Friday, 1 April 2011

A little hype goes a long way

Literary Blog Hop

The question for this Literary Blog Hop is, this: Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon?

This is fascinating to think about, which is another way of saying I don't have a straight answer.

I think (hell, I know) the most important factor in picking up a book is enthusiasm. I really love to hear someone being enthusiastic about a book; nothing else will get me hungry for it asquickly. Add a declidicous cover to that book and I will have much trouble trying to put it down in a shop.

But when everyone loves a book -- eh. That can annoy me. I know it's mostly snobbery-related, but it's true. One person telling you 'you have to read this book!' is great; 100 people telling you that is not cool. I'm stubborn, and I don't like to be led, even when I know it's for my own good.

There is also a second factor at play, here; expectations. When you read a massively hyped book, you are expecting it to be great. So if it turns out to be really good, instead of great, part of you will process that book as a failure (as if 'failure to live up to expectations' has anything to do with the book itself).

I am slightly (and deliberately) confusing hyped books with classic books, here. I'm not sure if a classic is just a book where the hype reached escape velocity, or the opposite; where the hype never got so high as to provoke a backlash.


  1. Yeah, I tend to value the opinion of one friend over a hundred people all telling me that i "have" to read a book. I'm confused sometimes by the way hype influences my reading - like, I read "Freedom" because it was so hyped, but then I had a lukewarm reaction to it. If "Freedom" was some book I had stumbled across, never having read a review or gotten caught up in the talk about it, I wonder if my reaction would have been the same or more positive. More often I avoid books because of the hype, at least for a year or two; I did this with the hunger games, then finally read them and felt like an idiot when i realized there was a reason for the hype.

    -- ellen

  2. I think classic status, merely a signpost that can point you along the path of literature. When younger it helped guide me, allowing me to work out what i liked & didn't, now Older (Sob)
    I have these reference points gained over the years & now know what works or doesn't concerning reading material.

  3. Differentiating canon from literary hype seems to be a difficult thing to do in this week's question...

  4. P.S. I love your use of "escape velocity" and haven't heard it in years. used to be the answer to an old physics joke...Anyway, I'm now a new follower of yours and I look forward to more answers where you deliberately answer the question that should have been asked instead of the question that was asked!

  5. I kind of love the line "I'm not sure if a classic is just a book where the hype reached escape velocity". I tend to be skeptical of overly hyped books and I sometimes wonder if certain classics are actually classics because they're great or if they just "reached escape velocity" and got to the point where everyone says they're great because everyone else said so.

  6. I think the big difference between a classic and hype is time. There are books (and songs, and movies) that I immediately love, then come back to a few years later and realize it was all just hype or a gimmick. Other books (songs, movies, etc.) grow to fill my mind, so when I go back to them, they reveal even more depth than on the first experience. Classics are like this, but in their case, there's been decades for people to figure out if they're shallow as a flash or deep as a sunrise.

  7. @ellen: I think that's the telling factor; how would you respond to this if there was no hype? We're kidding ourselves if we think we're immune to it/absolutely objective.

    @As The Crow Flies And Reads: Glad to have you reading. I cannot think of a joke about flying to balance that out, though.

    @Red: I think we're seeing that happen in fast-forward, these days. Papers, websites, blogs; the more something is talked about, the more it gets talked about. Praise begets praise.

    @Listener: That's a great definition. Classics are what outlive their own hype.