I'm mostly--mostly-- over the fact that in her early 20s Ms. Conrad has realized and found success with her "dream career" as a YA novelist. People are buying her books, so what can I say about that? But she's crossed a line into what I consider my territory, and as such I can't help judging this author, particularly on the basis of a recent piece in Entertainment Weekly wherein she reveals that she essentially doesn't read. It was enough to make me throw down my magazine in disgust upon first reading, and Leila's post got my dander up anew.
Why on earth would anyone want to read a novel by a writer who herself doesn't read? Isn't that like a singer who doesn't listen to music? Just... how can it be any good? I don't believe that everything needs intellectual heft - I mean come on, I'm admitting that my source here is EWeekly (or Ewww, as my friend calls it). But I have a really hard time taking a person who makes her living writing books seriously when she says she bluffed her way through high school on Spark Notes and displays no curiosity, no genuine thoughtfulness. It hurts. It offends me as a reader and especially as a writer (albeit a frustrated and embittered one at the moment). What it shows to me is no respect for her audience. It's as if her attitude is, why bother to do the work when they'll just buy whatever it is I throw out there? If I had ever been a fan, this might have been the thing that put me off. But I don't actually know any fans of hers, so I can't say whether her seemingly unwitting pride in ignorance will affect the way her second novel will be received. I do also wonder if part of the intention of the piece was to present Lauren in an unflattering light, a sort of backhanded promotion - the pages of reader comments on the magazine's website would seem to support this notion. And it's interesting to me that the online version of the article includes more of her thoughts on what she read when she was younger, such as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, but it doesn't appear in the print version. I'm sure it was for space allowance, but why not cut the part about the celebrity book she enjoyed instead of the book that changed her life? Hmmm.
Before it starts to sound like I'm coming around to taking Conrad's side (not that I don't have sympathy for her youth and her role in the publicity machine, but still), I'm left to address the question of what to do with all this spite she inspired. Best case scenario, the anger should act as a catalyst, spur me on, get me writing with renewed purpose. I can channel these feelings of frustration and poorly disguised envy into something productive. And I can also become more vocal in promoting the careers of the amazing cadre of current YA authors. While it still nags at me that the author spotlight could have been used to promote someone like Maureen Johnson or Elizabeth Scott or Adam Rapp or E. Lockhart or--heavens--a most topically relevant ALA medal winner, it is a comfort to know that not only are there scores of very talented authors I can take pleasure in reading and recommending but that I belong to a community of people who care about books and all that goes into their creation with rabid intensity. And we are one blessedly vocal pain-in-the-ass collective.
Well, I feel a lot better now.
Currently reading: Little Dorrit (could I finally be on the home stretch?); a whole mess of books on childbirth.
Written material copyright 2010 Dawn A. Emerman