Aug 29, 2010

The Sunday Salon – Bookish Pet Peeves

The Sunday The Scrooge of Book Blogging

At the risk of sounding like the Scrooge of book blogging, I have to confess that there are a series of phrases, words and ideas prevalent in literary discourse of all kinds of which I’m really not a fan. They aggravate me, bring out the three-year-old in me, make me inwardly grumble “UR DOIN IT RONG”, and, in one case in particular, even make me consider getting contrary slogans tattooed on my forehead, just because I can.

But before I go any further, bear with me as I make a short aside: I keep a .txt file in my desktop where I scribble down ideas for future Sunday Salon posts as they come to me - which often seems to happen while I’m working. What this says about my levels of concentration is perhaps best left unexamined. Anyway, the words “bookish pet peeves” have been there for months now, and part of the reason why it took me so long to develop this into a full post is because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it sound impersonal – which it absolutely is.

So let me start with a disclaimer: these things may annoy me, but that doesn’t mean that a person saying or doing them will ever annoy me, or that I’ll look down on them (it’d be absurd and hypocritical if I did, because as you shall see that I’ve been guilty of many of them myself). It’s possible that these turn up in book blogs, as they do anywhere else where books are discussed, but I’m really not talking about any blog or person in particular. I think we all have a bit of tendency to be easily annoyed in the abstract but much more understanding and forgiving when dealing with real human beings, which is just as it should be.

With that out of the way, here they go – my top sources of annoyance in literary discourse:
  • The word “message” when applied to literature – A book that can be neatly summarised in one sound bite or two is probably not a very good book at all. I have always believed that literature, even when not as its best, is about much more than just disguisedly conveying a particular message. As the great Ursula Le Guin so eloquently put it in The Language of the Night, Any creation, primary or secondary, with any vitality to it, can “really” be a dozen mutually exclusive things at once, before breakfast.

    Besides, I dislike “message” because it has implications about authorial intent that “theme”, for example, does not. A “message” is something the author hides in the book for the reader to decipher – and therefore said author has absolute control over it. A “theme”, on the other head, is far from one-sided, and depends as much on the text as it does on an active reader. Most authors probably do try to communicate specific ideas through their writing, consciously or not, but I’m not at all a fan of the idea that they have absolute control or even the last word over how these should be read.
  • The expression “the graphic novel genre” – You saw this one coming, didn’t you? I confess I have a bit of a tendency to blurt out “medium” whenever I hear it, which probably makes me sound like an irritating know-it-all. But I just can’t help it; it’s stronger than I am. Also, “Comics/Graphic novels ARE NOT A GENRE” might have been what I had in mind earlier when I mentioned forehead tattoos. I’ve gone on at length before about why this gets to me so much, so instead of repeating myself I’ll just invite you to click the link.

    (Seriously, though. They are so not a genre. And calling them one perpetuates so many erroneous ideas and misconceptions about them. Argh argh argh okay I’ll shut up now.)

  • For very similar reasons, the expression “the YA genre” – to me this is every bit as absurd as claiming that the whole of adult fiction is a single genre. There are YA romances, YA mysteries, YA fantasy novels; there's YA science fiction, YA realistic fiction, YA dystopia, and so on. Once again, my problem with calling YA a genre is that it makes it sound a lot more samey than it actually is. I notice that people tend to see YA as a lot more homogeneous than, say, children's literature, and I wonder how much the fact that it's often referred to as a genre has to do with that.

  • Using the words “novel” and “book” interchangeably – This leads to repeated references to “this novel” in reviews of non-fiction, short story collections, memoirs, etc., which kind of makes my head explode. It's also why I’m not completely comfortable with “graphic novel” as a replacement for “comic”, which results in the paradoxical term “non-fiction graphic novel” (though I do use it myself and fully acknowledge that “comic” has its own share of awkwardness).

  • Mistaking a single character’s thoughts/opinions/worldview for those of the author, or reading everything autobiographically – This seems to happen with alarming frequency, and in my experience even in literary circles right after students have been repeatedly beaten over the head with Roland Barthes (I’m not exactly a big fan of his, but not because I think he’s wrong in this regard). When it comes to ideological readings of a novel, it’s especially important to base them on what the novel as a whole suggests, rather than on any isolated character’s stance. The second can of course be one of the things that reveal the first, but it’s never the whole story. Possibly you’re thinking that this all goes without saying, but sadly in my experience it really does not.

  • The expression “this book transcends its genre” – Bonus points when applied to graphic novels, of course. To be honest, most of the time I’m not even sure what this means. I mentioned it in my fantasy reader’s FAQ a few months ago, so I won’t go on about it at length, but to put it briefly, it annoys me because it’s yet another way of putting a whole genre in the same bag. E.g.: “Fantasy is of course still bad; the only reason why Wicked by Gregory Maguire is good is because it ‘transcends’ it.” I was reminded of this recently when reading Savidge Reads’ excellent interview with mystery writer Sophie Hannah, who said:
    ‘Crime Fiction’ is a category that contains, as you say, writers like Kate Atkinson, Susan Hill, Barbara Vine, Karin Alvtegen, all of whom are great writers. I’m slightly uncomfortable with the idea of anyone’s crime novels being ‘more than’ crime fiction, because that suggests there’s a limit to what a crime novel can be, and I don’t believe there is.
    Exactly. The same goes for every genre, really.

  • Using the term “simplistic” positively – this one just confuses me, and possibly my inadequate grasp of English is to blame here. To me, to call a book “simplistic” is one of the very worst things I can say about it: it means that it betrays the complexity of the world and of human nature by oversimplifying it; by not acknowledging nuances and portraying the world as black or white. So it really baffles me to read things like, “this was such a nice story, so sweet and simplistic”. Surely the writer means “simple”? Can the two words really be used interchangeably?

  • The word “hype” – the misfit indie music fan in me is to blame here. I realise that people use the same word to mean different things all the time, but thanks to all the time I’ve spent in online music communities, to me “hype” will always mean “something hispters feel they have to turn their noses at because it has become far too popular”. An example of its usage:

    Person A:‘Have you heard the new Arcade Fire yet?’
    Person B: ‘Yeah. It’s just hype.’
    Person A: ‘Total hype.’
    Person B: ‘Meh.’ *Takes a sip of iced latte*

    The understanding being, of course, that the new Arcade Fire is completely devoid of any merit, but there will always be people who’ll claim to like it just because it’s cool to jump on the bandwagon. What those people don’t know, though, is that those who are truly cool will be the first to jump out of the bandwagon the second it begins to give any signs of getting crowded. I wonder if there’s ever a point when it becomes cool to jump back in?

    More seriously now, I don’t like “hype” because it sounds dismissive – it seems to be a way of talking of people’s enthusiasm for something in terms of its collectively, as if that made it any less valid or sincere. Possibly this is one of the reasons why I so loved Barbara Ehrenreich’s Dancing in the Street – it is, after all, a passionate defence of shared pleasures. And on a related note, I also really don’t like the idea that being enthusiastic about something (individually or collectively) is a sign of lack of critical thinking, as if you couldn’t think carefully about something and decided that yes, you do love it passionately and shamelessly.

  • One-size fits all book recommendations – This is possibly the trickiest item on this list, and it’s one I’m definitely guilty of myself. But the more I think about it, the more absurd it seems to me to universally recommend or un-recommend a book. People are so different, and what makes a reading experience precious is so often personal and unique. How can we ever really know if our enthusiasm or lack thereof will be shared?

    Hearing people say they wish everyone would read this or that book doesn’t really bother me, but it does bother me to hear “I don’t recommend this book to anyone”, or “I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly enjoy this book” (the latter in particular often has a touch of righteousness to it that really rubs me the wrong way). This could be because I’d much rather waste my time on what was, to me, a bad book than to miss out on a good one because I trusted someone else when they warned me away from it.

    I do know that the majority of us don’t mean any of these things literary even when we do say them, but they’re a short and easy way of expression the intensity of our like and dislike. I guess that as long as we don’t start thinking that they are or should be universal, there isn’t really a problem.
What about you? What are your own bookish pet peeves? And do you agree or disagree about any of the above?


  1. Omigosh. THIS! I agree with every single one of these. And I say that even though I know I've spoken of books transcending their genre (by which I usually mean that people who aren't generally fans of the genre may like it, which is what I should say).

    I'm also guilty of dismissively talking about hype. I actually have a post in my head about popularity and quality et al., which is what I originally thought today's post would be about, but the gender issue wound up being more complex and interesting than I expected when I started writing.

    The pet peeve that I would add is disliking a book simply because the characters aren't likable. If they're unlikable *and* uninteresting, that's one thing, but must we like all the people we read about?

    And PS, as an editor, I would almost always change simplistic to simple if I saw it used positively. I can think of very few instances where that would be correct, so no I don't think your English is at fault.

  2. I get annoyed by message, but I DO think that some YA writers are doing that. They are writing a book with a specific message in mind and it is whether that book is better than just the message we enjoy it. But that's kind of like saying a book transcends a genre ;)

    I think we're all guilty of some form of these at some point and it's always good to see them all written out so we can try to avoid them! I agree these are sloppy reviewing mistakes.

  3. Teresa, that's reassuring to hear about simple/simplistic! So it's not just me after all :P About "hype" and being dismissive of hugely popular things, I think many of us have that tendency, and it probably comes down to how being wary of the collective is so deeply ingrained in Western culture. I'd never thought about it this way until I read that Barbara Ehrenreich book, but the way she put it made so much sense.

    Lu: I wonder if that didactic tendency is really more prevalent in YA, though. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, of course, but it would be an interesting thing to write a thesis about :P But yeah, when there's nothing to a book but a very clear and specific message, it's not likely I'll be a fan.

  4. Oh Ana, what an awesome post! I laughed so many times, while managing to be annoyed right along with you. I have to admit, I'm now tempted, yet afraid, to go read over some old posts and see just how many of these I'm guilty of. :)

  5. Debi, if you do that, I will too >:( I bet I'll find just as many instances as you :P

  6. LOVE this post. I agree with just about everything you've said here, although I must admit I'm guilty of many of these myself. Most notably (and don't kill me) saying that GN is a genre. Not that I say explicitly "the genre of graphic novels", just that when in my reviews I always state the general genre of the book, and graphic novels is what I'll say if the book is a graphic novel. Sorry! ;)

    I love what you said about novels not having a message. Like you, if a book can be summed up by a one-line message, I probably won't like it.

  7. Yeah, the simple/simplistic thing is not just you. People use it wrong all the time, but simplistic isn't a good thing. I was just commenting on this the other day. While watching Say Yes to the Dress. Please don't judge me.

    I know I have loads of pet peeves but of course my mind's a perfect blank now. I will probably come over all curmudgeonly later on today and have a list of twenty things I hate.

  8. OH I KNOW WHAT I HATE. I hate it when one book talks about another book or author and gets it all wrong. Like, I love Roald Dahl, but I've never completely forgiven him for saying in Matilda that there are no funny bits in C.S. Lewis's books.

    (I guess I do not really hate that. I guess I probably enjoy basking in righteous indignation and feeling like I am a Better Reader than the author who has got it wrong.)

  9. As someone who has never been part of a book club (not because I didn't want to - but because the opportunity has not existed) - taken few literature courses outside of high school (which was nearly 30 years ago - egads!), I must confess that I am a relatively "uneducated" book blogger.

    I found this post quite informative and one that I will need to refer to often. I am certainly guilty of referring to graphic novels as a genre (sorry!!!) --- but after reading your explanation, I totally understand why medium is a preferrable term.

  10. I hope it was fun to write this post. It was fun to read it.

    I do see your point about graphic novels, but I don't agree. Not yet. Medium refers to the material used to create a work of art. Oil paint, watercolor, marble, film, and print are all media.

    If you go back to the beginning of the novel, genre referred to the larger group. The novel was a genre, the epic poem was another, drama was also considered a genre. There was no smaller breakdown into further categories until later.

    I think most of the genre categories we now use began as a way to keep certain books out of the literary cannon. I don't think the term is all that useful anymore. I also think that conisdering graphic novels as a genre is a way to bring them greater respect, to push them towards the cannon.

    Now that they are a respectable genre, well, almost, they can begin to transcend their genre and become literary.


  11. My biggest pet peeve is a blatantly faked review. You know what I'm talking about....A blogger receives a free book, reads it, finds that it is awful, and then praises it to the heavens. Eek.

  12. I agree on calling YA a genre. I think that it does a disservice to the books and the authors but of course that is just me. This was an interesting list Nymeth...and some of your peeves made me think. So thanks for sharing!

  13. Some of the things on your list I DON'T mind, like using the word "message" or the whole transcending the genre formula. I always use message to refer to what messages I personally got out of a book, though, so perhaps that's different. I also don't take offense to "hype". Some of the others bother me, though. Especially calling YA a genre. Grr.

  14. I agree with just about everything. I was most happy to see number 3 on the difference between a novel's themes and a character's opinion combined with the disparity between author intention and reader interpretation. I harp on this to my lit students.

    I'm one of those people who use the term simplistic positively. And you are right, it's probably an incorrect use of the term. When I say a book is simplistic, I'm trying to say that the plot line isn't bogged down with extraneous mini-plots or details just for sensationalism. Clearly, simplistic doesn't convey all that information. :)

    As always, a thought-provoking post.

  15. I know it's woefully uncool to think your native tongue is awesome, ESPECIALLY if your native tongue is English, but guys, English is REALLY FUCKING GREAT because it is insanely precise. It's precise like ancient Greek without all the soulless stodginess. Which is to say, there is always a word to say exactly what you mean to say, and if you mean to say 'oversimplified' then by all means say 'simplistic,' but if you were saying 'simplistic' just as a longer, smartsier-sounding 'simple,' you should probably just stick with 'simple.'

    THAT'S my pet peeve, Ana, both in blog posting AND in school (maybe mostly in school) - people who longify words to sound smrt, and either end up making a non-word ('irregardless') or using a different word from what they mean entirely.

    Allowances made for those for whom English is a second language, obvs. But I go to school in Victoria; we all speak fluent English here and there is no excuse for these shenanigans.

  16. My pet peeve is the phrase "this book will not disappoint." I keep seeing it, and it makes me cringe every time. In fact, it makes me want to run screaming in the other direction.

  17. Interesting and thought provoking post Nymeth. I do agree with the YA genre comment. And I'm afraid I have been guilty of that one myself.
    I think my bookish pet peeve is when blurbs or reviews ruin the book. I really dislike spoilers.
    Or when the cover art has nothing to do with the story itself, or misrepresents the characters.

  18. Ooh, I hate when people use the word novel to refer to things that clearly are not novels. I don't really understand why people mysteriously think they're interchangeable; to me, it seems as though they're trying to sound smart and instead sounding stupid. This is, to be honest, a big pet peeve of mine in other forms of writing and speaking as well. If you don't know what a word means, just don't use it. This goes for simplistic as well, I think.

    Otherwise, I really do agree with you on many of these things; I'm probably guilty of many of them at some point, especially talking about message and universally recommending things, but I should avoid them!

  19. Yes some of these bug me more than others, like using novel for all books, and dismissing hyped books.

    A few others that bug me...referring to books published outside of the Christian market as secular as opposed to "general market."
    The word fluff even though I've probably used it. And for some reason it bugs me when people feel the need to say a book isn't perfect after a review talking about how much they enjoyed it. Actually that goes back to fluff. It often feels like the reviewer needs to add a disclaimer that they realize the book shouldn't actually be taken *seriously* even though they loved it. I'm not sure this is entirely fair, but it really rubs me the wrong way.

  20. You know what I hate? Pretentious one- or three-word reviews that are essentially meaningless. When I pick up a new book and the back cover is rife with descriptions like "Luminous!", "Radiant!", and "Full of symbolic energy!", I slap that book down in a hurry.

  21. Heather: I would never kill you! :P To be fair I have a "comics and graphic novels" tag myself, and most of my tags are for genres, so there :P

    Jenny: As you know I don't always get on with Lewis, but that is so unfair! There were so many funny bits. And as for righteous indignation, it's only human to enjoy it sometimes :P

    Molly: No sorry! I really don't think any less of anyone for calling it a genre, ever. But I'm glad you found the post useful and that the distinction makes sense to you!

    C.B. James: I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with your disagreement :P You're right about the original meaning of the word "genre", of course, but even if we take it that way (and these days that usage is probably not that common outside academia), comics just function so differently from ordinary books. It seems to me that the combination of words and pictures just can't be put in the same bag as what is done with words alone. As for using the same materials - yes, we bind them as books and buy them in bookshops, but that's kind of like saying that a radio play, an opera and a rock album are all different genres of the same medium because we buy them in CD or mp3 format and listen to them all. That makes no sense to me, and the same goes for comics and ordinary books.

    readerbuzz: I can imagine that, yes :S Fortunately none of the blogs I read ever do that!

    Sam: Yes - it's a huge disservice!

    Amanda: The world of indie music really ruined "hype" for me :\ About "message", I really don't mind it in that personal sense you explained. It just annoys me when people say "this book means X and only X", if that makes sense!

    Trisha: I really wasn't sure if it was or not, but I associate the word with such negative things that to see it always confused me!

    raych: I agree about English being precise, and I LOVE that about it! And ha, I've had classmates who did that all the time too. I lol'ed inwardly many, many times :P

    softdrink: Yes! And I guess that's an example of one-size-fits-all recommendations. I always want to ask, "HOW DO YOU KNOW IT WON'T DISAPPOINT *ME*?" Yes, in caps and everything :P

    Naida: Argh, spoilers in blurbs are the worst! Or in introductions, though these days I always assume they'll have them and skip them. But why not put them at the end then?

    Meghan: I'm glad I'm not the only one annoyed by the "novel" thing. It's especially baffling in reviews of non-fiction; I always wonder if I missed something and the book is in fact a novel somehow :P

    Amy: Oooh, fluff is another one I should have included! Not a fan of the term at all. And I know exactly what you mean about those apologetic disclaimers, as if the person were trying to say that though they loved the book, they're much too smart and sophisticated to actually take it seriously. I see that a lot in YA reviews. Maybe it's not fair of us, but I definitely get that impression too sometimes.

    Mumsy: lol! I never know what those blurbs even mean either.

  22. Oh goodness.. Where do I begin.

    First, I totally agree with your graphic novel genre pet peeve. Makes the librarian in me nuts! It reminds me of another..chick lit genre. What determines that? Is there a stud lit genre? LOL

    This was funny..I had to chuckle.
    The expression “this book transcends its genre” – Bonus points when applied to graphic novels, of course.

    I know sometimes I will mention when I like a character for some reason, but I try to avoid these subjective comments. I think the difference between writing for your blog and an actually published review in a magazine, are so totally different. I guess it depends on why you write your blog and who your audience is.

    Readerbuzz..I know what you mean. Personally, if I read a book that is awful...I won't review it. I don't have time and I don't want to spend what little time I do slamming a writer on my blog. I will make a note in Goodreads or Library Thing and assign lower ratings. This is one reason I don't star my reviews.

    Thanks for this post, Nymeth...good thoughts and conversation generated.

  23. Hmm, I'm interested in your "hype" complaint. I've encountered it used the way you say, but more often I've encountered a more value-neutral use, along the lines of, "So, did you think Wolf Hall lived up to all the hype?" It's certainly not cool to be dismissive of something just because it's popular (or because it's not), but I do think it's useful to have ways of talking about how a book or album's huge popularity can alter our expectations going into the reading/listening experience, and make the final result of that experience something different than it would have been had we gone in with a mental blank slate. I certainly struggle with the demon of expectations if there has been a lot of hype around something - on the one hand, it can be fun to share your enthusiasm with so many folks if the book/album DOES "live up to the hype," but on the other hand the hype can raise my expectations so much that the work end up disappointing, or, in the event that I genuinely dislike the work, I'm in a much different situation than if no one had heard of it before me. For example, I hated Let the Great World Spin and I have to admit that I would feel less bemused and frustrated about that if it hadn't been glowingly praised by so many. So, I guess I find "hype" to be useful in that regard, not to dismiss a work but to refer to the huge buzz surrounding it.

  24. I understand and agree (and probably guilty of) much of what you say. For me, it's more about how it's said or with what intent rather than the saying in general. In addition, I feel as though it depends on wether certain phrases are used due to a true lack of knowledge or forced ignorance.

    I actually had to go on wikijourney to look up novel vs book a few reviews ago. I think I used them interchangeably, but am now remedied! :D

  25. Well, hell, I'm probably guilty of all of these things (*blushing*). I'm going to blame it on just being dense. I actually have many pet peeves too, one major one is when the review starts with the publisher's summary, then the reviewer provides ANOTHER synopsis of their own, recounting every single thing that happens in the story. I usually am lost at that point.

  26. I know I've mentioned hype in my reviews, normally in the context of "there was a lot of hype around this so I checked it out." I don't think I've ever used it in the way you do... at least I hope I haven't!

    As for the YA thing, the only thing I'll say is that I have noticed that some books do stamp YA on the back covers where they denote what type of book something is (maybe this annoys you too?). Sometimes when I'm working I need to see if something is a memoir or fiction/literature (as they are labeled) and sometimes they say "YA", or even have an age range (like 12 - 16) on them, which seems preposterous, but apparently such denotations are sanctioned by the book publishing industry!

  27. I think my biggest bookish peeve is when reading a review and I can't tell what the person felt for the book. Did they like it, hate it, what? If a review is so general, that it's mostly description why bother writing a review?

    I agree with you that "comics" and "graphic novel" can be so awkward. I think it has to do with the fact that more people are picking up these sorts of books and we're still trying to figure out what to call them. I also think more people need to understand that comic/graphic novels is not a genre but a medium. I don't mind posts about comic/graphic novels as long as it's not a "one size fits all" kind of thing".

  28. My bookish pet peeves are people who look for bookish pet peeves. ;) Actually, not really...I just thought I'd say that to be a smart ass.

    I guess I don't think about it too much...other than on blogs, I prefer not to see memes all the time and like to see some thought behind posts, but that's not necessarily a bookish pet peeve.

    I do agree with all your pet peeves and personally I try to avoid them. Of course, you might come over to my blog today and find one of those you discussed, proving me wrong. Hey, I try.

  29. I'm so wondering which ones I'm guilty of myself now! :)

    I understand what you mean with transcending a genre, it does sound so snooty. I hate when people write that a book is just very typical of its genre. Why is that bad?

    I hate that graphic novel is used for memoirs (probably cause I took a class on that last sememster, and know better myself now :) )!

    Hmmh, what are my bookish peeves . . . Giving away everything of a classic, as if everyone's of course read every classic already and the plot and twists are not of any importance, argh!

  30. I definitly agree with you on 'hype'. Such an overused word that seems to have lost all meaning. I agree YA and graphic novels are not genres but do think as a classification and section in bookshops they work. I use graphic novel wrongly as I usually mean trade paperback (collection of comics like Sandman) rather than graphic novel like Mouseguard. I'm ok with this though despite my husband constantly correcting me.

    My pet peeves are more physical. I always shudder when I see people bend down corners for a bookmark or bend the spine completely back on itself *shudder* the other things that bother me are sentences that just keep going with no punctuation and mistakes like there instead of they're. I also don't like having the opinions of others forced on me. It's great when people disagree on what they like or think a story is really about, as long as they both agree to disagree at the end of the day. An opinion is an opinion and isn't right or wrong at the end of the day.

  31. Great post, Nymeth, and one that has stirred up lots of comments. I sure I am quilty of one or more of these gaffs, like "hype" for instance. When I use "hype" I am thinking of advertising and marketing, not of peoples' individual enthusiasm.

    I think the "this book transcends its genre" probably gets me the most riled up, as does the YA and Graphic Novel genre labels. Actually any genre labels in general tend to annoy me.

    I also hate it when a publisher "repackages" a book to make it what they see as more attractive to an audience. This happened recently with Shannon Hale's books and it drove me nuts.

  32. Hmmm ... none of the things on the list really bother me, with the possible exception of a reader assuming a character's opinion or worldview reflects the perspective of the author. Though that's a tricky one -- and I catch myself doing this too.

    That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this post and the comment thread. And I'm going to read your post on why graphic novels shouldn't be called a "genre" and make a concerted effort not to do that in my future posts. ;-) Now that I've actually started reading this ... umm ... medium, I want to get it right.

    A lot of food for thought here!

  33. Eueue, I hate this because it shows so many ways in which I can be sloppy! (Although I may note in my defense that there is often a direct correlation between hour of composition and glibness.) But you are so right to call me/whoever on it. And I would add as a peeve: spelling and grammar errors!

  34. A glorious post, Nymeth. I agree with everything, especially "hype"- I hate the idea that because I'm a fan I can't look at my fandom objectively.

  35. Great post Ana. I'm completely guilty of using "graphic novel" as a genre even though I know it's only a medium for a memoir or story. Maybe it's because I don't read them often enough, it allows me to separate them in my mind and blog-o-list easier.

    I guess, it's like Ellen Hopkins. It's poetry right? I mean, she writes in verse. But her books are generally listed on my blog as :young adult, realistic. It'd only be fair to include the poetry aspect of it. Haha, especially since I generally don't dig poetry but Hopkins always gets my vote!

  36. Such a great post! I think I'm most guilty of "the YA genre" one. In my reviews, I try to state what genre the book is. Of course, I do my best to be as specific as possible, but sometimes I can't think of anything more than "YA fiction"! I hate being so vague, but a lot of the books I read are hard to narrow down.

  37. You can count me guilty for 3 here, 2 of which I might not agree with.

    The one I do agree with is that Graphic novels is not a genre, but I do use it sometimes, I deserve a smack on my head for that. I'll remember it henceforth.

    But YA could be a genre. Just as there are YA romances, YA mysteries, YA fantasy novels, there are Romantic Fantasies and Romantic mysteries. It will be very difficult if we start separating every type of YA book in diff genre's. Just saying, I'm not really sure if I've put that across very well.

    Also, I use the word simple to describe a novel sometimes and mostly it means simple in terms of the plot or the number of characters.

    Nice post though, enjoyed reading about your pet peaves.

  38. The only one I'm guilty of is YA genre but I think you can break down every genre like that. YA is just more varied. I don't really like using the word "novel" for some reason. I will use "hype" but when talking about it on blogs I use the word "buzz" more. It's too early for me to think of any of my own pet peeves right now...

  39. Heehee, I think I have been guilty of almost all of these at one time or another, but I know you love me anyway! I think you are spot on with your criticisms of some of these things, particularly the use of "simplistic" as a positive term in a review or conversation. I think my biggest pet peeve when it comes to discussing books would have to be spoilers. When I come across a big spoiler, I usually just dismiss both the book and the review. I don't mind so much if the reviewer announces that there will be spoilers, but if I come across them unaware, I really get angry.

  40. Totally agree on the YA thing - and I also think that calling it a genre spoils it somehow, doesn't leave space for enough insight into the books that are YA.

    You so can't use 'simple' and 'simplistic' interchangeably. :-) And I too hate when writers/bloggers 'inflate' words just to use the longer, more complex version to sound smarter. Anything contrived doesn't do it for me.

  41. Great post -- thought provoking and also funny. I agree, some of these are so irritating -- especially the one about hype, jumping off & on the bandwagon, etc. And I completely agree about graphic novels and YA as genres -- graphic novels are a format, YA is an audience, or a target audience, if you want to be even more specific. As a librarian, I can understand why certain things are shelved together, but it doesn't necessarily make them the same.

  42. Excellent post, Ana. I agree with most everything - including how I am often the culprit of my most hated peeves. But this is why I love you. Those of us who write about literature have a responsibility to get it as "right" as we can, and using literary terms inaccurately do not benefit our cause. You are helping us be better at what we do by bringing our attention to some errors and in a very non-affronting way. Bravo.

  43. Oh, yeah, and a post by Clare (of Literary Omnivore) just reminded me how much I hate it when authors make up a zillion words and stick them in their book so you are constantly having to flip back and forth to figure out what the hell everyone's on about. After about ten of these (ten being a generous estimate), I'm usually done.

  44. Had to come back because I thought of another one! I hate it when people say a book takes itself too seriously or isn't as weighty as it thinks it is. This drives me nuts.

  45. I'm a chronic overuser of the word hype, though I'd never thought about it the way you presented it here. Something to chew on! Thanks, Ana!

  46. Oh dear, I use both YA & graphic as a genre label, but in my defence I'll usually combine it with an actual genre :)
    And I think I'm guilty of mis-using simplistic as well.

    I usually avoid reading books that are hyped, not because I think they are all hype, but because all that positivity means I'll often raise my expectations too high. But I usually get around to it eventually.

  47. What a great post -- love this! I agree -- PLEASE figure out if it's a novel or a collection or what. Not all books are novels!

  48. Hmm, I think I've used "novel" and "book" interchangeably. I'll have to think more on that one!

    As for "graphic novels" as genre, it does drive me a bit crazy that they are all lumped together in bookstores when the subject matter could be so different between them. Why not put the "Maus" books in with world history where they should be -- for example?!

  49. Wisteria: Don't get me started on either "chick lit" or "women's fiction"! As for subjectivity or negative reviews, I don't think there's anything wrong with either, but I've gone on about that many times in the past, so I'll spare you now :P

    Emily: I definitely see your point, and I've encountered that more neutral usage before. But I guess I've been exposed to the negative one so many times that I can't get over my dislike of the word. Not very reasonable, I know, but I can't help it :P I promise I don't necessarily assume that people are being dismissive if they say "hype", though. Like you said, having a way to refer to the expectations that other people's reactions to something cause is indeed useful. I personally prefer "buzz" because I can't dissociate "hype" from the way it's generally used in hipster culture, but I won't resent anyone for using the latter.

    She: Yes, how it's said definitely makes a huge difference - this list is based on generalisations and exaggerations, but like I said in my disclaimer I'm far more understanding when dealing with real people. Or I try to be!

    Sandy: You are not dense, Sandy! And I'm guilty of so many of them myself. Also, yes - don't tell me the whole story, please! One *brief* synopsis is more than enough, thank you.

    Steph: You guessed right - not a fan of age branding at all! This site says it all, really. It especially bothers me because it's an easy way of making children who are behind the reading level that's considered normal for their age group feel inadequate and give up on reading for pleasure altogether. A 13-year-old will often feel horribly embarrassed if given a book that clearly says its target age range is 8-10, and yet they could benefit immensely from reading it.

    Vasilly: Yeah, I'm not a fan of posts that are merely a description of the book. I can read that on Amazon or wherever. Why bother?

    unfinishedperson: Ha - I deserved that, didn't I? :P Anyway, we all try! Many of these can be found on my blog as well.

    Bina: Probably as many as me :P And yeah, it baffles me when someone reviews, say, a Gothic novel and says, "it was too Gothic!" Which sounds absurd, but I've actually seen things like that. And YES - why do so many people think it's okay to spoil classics? Even the back cover summaries of many of them are often FULL of spoilers. Why?!

    Rhinoa: Yes, they do work as sections at the bookshop, and come in handy for people like you and me :P I just don't like it when people assume that means they're all stereotypical. Anyway, I'm not a fan of the things you mentioned either!

    Gavin: Yes, like Emily and Steph were also saying, "hype" used in that more general marketing sense is fine. But I'll probably never get over my bias against the word :P I've seen those new Hale covers and I'm SO with you! The old ones were so pretty too :\

    Stephanie: I do catch myself doing it from time to time as well, Stephanie! It's only human, but it's good to pay attention.

    Jill: I worry that I'm more guilty of spelling and grammar errors than anyone else. Best not to think about it :P

    Clare: Yes, exactly! The whole idea that to be a fan is to be brainless just drives me crazy.

    Christina: I guess a book can belong to more than one category at once. Still, I think people just assume that genres are stereotypical by default, which is a great shame!

    Emidy: I do have a "YA" label as well, so I guess I'm guilty in that sense :P

  50. I love it Ana! Some great ones in there, that bother me and that I do :D Heh. I was not surprised to see the comment about the 'graphic novel genre', I believe I've heard that one before from you! Some of those - like message - are spot on. If the book is just this message then I'm not sure I want to read it! That being said, I'm not sure I haven't said it before ;)

  51. Ok, you *killed* me with the Arcade Fire reference, since that's exactly what I thought of their new album but without using the word hype. I hate to say it, but I'm too old for hipster slang. And 31 is not old.

  52. I'm so behind -- as usual.

    I agree with so much you said here. I haven't yet read the 50+ comments, but will get there.

    GN: Yes!! It's a medium, like audio, like eBook. It is not a genre. Actually I like to say: graphic memoir, graphic nonfiction, illustrated nonfiction, or some other language when the book is not a novel.

    Yes: must be careful that the book is actually a novel.

    Yes: characters can have thoughts and viewpoints that aren't the authors.

    I admit it, I don't know what "transcending the genre" even means. LOL.

    And although I'm guilty at times, I do prefer to recommend for certain readers, not universally. As in "recommended for those who love a little mystery with their historical novels."

    Great post.

  53. "For very similar reasons, the expression 'the YA genre' – to me this is every bit as absurd as claiming that the whole of adult fiction is a single genre. There are YA romances, YA mysteries, YA fantasy novels; there's YA science fiction, YA realistic fiction, YA dystopia, and so on. Once again, my problem with calling YA a genre is that it makes it sound a lot more samey than it actually is."

    Yes!!! While I'm all excited about the upcoming Book Blogger Appreciation Week and think it's a really great and all that good stuff, I was really, REALLY irritated when I saw that "YA" and "KidLit" each got one niche, while "Nonfiction," "Romance," etc all got their own niches. Thanks, guys. Because, you know, adult literature is just so complex and diverse that it needs multiple categories to describe it while CHILDREN'S literature, on the other hand . . . well, it's just all the same. It just feels so dismissive! Argh!

    So, I guess I would say my pet peeves largely have to do with children's literature. I get a little feisty and defensive :)

  54. Violet: I guess we have to agree to disagree about YA :P I just don't see it following certain conventions in the same way a mystery or a fantasy book does, if that makes sense. But I can see how keeping all different genres of YA together can make things easier, especially at a library or bookshop. As for "simple", I have nothing against it at all! Simple can be good, but in my head "simplistic" can't :P

    Ladytink: I don't mind seeing "YA" used as a general label (I do it myself); just when people assume all YA novels are the same!

    Zibilee: I do love you anyway! And yes, I hate spoilers too :\

    Joanna: I worry that calling it a genre makes it easier for people to dismiss it, though I guess some readers would do that anyway. Their loss :P And I worry that I "inflate" words myself, but if I do it's because as a native speaker of a Latinate language some of them don't actually sound "big" to me, and are more familiar than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts.

    Karen: I wish we could quit talking about bandwagons altogether ;) And yes, shelving them in the same place does make sense - but that doesn't mean they're all the same! It puzzles me that people readily acknowledge that about literary fiction but not about graphic novels or YA.

    Elisabeth: Aw, thank you for the kind words! Much of what I did hear was really laugh at myself, as I know I've done most if not all of these before :P

    Jenny: Yeah, I can definitely see how excessive made up words can REALLY put people off epic fantasies, and you know I say that as a fantasy fangirl :P

    Amy: That mostly just confuses me, because I can't figure out what exactly is meant by it anyway :P

    Andi: You know I love you anyway, though :D

    Fence: Don't worry; I do the same re: YA and GNs as a label :P

    Daphne: Exactly! And thank you :)

    Valerie: Yes! It makes little sense. I guess it's convenient to shelf them together, but it can also create a sort of literary ghetto into which some readers never wander - which is a shame.

    Amy: Sorry; I do repeat the GNs one a lot :P And yes, I might have used "message" before myself, but when I think about all the word tends to imply I really shy away from it.

  55. I really enjoyed reading about your pet peeves and I think I learned some new stuff :)

    Unfortunately I am so guilty of some of these! Especially when talking about YA and Graphic Novels.

    My pet peeves? Probably reviews that contain spoilers. Of course that makes it hard to talk about books sometimes but I try to let people know if spoilers are coming up.

  56. This was very interesting .. and I must confess that I'm guilty of a few of your pet peeves!

  57. Kate: I love The Suburbs - I really don't mind if anyone feels differently, of course, but I DO very much resent the common implication that my liking it must mean I'm brainless or just trying to be trendy or both. About that or anything else, really!

    Beth: I'm not clear on "transcending the genre" myself either :P I'm more guilty of universal recommendations than of any of the others, I think, but like I said they don't bother me was much as un-recommendations :P

    Emily: On the one hand I definitely see why the generalisation upset you, but on the other hand it's a but of a conundrum. I guess that in practical terms it's likely that there will be people particularly interested in books for children, YA, etc, for professional or personal reasons, who would welcome a list of blogs that focus on them. But on the other hand, yes, it's absolutely unfair that adult fiction is the only further divided into several categories. It's the same with libraries and bookshops. How to find a categorisation system that will be useful to people but won't reinforce stereotypes or create literary ghettos?

    Iliana: Yeah, spoilers warnings are just a matter of common courtesy! Sometimes leaving them out is impossible, but it's not hard to include a warning of some sort.

    Jenners: But you know I love you anyway, right? :P

  58. I don't read a whole lot of graphic novels or comics (and by that I mean I don't read any) or YA novels, but I can totally relate to the annoyance of people referring to them as a genre. I was just talking to my sister about this earlier today, but it's the same thing as when people refer to the "film noir" genre in movies. It's not a genre, it's a style of filming. I think a lot of people are sometime unaware of exactly what "genre" means and instead just use it as a word to signify some kind of similarity within the group of things they're talking about and not specifically a similarity in content. This goes for incorrectly describing things as novels or simplistic. I try to make sure the words I'm using are accurately saying what I think I'm saying, and I'm sure I make mistakes all the time, but I agree, it's totally annoying to pick up on other people's mistakes. Cause you want to correct them, but there's really no way to do that without looking like a douche. :)

  59. I'm with you on so many of those pet peeves (which aren't so petty after all). I cringed when I once looked back to one of my old reviews and saw that I wrote "YA genre" or "graphic novel genre", I forget now. I edited it straight away but it just goes to show just how sometimes what annoys you on a conscious level can be repeated on an unconscious (or just distracted) level. I am the first to be annoyed at people who dismiss manga as a whole because they've read a single bad one, and then I go and make the same mistake?! Bah.

    As for the word "hype", I get it. I feel something special when the love for a movie, or a book, or a band I enjoy is shared by millions of other people in the world and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Just think about the whole Harry Potter craze. It's huge *and* beautiful, also because of its vastness.
    It's the same feeling I get when I'm at a gig of a band I adore. I do want them to get huge, and be loved universally, and if that means they will lose fans because of that, good riddance, they weren't really listening to the band because of the music they made, but because it was cool to do it then, and now it's not.
    I guess some people just prefer to feel separate from the masses, but by doing that are still indirectly influenced by the "hype", only in the opposite way, if that makes any sense.

  60. No, no, I'd never say that! I didn't like The Suburbs so much myself, though I had really high expectations. But I don't think that means you're brainless or trying to be trendy! My opinion of the album doesn't mean that I get to somehow sneer at other peoples' opinions - I hope you didn't think that was what I was trying to say!

  61. Veronica: I actually did not know that about "film noir", and have probably made that mistake myself - live and learn! But yes, I completely agree with you about "genre" and the way the term is used. And I also never know how to bring those things up in conversation without sounding like an annoying know-it-all :P

    Valentina: I wonder how many of these things I'd find in my earlier posts... kind of scary to think about :P And you said it perfectly re: the whole concept of "hype".

    Kate, I'd never think you were saying that yourself, promise! I just wanted to explain why I picked that as an example - most of the conversations about the album I've read on music forums and such had that kind of this-band-is-so-give-years-ago-and-anyone-who's-yet-to-realise-it-is-a-huge-loser tone, which really rubbed me the wrong way. But yeah, I'm sorry to hear the album didn't work for you! I had really high expectations myself (they're one of my top ten favourite bands), but fortunately after being terrified by the first song I heard, Month of May, I fell in love with the rest of it. I *still* hate Month of May, but I just remove it from my playlist every time and pretend it doesn't exist ;)

  62. :) Ok, good I'm glad you didn't think I was mocking you! I see what you mean. I hate it when people get snobbish about the "oh-that-band-is-so-[x]", putting themselves in the too-cool-for-school group doing so. There was a lot of that in Portland. The Suburbs wasn't what I wanted it to be, but honestly Neon Bible didn't live up to Funeral for me either! I'd still rank them as one of the better if not best bands I know, and I'm bloody jealous you're getting to go see them live!

  63. I have a hard time with "transcends its genre" as well. Great post, as always!

    I linked this at Kate's Library as part of my Friday Five.

  64. Ooh, that hype thing really made me laugh. I do use hype, sometimes, I'm afraid? But I know EXACTLY what you mean. It is what has kept me away from for a while, because sometimes it feels it is simply a sport to have the most obscure bandnames in your list, because you know.. nobody could accuse you of following the hype.


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