So a dear friend plastered this on my timeline Tuesday morning, and I really shouldn’t link to it, because it’s not like they need the clicks, but whatever. The New York Times ran an article ostensibly asking why there weren’t more Mormon literary greats, but actually it was just another catty salvo in the “Mormons are such losers” culture wars. And it’s catty for two reasons, 1. Oppenheimer’s criteria for literary greatness is limited to literary fiction, which in 2014 I think most people should be able to agree is ridiculous and pretentious; and 2. Oppenheimer clearly knows next to nothing about LDS Literature. So I say it’s catty rather than a legitimately different perspective because the author doesn’t have the guts to come out and say “Mormons are losers,” which would have the benefit of being his honest opinion at least, and instead hides behind this patina of pretension and journalistic neutrality, like we’re all too stupid to see through it. Come on. If Oppenheimer can acknowledge that Mormons are better read and better educated than a fair bit of the American public, does he really think Mormons are too stupid to see when they’re being insulted? And the insult isn’t in the question “Is Mormonism incompatible with literary fiction?” which is, ok, a sophomoric question in Mormon circles, but still one worth asking at some point in one’s life. The insult is in the fact that Oppenheimer doesn’t even bother to educate himself beyond the first page of an amazon search– or so I assume, because otherwise surely he’d have come across the Mormon “Lost Generation,” or the many, many literary articles suggesting that speculative fiction and creative nonfiction are the Mormons’ forte. And the EVEN BIGGER insult (because it applies to more writers) is “genre writing” isn’t Literature, isn’t as legitimate as literary fiction. Which, as I said at the beginning of this very long paragraph, is just ridiculous. Every book has a genre, just like every book as a price tag, and genre is about as useful a way of thinking about books as price tags are.
So no, I’m not a fan of Oppenheimer’s article. And left a whole lot of very long comments on my friend’s post, but everything I said, this guy said better, with more swearing (and I must say, I was certainly having four-letter feelings, even if I managed to avoid the words themselves).
And at first I was like, “Heck yeah, Correia! You tell ’em!” Oppenheimer suggests that Mormonism is limiting to artistic expression, to which Correia says, “Yeah, the way my religion says I shouldn’t beat my children while snorting cocaine off of a dead hooker is so limiting to my muse.” I can’t tell you how hard I laughed at that. So. Much. Love. And then I read the article again and was like, “Wait a minute…” Because in Correia’s response to Oppenheimer’s article, he vilifies the entire academic community. Not just Oppenheimer, but everyone who thinks thinking about books is important. As a ninja academic, let me just say: not cool, man. Because if it’s not ok to discriminate against speculative fiction, noir, YA, or whatever else Books That Make Money are called, it’s also not ok to discriminate against books based on the fact that they aren’t making money (and the writers who go along with them. You would like me if you knew me!). Look, either you approach each text with an open mind and see what it is in and of itself, or you decide its worth based on a marketing label. And if Correia’s advocating the latter, then he’s just a red state version of Oppenheimer. And I find that very disappointing.
Having had a day to think about things, I would just like to point out that the book world is big enough for everyone’s ideas, even the bad ones, even the ones that make money, even the ones that don’t (even the ones that aren’t published). The most tiresome thing about Oppenheimer’s article is how it asks Mormons to once again justify their presence. This is the same old prejudice that I’ve had to deal with my whole life, and frankly it’s just boring, (and maddening because it is so boring! WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS). Yeah yeah, Mormons can’t hack it at __________________. Whatever. You all go on with this argument, and I’ll try (AND FAIL, CLEARLY) not to get drawn into it. I’ll be over here, putting my shoulder to the wheel. Fingers to the keyboard. Whatever.
PS (This stupid blog post about someone else’s stupid article sucked away 800 words from my NaNoWriMo project. GAH!)