavy dramas that were considered critically important, we’d all be bored to death. The same goes with literature. It doesn’t all have to be profound.

  34. I cannot help but respond, because, quite frankly, I’m having a really good time doing so. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking I actually believe I’m going to make a convincing argument over here for my beliefs…in the end I will believe what I believe about literature and Tuffy/Trite will believe what they believe. The point of posting over here ad nauseum isn’t really to prove my point, it is just that this whole thing is so ludicrous I cannot help it. It is like slowing down to view an accident!

    Continuing to comment only feeds into whatever jones Tuffy gets off of putting up such a lame criticism of fantasy, true. But in my 2+ years of blogging I’ve only given in to the urge to do this kind of arguing twice and I think occasionally it is good for the soul. It helps me reaffirm what I think of things and lets me practice a little polite debate. And all for the price of a little bit of my time.

    Plus I haven’t laughed this hard in combination with being so annoyed in a long time.

    And, being a lifelong Peanuts fan, I have to give kudos for the choice of icon, even if it is used to represent an attitude of crankiness….or being a fussbudget, as Lucy would say.

    In the end I think Tuffy is a closet fantasy lover who desperately wants to be accepted but has had some mistaken belief poured into her head by well meaning but misguided academics who no longer recall that reading is fun. She has a right to try to walk on some literary high road, but that road doesn’t actually exist, it is all in the minds of those who have forgotten the simple joy of reading a good book. Sad, yes, but it does make for some fun arguing. 🙂

  35. Maybe you do read a real variety of books, Carl, but the book reviews on your blog all seem to be fantasy, SF, or Ian Fleming books. That’s not much of a varied diet.

    Your blog post about the challenge says it “is all about trying something new.”

    Tuffy and I are saying: So actually TRY something that’s ACTUALLY NEW, that is, something DIFFERENT than what you usually read. And preferably something that will CHALLENGE you. If you want to take it a little further: Read some well-reviewed book by an author you’ve never heard of. Read a well-regarded book you’re sure you WON’T like. Stretch your brain, your tastes, a little.

    And no, it doesn’t have to be “serious” — great literature doesn’t have to be high-minded and somber. Some classic literarture is filled with poop jokes.

    Seriously, if four of you do this, I’ll read one fantasy book of your choosing.

  36. Well put SQT…I guess that’s what I’m trying to understand amidst all of this. What is so wrong about participating in a fantasy challenge or reading fantasy for that matter? Fantasy is a wonderful escape from every day life. I read the genre so often because I enjoy it! And I’m sorry, but I think that Neil Gaiman is a genius! I think that what both Tuffy and Trite are not understanding is that these reading challenges are not literally meant to be CHALLENGING! We are not saying that what we are reading is difficult reading…honestly, I have no desire to read something that is difficult to read. I’d much rather read something that I can enjoy. If that makes my reading trash, then I guess I enjoy trash. My favorite authors happen to be Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman and J.R.R. Tolkien, so add them to the list of trash!

  37. Belezza, your remark about Lucy has made me reconsider everything I’ve said here. Really, what kind of blogger uses Lucy as an icon?? That grumpy bitch is always causing trouble, pulling that football away at the very last minute, charging for psychological help when she doesn’t even have any real training in the discipline. I mean, that’s probab;y not even legal. Fuck Lucy, and fuck Tuffy!

    Tuffy get off the stage!!!!!

  38. Trite…it was a ‘fantasy’ challenge… Do You Understand? The part about ‘trying something new’ was directed towards those who don’t read fantasy who I hoped would join in rather than using the ‘oh, I don’t read this kind of stuff’ option. Your statements would make sense if all we were saying is that fantasy is the be all and end all of reading.

    Did you miss the fact that the only other reading challenge that I host (because frankly two is alot of work!) is all about classic gothic fiction and horror?

    And kudos to your for going back through my blog for a whole couple of months to judge my reading habits. Nicely done. My blog is mostly a theme blog and my reviews on there mostly fit in with that theme.

    I see no need for myself or anyone else to take you up on your challenge or Tuffy’s. There is not one of the people who participated in my challenge that doesn’t read a ton of other stuff besides fantasy. If you don’t want to read fantasy, good for you. I would say that you’re missing out, but I don’t necessarily believe that now that I think of it, and here is why:

    There are millions of books to read and life is short. I see no need to ‘challenge’ myself to read something I don’t think I’d like because the pile of books that I have a strong desire to read never gets smaller…it gets larger every day. I will use my reading time to tackle those books. Conversely, if the books that stir up your fancy are far and away different than fantasy or science fiction, then you too probably have a huge list of books you would like to read. So unless you run out of books to read you are not missing out on anything either, as long as your reading meets your requirements for entertainment, education, etc. who cares what anyone else thinks. There is no need for you to pick up the fantasy authors I love because you have presumably have a ton of non-fantasy stuff you’d like to read.

    And that is really cool. Does it make you a better reader or more educated person than me or anyone else you choose to belittle. No. It just means you have the courage to read what turns you on. We do too.

    Regardless of what you say it doesn’t change the fact that this was a post written out of complete ignorance for the subject matter and people that Tuffy was trying to criticize. That has been my point all along and no one has done anything to refute that…in fact you have done more to prove my point than anything, which is why I keep coming back here to goad you on to share more of your wisdom.

    I am coming dangerously close to crossing the line in being childish and petty here myself…no…wait, I think I actually have crossed that line…and part of me wants to apologize for that behavior, so take it for what its worth. The other part of me knows that if I was on the other end of this spectrum I would be really enjoying the attention, and if I can give the gift of a smile to you and to Tuffy I might as well do so for a bit longer.

    Hopefully my friends who know I should be bigger than this will choose to forgive me. I will no doubt feel dirty in the morning. 😉

  39. Laughing my fucking arse of here. Hee….Bad timing…..I have gotten my head bitten off for being to ‘elitist’ and I TOTALLY agree with your book recommendations.

    I told the Fantasy crew about Tepper ages ago and didn’t get a murmer of interest.

    I love that crew..they are a great bunch of people but our tastes in movies and books are totally different.

    But yes my book shelves are full to overwhelming too

    Oh but the challenge would have been hard for me. I have two small children and reading time is severely limited.

  40. Crunchy carpets…love how your name and blog header image go together so well!!!

    The trick is to teach your kids how to read quickly and then make one of them read to you while the other gives you a foot massage and keeps your drink refreshed!!!

    Now THAT’S good fantasy! 🙂

  41. I guess that should be ‘quickly teach your kids to read’…though if you taught them how to ‘read quickly’ you would get through more books! Maybe even 29!

  42. I really don’t know where to start. So many things upset me about this post and trite’s comments. I guess I’ll just go with the bottom line. My mother always told me; ” if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all “. Mom; I’ll try to be nice. 🙂

    The internet is a wonderful communication tool which unfortunately leads some people to feel that we should take them seriously if they make rude comments and put other people down to try and prove their points. I can’t imagine that Tuffy would call us nerds for reading crap fantasy and then try to point out the merits of real literature to us in the manner and tone she does in this post above in person because she would be afraid of insulting someone right to there face in real life. My guess is that she might have tried a more tactuful way of conveying her feelings if we were all in the same room together. The internet though allows her to freely trash anyone with little remorse because she can’t feel the persons hurt reaction right in front of them.

    If she had used a little tact and class in her post above then this whole comments section might have been filled with some positive discussion but can she possibly believe that through the comments above that she and trite have made that anyone really is going to have an open mind in reading the books they have discussed. No way, I’m sorry. We all have feelings and when people tick us off we tend to NOT listen to what they are saying or possibly follow any of their recommendations. Is that fair? Nope. That’s just human nature. Which is really too bad that now the books which she believes have merit will most likely now never be read by the 80 people she took only seconds to insult. Is that a fair and or reasonable reaction. NO! But hey that’s life and that’s the way it is.

    I’m not going to get in a who writes better books argument or take up trite’s challenge because tuffy first off needs to apologize to Carl and all of his readers for this post. If she can’t see why that’s not the right thing to do at this point then any further discussion is pointless because you just don’t get it. That’s just not how people need to treat each other wether it be on the net or in real life.

    If I have insulted you and/or trite then I’m sorry too. In the end don’t we all just love reading and can’t that be enough without anyone having to put something or someone down in order to rise there arguement up.

  43. Ok, I’ll apologize.

    I’m sorry you’re all such idiots.


    Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

    Anyone here from Queens?

    I’m from normal parents myself.

    Ooh, tough crowd, tough crowd.

    Hey, how many fantasy readers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?


  44. Wow. That was a bit harsh. Especially coming from a person that likes to read Manga! I certainly would never stoop to such a sweeping generallization by saying that “All people that read Manga are the real geeks of the world.” Oh wait. I just did.

    If you wanted to bump up the old counter on your blog, it looks like it worked. Then again, I can honestly say most of us won’t be coming back again.

    The point of the challenge wasn’t to slap our selves on the back about reading a certain amount of books. It was to read in a genre that we like. I read books in ALL genres, as do most people that started the Once Upon a Time challenge. It was to celebrate our love for reading. If that makes me a nerd, then I’m proud to be one.

    I think you can tell by the comments that you offended a lot of people. Too bad for you. Most of us are actually a lot of fun to have around.

  45. It is a shame that Tuffy didn’t attempt to write a more reasonable post. We would have been glad to participate and likely returned in the future. Instead, we’ll wear out this discussion and feel no reason to return when it’s over.

    I’d also have a little more respect if Tuffy actually entered the conversation rather than hiding behind the Trite personae.

  46. Uh, Tuffy and I are indeed two different people. I hate that anime shit, myself.

  47. “‘Real’ literature is not, by definition, serious. Only the myopic think that. The oldest surviving manuscripts are about fantasy, mythology, folklore, etc. It is the genre by which mankind has addressed issues and looked at the world since storytelling began.”

    Thank you for pointing that out, Carl.

    Trite, yes, I read Calvino recently, and my favourite authors include Jeffrey Eugenides, Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, J. D. Salinger, Jack Kerouac, etc. This alongside with – *gasp* – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and I will NOT be apologetic for that fact. You said it was “okay” to enjoy fantasy as long as you’re “aware it’s crap”, but I am not about to pretend that something I enjoy is “crap” just because that’s the intellectual, socially acceptable opinion to have.

    Also, it’s funny how this poster completely failed to mention that Carl had a bunch of bus read Shakespeare. My shameful amount of books included authors like Kipling, Margaret Atwood, the Epic of Gilgamesh and the aforementioned Shakespeare.

    All this to say that no, I don’t read just fantasy, but you know what, I would still not be apologetic if I did.

    I will be the first to admit that yes, there is a distinction between meaningful books and entertaining books. I am fine with people reading both, but yes, some will stand the test of time and still be read in 50 years, while others won’t. However, this distinction is not in any way the conventional “literature” vs “genre fiction” distinction. There are deep and meaningful books in both sections of the bookstore, and I think it only takes a bit of common sense to understand that. I will probably agree with you that 90% of fantasy is crap, but SO IS 90% OF GENERAL FICTION. There are a lot of “bad” books out there in my opinion, but then again, this classification is merely subjective, and this is another thing this poster doesn’t seem to understand. That it is not up to her to decide what’s good or bad. That other people will probably find meaning where she only sees “crap”.

    We are being “challenged” to read Jonathan Carroll or Murakami (both authors I HAVE read, and whose work I like) or any other mainstream authors who use fantasy elements in their work. First of all, most of us have done that already. Secondly, the distinction between those authors and “crap” like Neil Gaiman is merely social. It is NOT in the books themselves. It just happens that they are acceptable. They are authors that pretentious snobs who just like to namedrop books to make themselves look smart are allowed to like. I, however, read out of passion, not out of need of affirmation or social approval, so I don’t really care if my literary choices make me look dumb in the eyes of some narrow-minded people. I guess it is ultimately a matter of how insecure you are. I have nothing to prove to anyone, so, like Neil Gaiman says, I will keep on enjoying it here in the ghetto of genre fiction.

  48. I have to say this whole thing kept me laughing for ages! I wasn’t going to post a comment, but then the debate got more interesting so I though I would add my opinion too.

    It’s funny as I can understand both sides. Fantasy is probably my favourite genre of books although I can be a bit snobbish and tend to stay away from the traditional elves/warrior kings/dragon rider type books as they don’t really do it for me. I completed my 5 books for the challenge and I really enjoyed every one of them. I tried to pick books I had been meaning to read for a while and hadn’t yet gotten around to rather than books to challenge me if that makes sense. Reading for me is a pleasure so of course I pick books I know I will enjoy and sometime they are lighter reads than others.

    I also love reading classic literature and like to think I am reasonably well read. I have lots of books that aren’t Fantasy and am currently reading :
    Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
    The Epic of Gilgamesh
    Le Morte D’Arthur – Sir Thomas Mallory
    Tarot for Self Discovery – Nina Lee Braden
    which I think count me towards the challenge to read something a little more substantial as well. by Trite.. I am hoping that enough people say they have read something outside the Fantasy genre as I would be really interested to see what Trite thinks of their first Fantasy book (assuming you haven’t read any before). Surely the point of any challenge is either to get you to read something outside your usual sphere of reading, or to motivate you to read something you have had on your shelves for a while and haven’t gotten around to yet.

  49. […] what to do for this week’s Thursday Thirteen but then I got an email from Carl, linking to this post and providing perfect inspiration. So this T13 is a couple of responses to that post. And yes, I […]

  50. “Neil Fucking Gaiman.”

    “That Goddamned Terry Pratchett”

    “big freakin deal, right”

    “when nerds act all superior about their stupid crap.”

    “I don’t want a freaking medal for it.”

    “annoy me a hell of a lot less.”

    Hmmm, for a self proclalimed LITERATE person, that’s about as ILLERATE as one can get.

    “I’m bitterly jealous of anyone who can enjoy a rush of self-esteem upon completing Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart”

    … oh, and just for the record, at age 63 I still think INKHEART is a wonderful story, written by a terrific author!

  51. “Neil Fucking Gaiman.”

    “That Goddamned Terry Pratchett”

    “big freakin deal, right”

    “when nerds act all superior about their stupid crap.”

    “I don’t want a freaking medal for it.”

    “annoy me a hell of a lot less.”

    Hmmm, for a self proclalimed LITERATE person, that’s about as ILLITERATE as one can get.

    “I’m bitterly jealous of anyone who can enjoy a rush of self-esteem upon completing Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart”

    … oh, and just for the record, at age 63 I still think INKHEART is a wonderful story, written by a terrific author!

  52. Hmmm…after getting a good night’s rest and reassessing my feelings on this post and all the comments in the harsh light of day I guess I have to agree with Tuffy’s accusation: We are superior. 🙂

    And I hate to disappoint you, Rhinoa, but it is evident from the comments that neither Trite nor Tuffy, if they aren’t one in the same, have the openmindedness to read any fantasy book that we ‘nerds’ would suggest and read it with any degree of objectivity. It just isn’t possible. Thus the ‘challenge’ is a pointless exercise. We all read other great books outside the fantasy genre anyway, so it really isn’t a challenge.

    I’ve gone to from feeling annoyed that my friends were insulted so casually and carelessly to feeling sad that they only way a person this self-centered could get attention is to write something so mean spirited and ignorant. I am really sincere about my invitation to join us at the next challenge. I think you’d find that we are a forgiving lot who would really enjoy the reviews of the books that you enjoy…and I extend said invitation to you as well Trite.

    I’ll pass on the apology. Just send a case of champagne to all of us who increased your site traffic. Or better yet, gift certificates. We’ll try not to use them on unworthy literature. 🙂

  53. And once again, spelling and grammar checking is for nerds! Ha! 😉

  54. A general comment, plus responses to Crunchy and Stephanie:

    Hey guys, I’ve been shilly-shallying about answering these comments because I’m not sure what to say about most of them. Check out my next post for an explanation. But today or tomorrow I’ll try to address a few of the issues here that actually seem discussable.

    Oh, but because I can’t resist: Stephanie! Of COURSE manga is for geeks! Check out the post immediately preceding this one for heaven’s sake!

    Crunchy: Yay Tepper! Have you read Gate to Women’s Country? I swear that ought to be assigned in college ethics classes. It is so woefully underappreciated.

  55. “And no, it doesn’t have to be “serious” — great literature doesn’t have to be high-minded and somber. Some classic literarture is filled with poop jokes. ”

    Um. It escapes me right now: which classic has the poop jokes in it.

    And, thanks for the insights; I know that fantasy has had a place in literature since the beginning of time (look at Brothers Grimm, for example). What I don’t understand is why literature, by default, has to be the serious stuff. No one up and claims a great humorous work by, oh, Steve Martin, as literature. But, perhaps, it’s more difficult to write a good comedy, or a good fantasy (and make it work!) than it is to write A Thousand Splendid Suns.

    But, that’s just my humble opinion.

  56. Yes..I have read Gate….awesome book….she is my all time fave author…I love her work.

    Raising the Stones was the first i read and it blew me away.

  57. also…i am totally boggled at just how upset eveyone has gotten about this….I mean sheesh!

    Personal Opinion???

    Maybe think hmmmm I am tad oversensitive about this….what does that mean???

  58. For perhaps the most famous example of poop jokes in classic literature, see here:

    Actually, it’s more about cleaming up afterwards, but I think that counts.

  59. I guess I better jump in with a few things, just to back up my peeps.

    First off, nerds — may I call you nerds? — you should seriously ask yourselves why you came over here to yell at me. Why do you care what a random jerk — an eloquent and charismatic random jerk, but a random jerk nonetheless — thinks of your reading habits? I think you’re either deeply insecure about your own intellectual worth (thus the Challenge, come to think of it) or some part of you gets off on being abused. Carl V., I’m mostly talking about you with the latter. You’re obviously in love with me.

    Below you’ll find:
    1) A note to Bellezza
    2) A note to Nymeth.
    3) A note to Jeff S.
    4) Genre fiction vs. “Literature”
    5) The nature of a “challenge”
    6) The quality of fantasy
    7) On the use of swearing in a reasoned argument

    1) Bellezza: True! The summers here get really humid, if you know what I mean.

    2) Nymeth: Don’t you think you’re spending too much time reading? I have a feeling you’re kind of intellectually lonely, like you have a hard time finding people who can talk to you about both Pratchett and Calvino. That might explain why you felt compelled to come and talk to me.

    3) Jeff S.: Fuck off, pussy.

    4) On Genre fiction vs. “Literature”: What I’m really talking about here is the difference between books that satisfy you in a fairly predictable way and books that make you feel uncomfortable and force you to reevaluate your ideas about art and life.


    A good genre title is a truly sublime reading experience. It’s like a 1930s Hollywood romantic comedy — elegant, creative, and a perfect expression of the form.

    That said, to continue the movie metaphor, Howard Hawks isn’t Godard. Not that Godard is more significant, necessarily, but his movies are actually difficult to watch. They don’t provide neat little doses of tension and release the way a good Hawks pic does. If you choose to devote a precious evening after work to *Weekend* or *Alphaville,* you have in fact completed a challenge.

    And FYI, speaking of delightful and clever books that deserve to live on even though they are not challenging, can I just mention Georgette Heyer? She’s like Jane Austen with all the angst removed. Try Frederica, Black Sheep, and The Grand Sophy. Great stuff.

    5) On the nature of a “challenge:” Yeah, I picked on this Once Upon a Time thing pretty randomly. I was just feeling bitchy. I know that events like this are meant to be just for fun, etc. But if you have to set a goal in order to complete Inkheart or Goddamn Terry Pratchett, then you’re either slow-witted or working 70 hours a week. They may be delightful, well-written and engaging (well, Inkheart, anyway) but they are not deep books, people.

    6) On the quality of fantasy: I do like some fantasy, you know. I just read the first two books of George R.R. Martin’s big thingy, but I had to stop because his formula of “good person = agonizing suffering” was such a drag. (Frankly I think he does that because he’s trying to appear “serious.”) But I really like attacking fantasy too, because it’s just so dorky. Somehow having a fetish for swords/medieval-tymes/fairies/magic is just dorkier than having a fetish for guns/dames/gross-corpses or for interstellar-travel/time-travel/miscellaneous-science-stuff. I think you guys are stuck with that. It’s just your cross to bear.

    But hey, at least you’re not reading romance novels. Romance novel readers are pretty much the bottom of the heap, prestige-wise.

    7) On the use of swearing and slang in a reasoned argument: These days, what with the environment the “kids” grow up in and such, I think it’s a good idea to use lowbrow idioms when you’re having a highfalutin’ intellectual argument. I do it to try and defuse the pomposity that tends to come out when I make some of my more elitist points. So go fuck yourselves, fuckers!

  60. Don Quixote has enough scatological humour to last me several times. Whoever wondered about the classic with poop jokes should try it.

    This discussion was futile from the start because the post, in no way, showed any real love for literature, any sincere inclination to engage in fruitful dialogue, any real interest in getting any well-loved authors read by others. This post was not challenging. It was a hostile rant filled with insulting assertions that more or less guaranteed a defensive, hostile response from fantasy readers. It was all done in order to make you feel better about your own elite tastes. It’s not the idioms that make this post less than august, it was the content.

    But I’m a romance reader so I don’t think my opinion should count. 😉

    And for the person, I think it was trite, who tried to support his/her argument by referring to book store sections I would desist. Those are strictly for marketing purposes only. There is a lot of so-called “literary fiction” that is badly written, cliche and unchallenging. Apologies if this was said before.

  61. Well I can’t wait to see how this pans out.
    Yeah Carl was STILL slagging you on his site but when I brought attention to this as not making him look good he told me he was done…so is ok to point the ravening hordes to your site..but don’t go to their sites and it ok to bitch about people on your site.

    I love blogging.

    I got bored with the Martin saga too…..good books, well written…but nothing really new and bogged down in detail too.

    I grew out of most fantasy as a teen. I like Feist. Fun books. I like David Gemmell too. But much prefer Sci Fi and will dabble in non genre books too.

    The gloves have been thrown down.

  62. Carl is in love! There is no question.

    I really liked Martin but damn, every single decent person got screwed over! All of them! I even went online to see what happened after the second book and it got even worse! I just can’t deal with that. It’s not what I want in my fun reading, you know?

    I want to read Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. He had the first chapter up online and it looked pretty good. I’m waiting for the paperback though.

  63. […] This post caused a bit of a stir recently and really pissed off a lot of people..some people who  I consider friends we quite upset about it all.  I instead got what the post was about and had a chuckle.    I was already in a bit of trouble for stating that I thought the last two Indy movies sucked and had NO interest in seeing the next one.   I seemed to be alone in THIS opinion.  Oh well. […]

  64. “On Genre fiction vs. “Literature”: What I’m really talking about here is the difference between books that satisfy you in a fairly predictable way and books that make you feel uncomfortable and force you to reevaluate your ideas about art and life.”

    So, the definition of literature is that which makes you uncomfortable and gets you to reevaluate your ideas about art and life?

    I’m not looking for the difference between genre fiction and literature; I know what it is. I enjoy both. What I’m questioning is WHY those differences have to be there. Why is something that “challenges your ideas about art and life” necessarily “higher” and more “lofty” than something that is “just” a good story and pleases you.

    To keep going with your movie analogy here (which I can totally see), why is it that when Martin Scorcsese wins the Oscar everyone says “Oh, yeah, he deserved it” but when Return of the King wins, everyone says “What the — why that?!”

    What I’m challenging here is the defacto assumption that genre fiction is — by nature of it’s genreness — something less than “literature”. Because, if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be making these kind of arguments in the first place.

    “Can I just mention Georgette Heyer? She’s like Jane Austen with all the angst removed. Try Frederica, Black Sheep, and The Grand Sophy. Great stuff.”

    Okay, I’ll give it a try. I’m always looking for more books to read, anyway.

  65. I agree with you about genreness. Like I said, I think plenty of “light” Hollywood movies are going to be remembered a lot longer than overwrought Best Picture-winners. What I was trying to say was that if you do happen to read a lot of genre fiction or watch light movies or whatever, don’t build it up in your mind into an impressive feat. I’ve read a bunch of Georgette Heyer, but I’m not — to go back to the original post — going to give myself a medal for it. It’s OK if people want to, I guess, I just think it’s dumb.

    BTW, I didn’t know people thought it was a fluke when Return of the King won the Oscar. I thought people were basically expecting it to win that year because the series was finally complete. The Departed was a great movie though.

  66. I shouldn’t have said “If you do happen to read a lot of genre fiction, don’t build it up into an impressive feat.” I don’t want to issue some kind of moralizing edict. I should have said, “if you build it up into an impressive feat, you irritate the living shit out of me.”

    That’s better!

  67. I don’t normally post comments but I felt compelled to come to the defense of one of my favourite books! I don’t think you could have read The Princess Bride as I don”t believe someone who seems to be a lover of quality literature could be so dismissive of it after reading it. I’m not an expert on fantasy (although I do read some occasionally, I’m not averse to it but prefer other genres) but I really don’t think it falls into that genre and it was shelved in the fiction section in all of the bookshops I’ve ever worked in. I don’t think it’s fair to consider all fantasy rubbish as just like regular fiction there are varying degrees of quality, but people who read crap of whatever genre and ‘build it up into an impressive feat’ really annoy me too. I remember when The Da Vinci Code was huge and people I knew who were huge music snobs were crazy about it, I felt like saying ‘You’re reading the literary equivalent of manufactured boy/girl bands and trying to portray it as Mozart’. Anyway please give The Princess Bride a chance, I think you’d really enjoy it!

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