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Literature vs. Trash--An Annoyed Reader Wants to Know Why People Must Judge Literary Tastes

Author, Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes), posted an article, 40 Trashy Novels You Must Read Before You Die, on her facebook page this evening.  As the title of the article implies, the article lists the 40 "trashy" novels that its author feels you must read before you die.  Okay.  I'm game--I could use some new books for my TBR Pile.  It isn't as if I am unaware of the label placed upon the books I like to read.  The strange thing, though, is what the article's author thinks is "trashy."  Some of the books I can understand being placed on this list (Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, V.C. Andrews), but others just don't fit in with what is traditionally considered trashy (Stephen King, Ann Rice, Ken Follet).  I don't particularly like the fact that people look down their noses at the books I like, but I can accept that type of snobbery, especially if it comes in the guise of a young, pseudo blogger with literary ambitions as it did in the Nora Roberts/Vladimir Nabokov comparison.  What I have trouble with is people coming to the conclusion that anything that isn't straight literature, like that God awful Moby Dick or Gulliver's Travels, is somehow trashy.

Who defines trashy?  Did someone look at a book like Hollywood Wives, which is on the list, and decide that it is garbage?  To me, it has always seemed that trashy is the label most given to books written for women, by women, which in itself is utterly ridiculous (Is Jane Austen trash?  What about the Bronte sisters or Edith Wharton?), but this list included books by men, which most definitely were not solely written for women.  They aren't even completely about sex--another criteria for a trashy novel.

Honestly, for a list about trashy books, it just doesn't make sense.  Who looks at Gone With the Wind and sees a trashy novel?  Not I.  To me, Gone With the Wind is the story of a bratty Southern girl, who can't make up her mind over the two men in her life and really likes slavery.  Does the fact that she alternately wants Rhett and Ashley make her a slut or trashy?  What girl hasn't had feelings for two men at the same time?  That isn't really the point, though.  Gone is typically considered literature not trash.

Another book that doesn't seem to fit with this list is Go Ask Alice, the high school staple about a girl growing up in the 1960's and descending into a life of sex and drugs.  While Alice may fit into the sex criterion, it isn't the type of sex (i.e. explicit) that is showcased in "trashy" novels.  If anything, Go Ask Alice is a book about what not to do as a teenager because none of the things that Alice experiences in the book look at all enticing.

It seems that this is a list of the 40 best genre fiction books that must be read before you die, but the article's author couldn't condescend to call it that.  Anything that wasn't written with the intention of being great literature is apparently trash.  It is always revealing to see what a person considers good versus bad, but this list was depressing and it makes me wonder just what else is changing these days.  If trash is broadening from sex-fest, what other terms are also changing.


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