Escape at Last to Trashy Novels
As an English major in college I was brainwashed. With all of Shakespeare, Milton and William Faulkner to read, not to mention forays into Keats, Shelley and Emily Dickinson, who had time for Danielle Steel or Stephen King?
Actually this started in high school. My English teachers had achieved tenure not by relaxing the standards on their summer reading lists for us, oh no! We had to read Dickens, Twain, Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, and F. Scott you-know-who. Occasionally late at night I would read another thirty pages of Ice Station Zebra by Alistair McLean, my guilty pleasure.
I remember when Tom Clancy arrived on the scene with The Hunt for Red October. The American President, Ronald Reagan, was said to have asked his advisors, “How did he get all that information?” referring to sensitive details about submarine technology. A bestseller was born, and three generations of American men waited impatiently for every successive Tom Clancy novel to come out.
In the old days, my teachers defined trash as any book that didn’t qualify as literature. Does that mean mysteries are trash? Horror novels? Vampire or Zombie novels? Romance novels? Does historical fiction have more value than science fiction? Is March by Gwendolyn Brooks a greater book than Dune? I don’t know about you, but for me the answer to all these questions is no.
We all have an insatiable craving for stories. If you include TV and other media in addition to the stories we tell each other at the lunch table or on the telephone, most people consume anywhere from five to ten or more stories every day. We love to see the bad guy get his due. We love happy endings. We love flip-flops and surprises, and we crave inspiration. From stories we are learning and re-learning lessons for life. And living out adventures and fantasies vicariously. Stories are as essential in our society as food and water.
When I read a mystery involving a serial killer, I am having the time of my life in a vicarious existence as a FBI agent in charge of the investigation. Vampire novels and zombie stories are enjoyable because you enter a world where everything is imagined, yet there are palpable connections to the real world. I love a shiver. The Hunger Games takes place three hundred years in the future and presents us with a world all but destroyed, yet people we can identify with and root for. People like us.
I read a lot of what my teachers considered trash. The only books that are truly trash, in my opinion, are books that have been carelessly written or carelessly edited. They are full of misspellings or typographical errors or errors in usage. I see apostrophe errors in many books I read, and I see people using your when they mean you’re, and this drives me crazy.
Unfortunately, electronic books have these problems more than traditionally printed books at the moment. But I recently read Big Girl in a ten-dollar paperback by Danielle Steel, and this book was so poorly written I could not believe it had actually been written by a thinking person, much less a famous author. And I could not believe any professional editor had approved such a repetitive, mindless piece of blather. So electronic books do not have a lock on mediocrity.
I invite you to read any book by the authors on this website, whether a mystery or a thriller or some other genre. I’ve read and reviewed many of them myself. What these books all have in common is that they were independently published by “indie authors” like me. Then tell me: trash or literature?