WSJ Comments

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By: RK Charron
on Sun June 05, 2011, 14:58:01

That was PERFECT!

By: Adam @ Roof Beam Reader
on Sun June 05, 2011, 15:04:49

LOL! Can’t imagine it being more well-said. I tried my best over on my blog as well (Although, I was defending you YA authors, since I’m not one myself).


By: danielle
on Sun June 05, 2011, 15:06:43

Brilliant. I hope the WSJ and Meghan Cox Gurdon read this. Sadly, I’m sure you’re right that they are stuck in their “rightness”. Nonetheless, they need to see your response.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Robin
on Sun June 05, 2011, 15:34:50

Well said.


By: Laura
on Sun June 05, 2011, 17:05:57

Barry, you know I love you to bits and pieces. I am more than a fangirl over you, but damn you said everything I wanted to say. I knew there was a reason why I loved you so much. Even when you’re all sweaty:)


By: Amanda
on Sun June 05, 2011, 17:12:09

Absolutely, one-hundred-percent, irrefutably true.

You Go!

By: Teresa Raines
on Sun June 05, 2011, 18:12:36

I love love love your response to this idiot at WSJ!


By: Carrie K
on Sun June 05, 2011, 19:28:33

Mr. Lyga, you rock!


By: Lindsay F
on Sun June 05, 2011, 19:35:07

YES. YES. Lately I read articles like the WSJ one and I just want to tear my hair out and scream, “Just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean we’re wrong.”

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Sun June 05, 2011, 19:36:23

That may be the best response I’ve seen yet!

YA Lit

By: storyteller
on Sun June 05, 2011, 20:40:01

YA Lit does provide grim reality and I do wonder if kids need more depressing situations / hopelesness in light of the rise of Teen Suicide

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Sun June 05, 2011, 20:43:47

Teens commit suicide because of the real world, not because of fiction.

Say it, brother!

By: Jim Hill
on Sun June 05, 2011, 20:49:18

Perfectly said.

YA Lit #2

By: storyteller
on Sun June 05, 2011, 21:02:10

The basic question remains — do Teens and Sub-Teens need the added hopelessness and depression found in YA Lit

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Sun June 05, 2011, 21:14:10

Sigh… No, “storyteller,” that “basic question” does not remain because it’s not a “basic question.” You’re making a false assumption, and I’ll assume you’re making it out of earnest good intentions, not to set up an absurd strawman argument.
No one in the world “needs” any book about any subject. Reading is an optional, voluntary past-time. If a kid opens a book and finds it depressing, then he or she will put down the book and stop reading it. Books do not possess a preternatural ability to force kids to continue reading them against their will, thereby exposing them to subject matter or emotions they’d prefer not to read about.
Furthermore, you are lumping “teens and sub-teens” into one monolithic group. Some kids do not want to read what Ms. Gurdon calls “dark” books. To which I say: Excellent! Great! Don’t read ’em! Please live long and happy lives.
But some kids DO want to read them. In fact, some kids are enormously helped by them. HELPED, I say. So…why would you take those books away from those kids? If Book A will help a child, why would you take it out of that kid’s hands?
And then you compound your logical error by referring to “YA Lit” as if it, too, were a monolithic whole. Trust me — there’s plenty of retrograde, reactionary, 1950’s-morality-style literature out there for kids, if they want to read it.
This, though, has nothing to do with my central thesis, which is this: Books are art. Who is the WSJ or Ms. Gurdon or anyone else to dictate what art does or does not sit on a bookshelf?
Like I said, I’m assuming your errors in logic are well-meant and accidental, not intentional attempts to derail the conversation, so I hope this helps. 🙂

Art in Books

By: storyteller
on Sun June 05, 2011, 21:41:57

I’m not advocating censorship of any type but a reader de-selecting a book that focuses on rape and incest should have choices beyond fantasy and “1950’s morality tales” AND it does seen that the available selection today is skewed toward depression and hopelessness and these books remind me of the poorly-written distopias found in inept science fiction.

Well Said!

By: Maria @
on Sun June 05, 2011, 21:46:52

Thanks for writing this – yes, no need to justify our art!

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Sun June 05, 2011, 21:48:31

Storyteller, you’re just moving the goalposts every time you post. Come on — stick to an argument!
There is a wide variety of material available for today’s teens to read, a wider selection than at any other point in human history since for the first time ever there are actually books aimed at them. Books that run the gamut from treacly sweet to bone-chillingly brutal. The current NYT bestseller’s list for children includes such fare as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Rick Riordan’s latest action-adventure series. No overwhelming darkness, no 1950s morality.
I won’t even comment on your “inept science-fiction” comment because its hilariously ambiguous to the point of utter meaninglessness.
So. We’ve established that the books you decried aren’t harmful because kids aren’t forced to read them. And we’ve established that there’s plenty of other material out there for kids. What, I wonder, will you decide is the issue now?

Art in Books #2

By: storyteller
on Sun June 05, 2011, 22:00:37

Since when is a discussion a tightly-boundargument ? Granted there is more on the shelves between Dark Books and 1950’s Morality. I’m simply reporting my feeling that the market is skewed to Dark Books [as you referenced them] and you can disagree with this or not. My remarks are not even remotely a cry for censorship Yes books are a voluntary pleasure selected by the reader. My “hilarious” remark about poorly written Sci-Fi distopias was simply to establish that not all books are Art. I think we can agree that numerous books are simply pot-boilers at best. However, ever book should be judged by readers not by self-appointed censors.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Sun June 05, 2011, 22:21:52

Storyteller (what’s your name, BTW? C’mon — mine’s public!): Well, at this point you’ve backpedaled so much that you pretty much agree with me. In other words, you’re fine with there being dark YA out there. You “feel” that the market is “skewed” towards dark books, which is different from your earlier posts, which implied that “kids” were committing suicide and thus didn’t “need” what dark books had to offer.
Can you really not see the difference between “Well, it just seems to me like there’s a lot of dark books out there, but we shouldn’t censor them” and “Do kids really need books steeped in despair…especially when they’re already committing suicide?” Do you really not see how different those statements are? The former is a reasonable (though I’m not sure supportable) thesis, while the latter is several steps down the slippery slope that begins with “Think of the children!” and ends with book bannings.
Maybe you don’t see the difference. Maybe you just chose your words poorly early on. As I said when we began this, I was willing to give you benefit of the doubt.
In any event, you’re wrong about this: All fiction is, by definition, art. Whether you like it or not. Whether it’s a pot-boiler or not. Some art is just more appealing, and that — of course — is in the eye of the beholder.
With that, I’ve said my piece, as we are in accord on the uselessness of censors, and so I’ll wish you a pleasant night!


By: Becca C.
on Sun June 05, 2011, 22:27:15

Whooooo!!! I’m with you all the way.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Matthew Rush
on Mon June 06, 2011, 06:09:27

Amen, Barry, A-fucking-men.

depression and youth

By: storyreader
on Mon June 06, 2011, 06:33:35

I’m getting into this conversation late, but I have to respond to storyteller.I am over 60 years old and Barry Lyga’s books took me back to my 12 year old depressed self. I cried when I read parts of these books because, for all of this time, I didn’t think anyone understood. Thank you for bringing voice to the “less pleasant” side of youth. It’s there, even if no one wants to know.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Mon June 06, 2011, 08:19:56

Wow, thank you, storyreader.

Dear WSJ

By: Karl W. Lewis
on Mon June 06, 2011, 09:48:25

Could I just add: Amen brother! Tell ’em. (Suggest they should use a splintery old board.)
But, your eloquence is wasted on them, alas.
One wonders why the WSJ rails against books, but not against the reality of child abuse and drug abuse and all the other darknesses of every day life.

I Laughed

By: Emma
on Mon June 06, 2011, 13:53:45

I think this is absolutely perfect.

Go, Barry!

By: AlexFlinn
on Mon June 06, 2011, 14:26:18

Okay, so now, YA lit is responsible for teen suicide? Because, of course, there were no dark books when we were teens (I was, apparently, the only one who read Mommie Dearest and Flowers in the Attic as a teen, despite the fact that they seemed to have been ISSUED to my classmates at the time . . . hey, maybe I’m the only one who SURVIVED the experience). My depressing books, I have on good authority, save lives. At least, I’ve heard from numerous girls who left their abusive boyfriends after reading one of them.
And I always wonder, are the writers of these articles (or comments) completely unaware of the chick lit phenomenon? Meg Cabot? Maureen Johnson? Ann Brashares? Believe me, there are plenty of non-depressing, nay, even FUNNY books available. Why is it so bothersome that about 5% of the shelf space be devoted to realistic fiction that deals with real issues many teens are facing?

My Appreciation

By: sullywriter
on Mon June 06, 2011, 14:32:03

Bravo, Mr. Lyga!

well done

By: Brian Mandabach
on Mon June 06, 2011, 23:49:57

Thanks. Not only perfect, but you cracked me up, too! <3

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Demeisen
on Wed June 08, 2011, 19:46:36

The argument that kids who acknowledge the world’s darkness, and read depressing books, will then commit suicide strikes me as not only wrong but potentially backwards.
It seems a lot more likely that a sheltered child who knows nothing of the grimness of our planet, who then has it brought shockingly into focus by a tragedy, is more likely to have troubles than one who readily acknowledges it.
The darkness of the world inflicted on the unsuspecting causes suicide, not the darkness of fiction on the acclimatised.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Yamile
on Fri June 10, 2011, 10:52:27



By: Laura W.
on Mon June 13, 2011, 00:02:31

My thoughts exactly. Go fuck yourselves indeed! Hat off to you, sir.

An outnumbered dissenting voice

By: Scott
on Mon June 13, 2011, 14:25:36

At the risk of getting mobbed to death by the rabid crowds of YA backlashers:
“I refuse to justify my art” is the same argument the toilet-full-of-urine artists use. Can’t we come up with something a little more meaningful? I respectfully suggest that if you can’t actually articulate the purpose and message of your “art”, then there’s a chance that it might not be worth articulating.
Also, children’s innocence is worth protecting. If I had to be labeled a tyrant with a paralyzed mind and told to go f*** myself by people who violently disagree, then I guess that’s one I’d take for the kids. My two-year-old will not be reading your blog or any of the books I feel are damaging until he’s old enough to make that choice for himself. Because that’s my responsibility as a parent.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Mon June 13, 2011, 14:45:24

FIrst of all, it’s completely your decision and your responsibility as a parent to decide what your children read and at what age they read it. I applaud you for standing up for that responsibility. Last I checked, no one (especially not me) is saying that parents MUST let their kids read these “dark” books. Just that the books should be there for those who DO want to read them.
Second of all, the problem with justifying art lies not in the justification itself, but rather in the context of that justification. I am happy to talk to people about the themes and ideas in my books. In fact, sometimes you can’t shut me up!
HOWEVER… That is when speaking to people who want to engage in a discussion. People who have read my work and — even if they don’t like it — recognize it as art and wish to engage it on that level.
You decry “toilet-full-of-urine artists.” Dude, people did the same thing to Jackson Pollack. “That’s not art — my three-year-old can do that!” Maybe so, but Pollack thought of it first and MADE it art. Whether or not you agree with a piece of art, Scott, is immaterial to the art’s existence. And you are denigrating the work of another human being when you say, “This isn’t art unless you can make me believe it is.” You’re not the arbiter of art, Scott. Neither am I. We get to create what we create and we don’t get to gainsay the work of others. We can say we don’t like it, but that doesn’t make it “not art.”
Can’t you see the vast, enormous difference between people discussing a piece of art and someone attacking an artist, saying, “If you can’t explain to ME why you did this, then it is invalid!”?
And lastly: Good Lord, man, no one is going to call you paralyzed and say “fuck you” to you just because you’re careful about what your kids read! As I said above: I applaud that invocation of parental responsibility and wish fervently that more parents took their jobs that seriously. But the WSJ article did not say, “Gee, parents, you might want to be on the lookout and watch what your kids read.” The WSJ article was a screed against the mere existence of these books, calling into doubt the moral integrity of those who write and publish them. And, just to add insult to injury, it was biased, uneven, and muckraking, too.
Don’t you see the enormous difference there?

Re: Barry’s thoughtful response to my comment

By: Scott
on Mon June 13, 2011, 16:19:06

I can see the difference, and I appreciate your response. I didn’t personally feel that the WSJ article was as terrible as you and others have, but I can better see where you’re coming from.
I agree that there can be a place for novels with “dark” things in them, and that they can even be helpful when done responsibly (big difference between Saw IV and most of the books under fire here, right?).
I also agree with what you’re saying here about justifying art. As long as an artist is willing to treat themes and ideas responsibly and discuss them, that’s valid and a discussion worth having. I think there’s far too much out there that isn’t defensible, and the author doesn’t even try because it’s clearly trash written for a buck. A responsible author willing to defend their work because they believe in it is admirable.

Re: On the WSJ, YA, and Art

By: Barry
on Tue June 14, 2011, 15:34:00

Hey, Scott,
Glad you appreciated my comments.
Here’s the thing about the WSJ article: Taken on its own, in a vacuum, it would be merely ignorant and annoying. But taken in the context of the fact that articles like this appear constantly… It becomes something much more. Especially when it comes from one of the biggest bullhorns in the country.
We both agree that Saw IV is crap, but I would never say to the folks who made it, “Hey, unless you can defend its existence to me to my satisfaction, I will tell the world you suck.” I just shrug my shoulders, say, “That isn’t for me,” and go on about my business. 🙂
Thanks for sticking around. 🙂