And so, here we are again: Someone (this time the Wall Street Journal, via one Meghan Cox Gurdon) has attacked young adult novels and those who write them. This happens with depressing, almost metronomic regularity. Many YA authors were put-upon geeks in high school, and it seems like the bullying from the “cool kids” never ends.
When these disputes arise, I’m always tempted just to post “Go fuck yourselves” and let that be it. Because, in all honesty, “Go fuck yourselves” is roughly the same level of respect and consideration they show to me and mine.
Usually, though, I just hold my tongue and let other folks take up arms. Because I don’t need the spike in my blood pressure, and every minute I spend rebutting these jackasses is one I don’t spend doing something more pleasant, such as chewing glass or driving nails into my skull. And because let’s face it — you’re not going to change the rock-solid, paralyzed mind of someone who spouts the drivel Ms. Gurdon spouts. She made up her mind and she’s proving how right she is by never being wrong.
“No family is obliged to acquiesce,” writes Ms. Gurdon, “when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.”
Strawman much? No one is “bulldozing coarseness or misery” into anyone’s lives, you ill-informed puppet. There are books with content you don’t like and there are books with content you do like. Let your kids read the latter and leave the former for those who want them. Here’s a tidbit for you: If no one wants the former, THEY WILL STOP BEING PUBLISHED. It’s called the free market. The halfwits and dunderheads at the Journal claim to be old-fashioned capitalists, so why this fundamental lack of understanding of its most basic principles? There’s a market for YA — people buy it. Done and done. This is the capitalist credo. So shut up already.
But what really bothers me is that these attacks tend to put all of us in a defensive posture. Suddenly we all scramble for heartwarming anecdotes of how we changed or, in some cases, saved kids’ lives. Heck, I can trot out my stash of “You saved me, Barry Lyga!” e-mails, too.
But I won’t. And here’s why:
I refuse to justify my art.
Yes, my books are my occupation. My career. I don’t do them for free; I get paid. But I don’t write them because I get paid. The money’s a nice benefit. And I don’t write them to help kids or change them. That, too, is a nice benefit, one that I adore, one that humbles me every single time I think of it or see evidence of it.
But I write because I am compelled to do so. Because to do otherwise would be to hack off my limbs and put out my eyes. Because the stories I tell chomp and chew and gnaw at my soul until I let them out.
As long as there has been art, there have been naysayers and lack-a-wits jeering from the sidelines, mocking the efforts of those who create. I’ve dealt with these nincompoops my entire life and I’m just too old to give a damn what they think or say anymore.
Hear me, Ms. Gurdon and those of your ilk, those of the past and those (depressingly and predictably) yet to come: I will not bow to your idiotic tirades. I will not meekly protest, “But look! I help kids!” and trot out e-mails from those whose lives and sanities I’ve saved, exploiting them in an effort to make you see a truth to which you are willingly blind.
Because that’s playing your game.
That’s declaring that what I do for a living, what I do from my soul, is only worthwhile if and when it benefits someone else.
And that’s placing a requirement — and, therefore, a shackle — on art.
I refuse to justify my art.
Oh, you know what? I’m bored. Journal? Ms. Gurdon? Go fuck yourselves.
(To see the comment thread from the old barrylyga.com, click here. If you want to add to the conversation, use the comment form below.)