No, I know. Impossible. Have I heard their stupid music? Do I not know how they think “everything the [sic] do is somehow worthy of being posted on Facebook & Twitter & Tumblr. They have grown up with an audience for their every banality and expect it. They are vain and shallow. Believe me, I know this well.”? And look at the ridiculous ways they dress. Ugh. Kids today. Suck, suck, suck, suck, suck.
What do they suck about now?
They want to be writers, but they don’t want to read.
Giraldi’s right: it’s both crazy and prevalent among budding writers. I’d also welcome theories on why it’s prevalent—is writing a more natural activity than reading? Does watching stories unfold on TV or in film give kids the same creative urge that reading does? Is it just that it’s easier to see your ego in words you wrote yourself?
This is, by far, the stupidest thing I’ve read all day. People–kids today–read all the time. They read all day long. I heard on NPR that people under 25 send, on average, 110 text messages a day. These are not people who don’t read.
Let me posit a counter-theory–there’s a lot of terrible shit out there. Why just yesterday, I finished a book so bad that it made me wish there was a Mystery Science Theater for books. This book ended in a bout of mutual necrophilia, which I think was supposed to be horrifying, but ended up being hilarious. Because nothing says “Sure, I can get my actually dead dick up” like a ghost impersonating and somehow embodying the corpse of your wife. Who the fuck cares if kids today don’t want to read terrible shit like a “horror” novel that makes no sense and ends up with a dude gratefully and without compelling explanation fucking the thing that killed his wife and the teenager he was trying to fuck?
To that, I say, “Good decision, kids.”
Or let’s try another theory–Maybe Harold Bloom was right and writers–I would argue especially young writers–are very concerned with writing stuff that is derivative of other stuff. Shoot, I felt like throwing up when I realized the Sue Allen thing is going to be like The Terminator, but with methed out asshole neo-racists and post-Reconstruction Confederates. I’m going forward anyway, both because I at least want to write the first chapter where the evil post-Reconstruction Confederate complains bitterly about what a bunch of pussies all the men in his Civil War reenactment group are while they contemplate whether they should turn him over to the Feds, because he’s such a racist crack-pot that he seems like he might actually be a danger to others or whether he might be a Fed posing as a racist crack-pot trying to get them to implicate themselves in something.
And I’m sure that seems fucking derivative of something as well and the Butcher will read it and go “Oh, so that’s like [thing I forgot about] meets the Confederates.” And I will want to throw up again.
Oh, right, my point. Maybe young writers want to write without reading because they’re actually trying to say something about their anxieties about influence and their uncertainties about how to be original without shutting oneself off from influence. It’s funny to me that, when Harold Bloom says it, it’s smart and something we should all consider, but when kids try to express it, they’re narcissistic assholes.
Or my third theory–kids who want to write and who are asked to read by the teachers they want to teach them to write have no idea how to read a book like a writer. They literally don’t understand what reading can teach them about writing and teachers of writing, who are usually also teachers in the English department, do a pretty bad job of switching from “What does the rose symbolize?” to “What’s Faulkner doing with this rose? Does it work for you? What would you do differently?” It’s a different skill-set–reading for lit crit reasons and reading for ideas about strategies of writing (and both are different from reading for pleasure).
I only had a couple of classes–one I remember particularly vividly, even after all these years–where we read something, could be fiction, could be non-fiction, could be theory, hashed over what it meant and then turned around and tried to write something using what we’d just figured out. And both of those were taught by the same person. And I’m still in regular contact with her because she fucking rocks.
Are some kids narcissistic assholes? Sure. But are you teaching them how to read as a writer? Are you discussing with them anxieties about finding out that what they want to do has already been done? Or anxieties about “ripping off” someone?
There is only one way that I know of to become a writer–get words on the page and rip off people better than you. And the only way I know how to rip off people better than you is to read them. Sure, we don’t call it “ripping off,” but you know what I mean. If a writing teacher is only focused on teaching you how to get and shape words on the page and not on how to figure out what better writers are doing in order to emulate it, the writing teacher sucks, not the students.