The Do’s and Dont’s of Literature

Jessica Weisberger

In their ample free time, Colgate students take advantage of reading for pleasure. As opposed to plopping down in the plush green velvet chairs at Case and cracking open the ancient Plato or Candide, students indulge in a fantasy world closely related to the one provided by Fox’s OC or HBO’s Sex in the City. After surveying a first-year dorm, it became apparent that the best way to escape the competitive world of frat parties, demanding classes and endless clubs, is to read about something to which you can relate. Amongst the favorites were Carl Hiaasen’s Skinny Dip, Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic, Elizabeth Burg’s The Lovely Bones and The Nanny Diaries by the witty duo, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Although some girls were wary that after reading The Lovely Bones “you’ll hate men for the rest of your life,” the other novels serve as “fun, trashy, sex books.” The center of gravity for each of these novels lies in an urban Mecca where shopping, dating and tragedy are all present. It is safe to make the judgment that these titles were mentioned specifically by the female population. Many of the men copped out, “we do not read in our free time,” due to the rewarding rush granted by video games, while others were willing to mention a few of their favorite titles. John Grisham’s law based novels are “interesting” and “reader friendly,” Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven provides a new way to look at life here and now, and of course, Dan Brown’s recent literary blockbuster The DaVinci Code can be enjoyed by an eclectic assortment of readers. We often choose novels to which we can relate. For college students, it is satisfying to read about wild affairs, hot sex, indisposable incomes, and other taboos of the liking. This curiosity is omnipresent at Colgate, where students enjoy curling up with promising novels like The Devil Wears Prada and Bergdorf Blondes just as readily as they would fly through a Vogue or Cosmo magazine. In high school, it is becoming a fad to, well, read. Although kids often complain that reading is boring and more work, with the modern topics and soap opera-esque “beach reads,” as they are often labeled, the student population has found great excitement in traveling to Borders and finding the pinkest cover. The most popular magazines today have advertisements for novels as much as they do for clothes and make-up. Par exemple, the “do’s and don’t’s in fashion”: do carry a novel around in your two toned Herve just in case that free time pops up on you, don’t sit absent-mindedly staring off into space while waiting in the doctor’s office. The majority of the titles listed above fall under the title pop-fiction, but what about award-winning reading? Parents nag their teens about why they are reading so many tacky books, but the immediate response should be the question, how do you know if they are tacky or trashy? Perhaps it’s the vibrant shades of pink, red and green that make up the glossy covers, or maybe it’s the titles that invariably include high-priced fashion items, but what ever happened to not judging a book by its cover? While these books may not evolve into “classics,” the caliber of writing is there. The top ten list of novels chosen by The Boston Globe listed books like Bergdorf Blondes and The Five People you Meet in Heaven. It’s nice to know that it is not only the young audience that appreciates a nice, light-hearted piece of entertainment to get away from the pressures of every-day life.There are a myriad of awards presented each year to authors, among these are the more familiar Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize. The Pulitzer Prize was named after a Hungarian newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, and it honors books that address the largest themes in life, namely the “raw passion and tragedy of the human condition.” The Nobel Prize is granted for an author’s entire body of work, commemorating their ability to produce more than one hit. While an award for literature is extremely prestigious and grants great respect for an author’s work, it can often mean a monetary award in addition. Most recently granted on October 17th, 2004, and now in its thirty-fifth year, the “Man Booker Prize” for fiction, which awards the best novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, was awarded to Alan Hollinghurst for Line of Beauty. This award continues to be the pinnacle for every fiction writer, as it traditionally boosts sales after giving it positive exposure. The Man Booker judges are selected from the country’s supreme critics, writers and academics to maintain the excellence of the prize. The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives ?50,000, and both the winner and the short-listed authors are guaranteed a wide-reaching readership, plus a remarkable increase in book sales.With the influx in popularity for reading among teenagers and college grads, it seems prominent in our future to have an award show for books. Can’t you see it now? Those rigid hard-covered books leading the soft, floppy ones down the red carpet with newspapers and journals reporting live. There will be a best and worst dressed with the help of Joan Rivers perhaps, and the Pulitzer Prize will be one of the many other awards; best supporting editor, best setting and best protagonist in a drama. Keep your eyes open for the most popular reads as well as those literary faux-pas. Either talk to your peers, visit your local Borders (or perhaps the Colgate Bookstore or Barnes & Noble in New Hartford) or pick up the latest edition of Elle magazine to see what new novel is in Vogue. This holiday season, kids will be excited to shake their presents and hear nothing; receiving a book is what most will be hoping for!