Thinking about Death Comes to Pemberley and fan fiction, my mind wandered to the idea of “guilty pleasures.” As I understand it, the general consensus definition of “guilty pleasure” is something you enjoy but think you shouldn’t, like say, a really bad pop song: everyone agrees it’s terrible, but you can’t help liking it anyway.
This takes me to a podcast I listened to back in December. I’m a bit of a National Public Radio junkie, and a group of their pop-culture staff (reviewers of movies, music, books) put out a weekly podcast touching on pop culture topics. They discussed the idea of “guilty pleasures” on their Dec. 9, 2012 edition. If I recall correctly, the group mostly felt that there really isn’t such a thing as a “guilty pleasure”—we enjoy what we enjoy and shouldn’t have to defend it. (Unless of course, we’re talking something that really does involve guilt, say serial murder. Ahem.) So by that rule, it doesn’t matter how bad the tune is, if you love it, so what?
I’m inclined to agree with this second perspective. If you saw my iTunes playlist you’d understand: I have almost every style and era represented, excluding non-Western music, with which I have little familiarity. (Some might say I have no taste, but that’s another discussion… 😀 ) I like what I like, and when the mood strikes me I’ll listen to what I want. But when it comes to books, I’m not so sure. After all, it only takes up a few minutes of time to listen to a typical song, but a book can take a couple hours or more. When I’m seeking to be abducted by these books, to have my world-view turned upside down, to lose myself to their seductions, do I really have time for the throw-away, but terribly fun novel? On the other hand, sometimes all I have brain power for is that fluffy read.
Defending our reading choices, or even just feeling the need to defend them, seems to take a terrible ton of energy, not just in the book blogging world, but beyond. How many of us have ever been asked, disdainfully, “are you really reading that?” Or for that matter, felt the need to justify a reread, when there are “so many other books out there”?
I’d like to say I stand strong and pooh-pooh the whole conversation: we like what we like and what does it matter to others, but I know that I’ve felt the need to defend myself in the past, or more especially, to selectively edit when answering the “so what do you like to listen to/read” question. Certainly, I’d rather not spend my energy tied up in justification of something, that when it comes down to it, is really rather pointless. At the same time, then, I need to remind myself not to judge others for their pop-culture choices. We like what we like, even when we don’t understand someone else’s preferences. And let me tell you, there are some I really don’t understand!
Oh, and for the record: if there is such a thing as a bookish guilty pleasure, my sin is thrillers, poorly-written or otherwise.
So what about you: do you believe in bookish “guilty pleasures?”