We get the local newspaper and every Sunday there’s this insert called Parade Magazine. I usually ignore it and head straight to the Letters To The Editor because there are always a few that are off-the-wall and amusing, but this Sunday the insert’s main feature was an interview with Stephen King. I don’t really know why I read it – I’ve never finished any of his books because they’re scary and I’m wimpy – but one passage in particular left me indignant.
Parade: “Do you think reading occupies the same importance for kids today?”
Stephen King: “No, absolutely not. I think it’s because they’re so screen-oriented [TVs, computers, smartphones]. They do read – girls in particular read a lot. They have a tendency to go to the paranormal, romances, Twilight and stuff like that. And then it starts to taper off because other things take precedence, like the Kardashian sisters.
I did a couple of writing seminars in Canada last year with high school kids. These were the bright kids… they all have computers, but they can’t spell. Because spell-check won’t [help] you if you don’t know through from threw. I told them, “If you can read in the 21st century, you own the world.” Because you learn to write from reading. But there are so many other byways for the consciousness to go down now; it makes me uneasy.”
That quote is so wrong that it’s hard to know where to start. Might as well let out the Fire-Breathing Dragons of Snark and Sarcasm and start from the top…
My generation is screen-oriented, I admit. We zip around the Internet with ease and try not to giggle when our grandparents ask for the sixth time, “Now, how do I copy and paste?” (Or at least I do.) Screens make up a large part of our day, including mine. But do you know what I do when I’m “plugged in”, Mr. King? I read and write. I write stories; I write about books; I write about famous horror writers who say foolish things. I read writing advice. Perhaps many other teens spend their time online IMing and looking at pictures of adorable baby animals but I spend mine doing the very things that, supposedly, people my age just don’t do.
Wow, Mr. King. You must have made boys feel great about reading! They felt like nerds for reading before, but now they also feel like girls. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that (and how is reading feminine anyway? Riddle me this, Batman.) but most boys probably don’t feel that way. They feel uncomfortable because teen bookworms are already weird and now they’re being told that they’re even freakier because supposedly only girls read in their teens.
There’s nothing wrong with paranormal stories or romances or even paranormal romances; I want to clear that up before I begin this next bit. King is one of the biggest critics of Twilight (and I agree with most of what he says) but it’s unfair to say they’re all as bad as Twilight or that all teens are reading them. You know why I don’t have time to read your books, Mr. King? It’s because I’m too busy reading Ash (fantasy), Cinder (dystopian), A Clash of Kings (fantasy), The Screwtape Letters (satire), and Code Name Verity (historical fiction), as well as rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (fantasy) and Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (science fiction).* For some reason adults have decided to focus on my generation’s experience with paranormal romance stories, even though most of the teens I know who really love to read don’t stick to just one genre.
*Yeah, I know that’s a ton of books. I’ve always read this way, with my nose in multiple good books at any given moment. I have a short attention span and pick up a new book when I’m only halfway through another.
Mr. King, I know you expect me to like the Kardashian sisters but I don’t. I’m so very sorry. I like the Everdeen sisters better. And the Black sisters from Harry Potter. The Bennett sisters in Pride and Prejudice are pretty great too. I don’t spend my time thinking about celebrities because characters are better.
I know some kids who can barely spell but do you know who, in my experience, really has the Dreaded Spell-Check Problem? Adults. When I email my friends they reply with excellent spelling and good grammar, not to mention punctuation. Compare them to people like my boss at the restaurant where I work. He typed up recipes for us to follow and they’re littered with spelling errors. And it’s definitely not limited to him. Most of the kids I know do at least try their best to write well by looking through dictionaries or Googling, whereas most adults apparently don’t. (Why else would someone write “defiantly” when they meant “definitely”? I’ve seen this mistake too many times to count.) We all have the Dread Spell-Check Problem to some degree but why aren’t we harder on the grown-ups? They’ve been around longer and should know what they’re doing, should set good examples for us. Teens are not the issue here.
The problem here, Mr. King, is that it’s unfair and incorrect to make sweeping generalizations about large groups of people – about anything, really. I could say that all people of your generation are self-centered pessimists who whine a lot about young folk but I won’t, since they’re not all like you. Thankfully.
Does anyone know Stephen King’s official address for fanmail? (Either snail mail or email is fine.) It would be much appreciated as Snark, Sarcasm, and I would like to send this to him!