Our friends and alert readers Emily Huie and Audrey Bullar both pointed us to this meme making its way around the Internets:
Several things to say here, starting with 1) the fact we of course find this to be very amusing. 2) We have never seen an episode of “Jersey Shore” in our life. 3) The image, which was first posted on Random House’s Facebook page, was obviously created by book lovers, who in this case also happen to be people whose livelihood depends upon people still reading (presumably by still purchasing) books, whether the ones with real pages or the ones with electronic ones. As one-half of this blog’s livelihood depends on people buying books, and the other half’s depends on people reading them, we are firmly in the camp that more reading, and less “Jersey Shore,” would make the world a better place.
That being said, there is nothing incompatible about loving books and watching trashy TV. (Or watching great television and reading trash.) The highbrow and the lowbrow exist side-by-side, and refusing one over the other is needlessly limiting. Our favorite movie critic, Anthony Lane, distills this in the introduction to his collection Nobody’s Perfect. Reflecting on an essay he wrote about bestseller lists, Lane says,
I ploughed through ranks of best-sellers, old and new; what had appeared to be a simple task of sifting gold from dross was nicely complicated by the discovery that some of the dross bore the enticing glint, not of fool’s gold, but of the real thing. That was as close as I shall ever come to setting out my stall: I claimed to believe primarily in trash and classics, and, if this book makes people question, afresh or for the first time, their dependence on the stuff in between … then so much the better.
Which is to say: A book no more commits suicide whenever someone watches “Jersey Shore” as Snooki or Pauly D commits suicide whenever someone picks up Proust. The world is big enough for both.