This is the title of an article in the newest edition of Newsweek, and the question it poses certainly deserves an answer. Here at RCPL, our patrons check out a variety of books for a variety of purposes, and many of them, and many of the employees here, myself included, enjoy reading for fun. So I ask you, the reader(s) of our blog, to thoughtfully consider whether reading for fun is really without merit.
In the body of the article, which focuses on Jodi Picoult, a very popular choice here at the library, the writer, Jennie Yabroff, includes a quotation by author Zadie Smith: "'...readers fail when they allow themselves to believe that fiction is the thing you relate to and writers the amenable people you seek out when you want to have your own version of the world confirmed and reinforced.'" For her part, Picoult acknowledges that "her popularity, as well as her accessible writing style, means she'll never win a Pulitzer Prize."
So, what say you, our patrons and readers? Is Smith's quotation an accurate assessment of why readers choose fiction? Is writing in an accessible manner really a Pulitzer deterrent? Is reading for fun really all that bad?
Not all books are created equal. However, flowery prose and a distinct lack of mainstream popularity should not a Pulitzer win. Not all readers enjoy Dickens, Twain, or Fitzgerald. However, many readers who do also enjoy the occasional foray into more fluffy fiction. And Picoult, whose prose is quite lovely, if a bit simple, certainly does not deserve literary oblivion merely because her works are accessible and popular.
As for reading for fun, books can take us places we may never visit. They are doors and windows we can open, and cliffs from which we can plunge into any world we choose, and some we wouldn't choose. There is nothing wrong at all with taking pleasure from such experiences.