“The general approach has been that if the middle class likes something, it is bad art. There is a snobbishness on the Left that is rarely noted but is one of the most significant animators of Leftism: a contempt for the middle class, and for middle America, that is essential to left-wing identity. The left sees itself as far superior to the churchgoing, Norman Rockwell loving, flag-waving, Pledge of Allegiance reciting American. So, if the average guy likes it, there must be something wrong with it.” (Dennis Prager)
That quote is from Dennis Prager recently published book, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph, and in it he posed a question that has been on my mind the past several days.
Is reading a story only for the middle class?
While that quote deals more with a Left/Right or Liberal/Conservative issue than an overall commentary about the arts, I believe there is some truth to it.
It seems to me that reading a story is beneath the elites and artists of our society. If everybody likes a good story from a Dean Koontz, Stephen King, James Patterson or John Grisham it’s considered low-brow entertainment and not worthy of intellectual discussion.
I must admit that has always troubled me and I don’t if I can articulate it correctly in this blog post. But it seems to me that there is this sense of anti-entertainment amongst many in our society.
If someone spends seven or eight dollars on a paperback or twenty-five to thirty dollars on a hardback and they get entertained by it, what’s the problem with that? Being entertained is something fundamental to human nature and it should never be relegated to second-tier status or in some cases even held in contempt.
Reading a story is as basic as it comes and people have always wanted stories in their lives. Whether told orally in ancient times to the print form in modern times and now in electronic form in this multimedia age. Story is essential to the human experience.
That’s why I have never understood in the fiction world, why would people have a problem with a Grisham or King or Koontz or Patterson or Clancy. Now, their works could be good or bad and that’s subjective and a different issue. However, because they are popular and the middle class has been entertained by their works, should they be considered as second-tier artists?
So my question to the readers of this blog post is: Why is a story loved by the middle class considered second rate?