Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
June 8, 2004
On "Brain Candy" and "Brain Food".
Category: Serious

If you haven't read the previous entry, scroll down (or click here) and do that first. And comment! A Random Lunch #4 is still scheduled for later today (I'm about to start writing it in a bit), so STAY TUNED.

I was going to leave this as a quick comment on Greg's latest post, but it got kinda long so I figured I'd make an entry of it -- some thoughts on his distinction between "brain candy" and "brain food".

It's not so much that the writing of J.K. Rowling and Stephen King (among other authors whose writing could be called "brain candy") exists that I have a problem with, but rather that this is the majority of what people are reading -- and moreover, that these are being heralded as examples of the best kind of writing (with King winning the National Book Award, etc.). That is, people are treating "brain candy" as "brain food", whereas I don't think most people are inclined to look at the legitimate "brain food" at all. Sure, everybody's heard of Plato (well, Plato's not quite fiction, but still, damned if that's not alimento para su cerebro), but how many people have actually read his writing? And of those, how many have really understood and/or appreciated it? And how many might've been able to do so if they'd been encouraged and "trained" to read headier stuff than King and Rowling?

So with reference to Greg's note that reading can become boring to kids (and following my notes on the instrumental value of reading), if reading the "brain food" is STILL a bore to kids (et al.), we haven't solved any problems by encouraging them to stuff themselves with "brain candy" -- but we may have made them even LESS likely to partake of "brain food" (let alone appreciate it), because they think they're already doing so in gorging on "brain candy".

Also, I'd have less of a problem with Rowling and King if their books weren't so damned long -- it's the difference between an 87 minute low-budget film that sucks and a 3 hour Hollywood blockbuster that sucks (but nonetheless does extremely well at the box office). Well, that's the overall difference -- I guess here it'd be more apt to say that, with respect to length, it's the difference between Daredevil and X2. Part of the reason that I hated the latter -- in addition to the silly story, the trite "serious" dialogues (e.g. Nightcrawler's thoughts on religious faith), and the fact that it ignored the complex histories of the characters and basically made them vehicles for mutant power special FX -- was that it ran for over two hours. Daredevil was no masterpiece, but it was pretty quick and painless by comparison. Opening battle, backstory, romance/sex, the plot thickens, training montage, back-to-back end battles, fin. And given that it featured a scene with sexual tension building on a see-saw, it never aspired to be something it wasn't. And again, for the most part, few people thought that it was. Movies like X2 -- and the writing of Rowling and King, etc. -- are really nothing special, yet somehow they manage to convince people that they're exemplary works and garner huge box office turnouts and bestseller status, whereas films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Waking Life are comparatively ignored and writers like Kafka remain obscure and underappreciated. That's what I have a problem with.

I've got plenty more to say on the subject, but we'll stop there for now. 🙂

-posted by Wes | 9:57 am | Comments (0)
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