Thursday, June 14, 2012

Accessibility in the Literary Sense

In this week's Thoughts from Places video, filmed mostly at Book Expo America, John Green quotes fellow-writer MT Anderson. Anderson defends intelligent characters in literature, which is a topic I'm passionate about.

I've praised John before for making it okay to write about intelligent characters. Some people argue that there isn't a shortage of smart YA characters--I've been told that there, are, in fact a disproportionate amount of them. In writing classes and literature classes, I've seen characters who use words like "bucolic" and quote Shakespeare be called out for being "inauthentic" or "inaccessible" or "unrealistic".

And maybe there are a lot of "average" teens reading. And maybe they need to see themselves in books they read, the same way "everyman" needs Updike's Rabbit.

But here's the thing: Smart teens exist. Teens who read John Donne, and do Calculus, and obsess over Neil Gaiman. They are out there, they can appreciate references to these things in their books. And authors can write to them, they can write about them, and they shouldn't be criticized for wanting to, just because not every tenth grader would appreciate a metaphor mentioning Oedipus. Some will.

My friends and I would have.

We wouldn't have appreciated a sports reference, but some readers will. And it's okay to write a book that some people will appreciate and not others. "Adult" authors do it all the time without being unduly criticized for it, YA authors need to be allowed to as well.


  1. Okay, maybe this is a REALLY dumb question but was that video narrated by John Green?
    The whole time I was like, aren't you going to introduce yourself?
    But maybe if it is the inimitable John Green he doesn't have to.

    1. It's his Vlogbrothers video from a few weeks ago, so I think he just assumes viewers know it's him.

    2. Aaah. Duh.
      Light dawns on Marblehead.