I must confess that, prior to last week, I had never heard of fantasy author known as Steven Brust nor any of his work. Yet it was courtesy of this page at TV Tropes that I was able to gain a wonderful new perspective from him. As a further courtesy, I now give my readers the very quote that widened my perspective:
The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ’em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ’em, ’cause that’s cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what’s cool.
The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff.
Geeky hyperbole aside, I truly believe this is one of the most honest views about literature–and good reading in general–ever given.
As many who know me are aware, I studied English Literature and Writing in college. Now, I ultimately enjoyed my studies there, but having been exposed to many of the “classics” and various forms of contemporary literature, I can say that very little of what I read was, in my opinion, “cool.” Some of it was brilliant, some of it was decent, and some was overrated and deserved to be thrown into a bonfire or locked away in a vault forever.
I don’t begrudge my professors for their curriculum or that anyone should like reading anything that isn’t in my tastes. All I will say is that, in the end, what one likes is what one likes, and there is no force in Heaven or Earth that will disturb such enjoyment. No academic treatises are needed, nor critics of the highest caliber, nor statistics regarding the sale and durability of such works.
If ya like it, buy it. If ya don’t, leave it alone and buy something else. Why anyone should bother with any more criteria than that is a mystery to me.
On a side note, I may have to start reading some of Mr. Brust’s Vlad Taltos series now…
This is the Scriptorium, signing off!