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How Reading Novels Makes You an Elitist

January 1, 2013 by Opinion, Publishing

I just got back from a trip to Connecticut where I made a pilgrimage to the Mark Twain house. It was a semi religious experience for me to see the desk that Twain sat at to write three of his most famous novels.

Today I have come to read that being a fan of literature makes me an elitist in Tim O’Reilly’s eyes.

But I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit. And they’re relatively recent. The most popular author in the 1850s in the US wasn’t Herman Melville writing Moby-Dick, you know, or Nathaniel Hawthorne writing The House of the Seven Gables. It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writing long narrative poems that were meant to be read aloud. So the novel as we know it today is only a 200-year-old construct. And now we’re getting new forms of entertainment, new forms of popular culture.

Much of contemporary entertainment can find its roots in novels. O’Reilly’s glib dismissal of the genre is extraordinarily vacuous. Sort of what you’d expect from a narrow minded elitist who hasn’t read a whole lot in his life.

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