So I was in the doctor's office, and I picked up last December's issue of Esquire to read while I was waiting. In it, there's a short piece by noted hipster Chuck Klosterman about how culture is turning away from fiction, because apparently it has less to tell us than non-fiction/reality-based literature.
Now, Klosterman's a good writer, but boy is he full of shit. For starters, he lumps in all fiction with "escapism," which, like a good hipster, he turns his nose up at. Well, for starters, not all fiction is escapist, which he end-runs around by grouping off a subcategory of fiction that's based on real events into "Reality fiction" (my words not his), which he likens to reality TV: manufactured, but still presenting things pretty much as they are. He apparently doesn't realize that this is bullshit, that all good fiction (and even some bad), regardless of how "grounded" it is, does this. I can learn as much, if not more, about human nature from Isaac Asimov as I can from James Joyce.
And then he goes and refers to everything else as "bullshit." This is the worst kind of hipsterism: marginalizing and ignoring something because you think it makes you look cool. It doesn't, it makes you look like a snob. But Klosterman likes looking like a snob; his book is full of pieces on how he gleefully plays himself as a student of pop culture while simultaneously proclaiming how much it's beneath him. Well, Chuck, if it's so damn beneath you, why do you keep harping on about it? Write about something important, since you seem to value serious literature so much. If you really want to improve the way us poor peons think and read, don't half-ass it.
Klosterman wants it both ways: serious critic and pop critic, elitist and populist, college professor and college student. He's full of shit. The funniest part of it all, though, is that these distinctions are, at root, meaningless; there is no real difference between high and low culture. It's all just culture. Every story has something to say, every piece of art has a meaning, somewhere in there. And that's what pop criticism should aspire to: finding and evaluating those meanings, and celebrating them, instead of declaring they're not there.