The book snob. They haunt
creative writing workshops and lurk on the outskirts of book clubs everywhere. They can be spotted scoffing loudly while passing airport bookstores and cornering women at parties to talk about Bret Easton Ellis. They come in several different sub-species, from the Hemingway Bro to the Experimental Fiction Fanatic, but at the end of the day, they all have the same goal: to make you feel bad about whatever you're reading. Here are a few tips for dealing with every flavor of book snob.
If you've been fortunate enough to get this far in life without encountering a genuine book snob, your first interaction will probably go a little something like this: you will be talking (probably to another person) about a book that you like. The book snob will make a scornful yet pitying noise deep in the recesses of their hateful throat, and then they will cut in to explain to you that Chick Lit is not a real genre, or that they only read REALISTIC fiction, or that any book published after 1980 is not worth the paper it's printed on. Your first instinct will be, understandably, to punch them in the throat. Try to resist. Instead, here are a few tried-and-true tactics for dealing with a self-proclaimed literary expert:
Take control of the conversation
Too often, the book snob will be so anxious for you to know their Very Important Opinions on a book that they interrupt whatever you are saying. Practice this sentence in the mirror before you attend any literary event: "Please don't interrupt me, I wasn't done talking." Alternatively, if they continue to steamroll over your thoughts and feelings, wait until they finish and simply say, "I'd like to talk about something else instead." Then joyfully change the topic without acknowledging their snobbery.
Most book snobs are armed with plenty of defenses if you try to challenge their assertion that Misogynistic Male Author X is actually the Greatest Genius of All Time. Instead, ask probing questions such as, "Interesting. And why don't you read any female authors?" or "Gosh, I've just never heard the phrase 'Chick Lit' before. Why is it worse than all other literature, exactly?" or "How do you know that book is utter drivel if you haven't actually read it?"
Remind them that many things are both popular and good
For most book snobs, anything widely read is Bad. Genre fiction is Bad. YA is Bad. These things are bad because they are popular and/or marketed at women/young people. Remind your sweet book snob that some things can be both commercially successful and genuinely good. Lean over and whisper in their ear that William Shakespeare was a commoner who couldn't spell and whose plays were immensely popular with the working class, and then kiss them gently on the forehead and walk away.
Hit them with something like: "Oh, you still like Proust? Yeah, I was pretty into him as a teen. That's so cute. I mean, obviously all the real literary innovations right now are going on in YA fantasy novels. ...you
do read YA fantasy, right?"
Keep your sense of humor
The book snob feeds off of your anger and embarrassment. They want to make you feel small. They want you to get defensive, because then they will be able to say more of their opinions at you, and listening to their own opinions come out of their own mouth is the only thing that gives them joy in this world. Refuse to give in. Act as though everything they're saying is an enormous joke: "That's hilarious! Can you imagine if someone was actually rude enough to walk over here and insult my reading taste for real?"
Crank up your enthusiasm
Meet their judgment with pure delight: "Yes, that vampire detective novel
is trash, don't you love it?" The book snob's one true weakness is boundless, unabashed enthusiasm. They hate to see other people who are comfortable in their own choices. Listening to you continue to gush about the books you like and how much they mean to you will confuse the book snob, until they are forced to slink back into their snob-hole, muttering darkly about how they don't own a TV.
Point out when they are being prejudiced
Some book snobs will roll their eyes at
Twilight, or use "beach read" as a put down. But other book snobs will go a step further, and claim that audiobooks aren't real books, or that any book written in a different dialect of English from their own is just "poorly written." In this case, it is worth staring them directly in the eyes and loudly saying, "There are other people on Earth besides you."
If they start making derisive mouth sounds about fantasy and science fiction, express your sympathy that they don't have an imagination of their own. If they get upset at the prospect of romance or YA, give them your deepest regrets that they have never felt loved or youthful in their entire miserable existence.
Arm yourself with statistics
In most cases, I think it is a rather pointless exercise to fling facts and figures at someone who is trying to present themselves as the sole arbiter of literary merit. But if it makes you happy to get numerical, then you can point out that
adults make up half of YA sales or that genre fiction is widely read by many well-educated people.
It's not exactly the most polite way to exit an unwanted conversation... but I've found it to be effective (most recently, when a man at a party started to explain to me why my feelings about
Star Wars were incorrect). If a book snob is truly ignoring what you say in order to lecture you about *real* art, just smile blandly and excuse yourself from the conversation, even if they're mid-sentence.
Let them know that they’re being a book snob
Of course, in the worst case scenario, it is OK to tell someone that they are being rude. I think that we, as a culture, don't make enough use of the phrase, "My! What a rude thing to say!" You don't have to use the word "snob" if this is your friend's boyfriend or some other ingrate you're going to have to interact with again. Just make it clear that your literary tastes are not up for debate, and you don't appreciate their "well-read" judgment.