Literary significance

A couple of years ago I read a quote that made quite the impression on me. Of course now I don’t remember who said it (although a literature Nobel prize winner does ring a bell. It wasn’t Elfride Jelinek. I hate Elfride Jelinek.), but it struck a chord with me for some reason. She was asked what the worst book she had ever read was. Her reply was that the mere fact that a human being has sat down and written something gives everything value, if not in terms of literature, then in terms of anthropology (when forced to choose she went for Angels & Demons).

I found it interesting because it is so true. Even though a book or a poem is total garbage, you can at least ponder the fact that the person who has written it has done it that way for a reason. Is it because they have bad taste? Is it because their mother was never harsh enough on their drawings and they have no filter? Is there even such a thing as objectively good taste?

I have held this view, that all writings have some sort of value, for a very long time. Until now. Until I came upon Swedish teen bloggers. I have been faced with the question if there are things so trivial, banal, trite that they don’t deserve to be eternally etched in writing. Let me give you some examples. This first one comes from She is a 20-year old moderately successful model, but her main activity is blogging. Her blog has about 300.000 individual hits a day. This is a random post I read yesterday:

“I just wanted to wish you all a cozy night! My boyfriend and I have had a delicious dinner and now we’re cozying it up in front of the TV. Cozy! (I wonder how many times a day I use the word cozy haha)”

So, you may think this is something I searched for in order to prove my point. But alas, it was not. Let’s have another one. Here’s Kissie, a surgically enhanced 20-year old (these are all almost exactly the same age as me, it’s terrifying), the only thing she spends time doing is updating her blog, I don’t think she attends school but I’m not sure. I’ll try to translate this little gem and maintain the utter banality and lack of writing skill.

“I simply have to go find some school where I can get my driver’s licence…. Hmmm… Hard to know which one to choose! But it’ll turn out fine, that’s like, the least of my problems.. In fact I think I’ll be a mean driver, I learn everything in like no time! And how hard can driving be really…?;)

This information is propelled into the vulnerable minds of the 300.000 pre-teen readers.

There are people who are gifted writers. Honestly, I’d pay money for a post-it if Virginia Woolf had written her grocery list on it, simply because she is a flawless human being. The same goes for Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Vita Sackwille-Vest. Every time they put pen to paper, magic happens. Deep, complex and awe-inspiring magic. Then there’s the other group who couldn’t compose an engrossing sentence if their life depended on it. While I love the fact that blogs exist, it has in a way legitimised being a shitty writer but still having an audience. The amount of self-censoring is at a minimum. Something as basic as a spell-check is regarded as unimportant. It saddens me, really. Because language is a wonderful tool, and there should be some respect when one has the use of it as THEIR JOB. The honour (and I realise how old I sound) people used to put in what they put their name on is gone, and we read to be bored, not to be entertained.

I think what I’m getting at is that all text is in a way important, because it shows us something. What have we learned about these two girls through their writing?

– They are horrible writers with no sense of language, metrics, rythm, or vocabulary.

– They underestimate the value of writing and only use it as a tool to promote themselves, simultaneously valuing it enough to put it out to hundreds of thousands of people, because that’s just how important they are.

– I have lost all faith in the human race.

I just finished The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In it he mentions how he’s churning out short stories, but they are so bad that he would never publish them, not because he thinks the public won’t like it (as he says, they’ll eat anything that’s served with a stiff drink), but because everything that’s written isn’t meant to be shown. It devalues his worth in his own eyes, because you are your body of work.

I am by no means a great writer, although I hope to be one some day. But one must appreciate that writing is an art, a way to affect people, a talent. It’s not to be tossed around lightly. When you put something up for everyone to see, at least find a synonym for cozy if you are to use that word three times. I mean, at least one other word.

/end rant


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