• Guilty (Literary) Pleasures

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 2 comments

    Even Gaston knows better

    A few weeks ago I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Although I finished it in one sitting, the experience left a nasty taste in my mouth. The novel’s concept initially drew me in: introverted kid with mental health issues makes friends and starts living life more fully. I liked Girl, Interrupted, so I thought I’d give Perks a try. Yet by the time I realized I disliked the author’s style, I was at a point where I couldn’t stop reading. I found the protagonist (and narrator) Charlie an unsympathetic character. Worst of all, his affected diction rattled me. Charlie sounded more like Data than a teenage wallflower. But … by that point I had already grown to care about Charlie and his friends. How did that happen? Everything is filtered through boring, annoying Charlie’s point of view, so why didn’t I put the book down?

    Because of the story. Despite its flawed narrative voice, an ex-wallflower or high school outsider such as myself can easily relate to the characters’ experiences, which range from universally heartbreaking to cliché high school milestones. The same thing happened to me while reading … (cough, cough) … the Twilight series. The twelve-year-old who listened to boy bands and had a crush on the cutest boy in school sabotaged my mind while reading those books. Instead of fighting back, I briefly suspended all writerly judgment and quickly gobbled them up before I had time to feel sleazy. I also mentally edited out all the parts where Stephenie Meyer goes on about Edward’s bronze hair, topaz eyes, and Adonis-like physique. Maybe I just give into the allure of Mary Sue stories. If so, at least I’m aware of it and don’t mistake a Mary Sue for a fully-fleshed character.

    I recently reconciled to myself that it’s okay to read bad fiction sometimes. Like junk food, it’s not going to hurt you if consumed sparingly. Also, reading fun, crappy beach reads gets me thinking about what I don’t want to do as a writer. So the next time you unwillingly get hooked on a Chelsea Handler book or another grocery store paperback, just rationalize to yourself that you’re doing serious literary research.


    In addition to writing for WriteByNight’s blog, Jenna Cooper writes for BE Mag and a blog called FemThreads.  Aside from writing, Jenna served as an AmeriCorps Member from 2008-2010 and will start her M.S. in Information Studies in Fall 2012.  She graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas.

    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of

    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    David Duhr

    In ON WRITING Stephen King writes, “There is a learning process going on [when you read]. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”

    I think that’s a sound statement. Learning what not to do is as effective as learning what to do.

    That still doesn’t make it okay for you to have read TWILIGHT, but we can talk about that another time.


    Honestly, not the worst thing I’ve ever read. I grew up with a very conservative family and remember picking up a Bill O’Reilly book sitting on the coffee table and reading parts of it. It was all circular reasoning and arrogance…at least Twilight had a plot.

    Also, I loved King’s On Writing. Perhaps the best writer’s guide besides the classic Strunk and White.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x