Monday, February 10, 2014

I’d advocate for an even bigger imaginative leap: one that acknowledges the wide spectrum of pleasures that books (and TV, movies, music, theater, what have you) can offer us and then — and here’s the radical part — doesn’t immediately insist that these pleasures must also be sorted into a moral hierarchy. (This pleasure: good; that pleasure: bad; this one: in the middle.) Can we instead envision a world in which the person struggling through (but enjoying!) “Remembrance of Things Past” and the person tearing through (and enjoying!) “Gone Girl” can coexist on the same strip of sand, beach chairs side by side, each feeling pleasure in her solitary rapt world and neither one needing to cloak that pleasure behind the brown-paper wrapper of guilt?

I’m not a libertarian, politically speaking — I’m Canadian, which puts me slightly to the left of Communist. But increasingly I find myself attracted to a notion I’ll call cultural libertarianism, which might be best summed up in that old saying “Whatever floats your boat.” Which is to say, I’m less and less inclined to drop the hammer on someone who’s sitting in the corner, contentedly reading Dan Brown. Does this mean I’m obliged to acknowledge and celebrate the artistry of Dan Brown? Of course not. For me, personally, Dan Brown doesn’t do it; he leaves my boat unfloated. If you’re interested, I’m happy to share my reasons. But I’m not going to suggest that your enjoyment of Dan Brown is somehow degraded or embarrassing or shameful. I’ve not only lost my fervor to wage a holy crusade against people who enjoy Dan Brown; I’ve lost my faith in the kind of critical crusaders who do.

Read it all.

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