Being Pretentious And How Not To Be

I saw a tweet the other day.  I can’t recall the exact verbiage of the post but it went along the lines of “Barnes & Noble has Infinite Jest out on their stands because someone wants to prove they actually read it.”  I guess by writing this I feel like I’m trying to prove something.  I have read it.  I thought it was excellent and probably one of the most unique books I have read.  It’s clunky at first but it either smooths itself out or you become used to it by page 250, give or take.  I want to read it with a group or a least another person, so I’m trying to convince my girlfriend to read it with me this summer.

Infinite Jest is in the upper echelon of hipster books, long and intellectually deep enough to give its reader a sense of superiority over the average Harry Potter or Song of Ice and Fire reader.  4chan’s lit board has it in their “Meme Trilogy”, classic books that every try-hard intellectual says that they’ve read, along with Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and James Joyce’s Ulysses, completely discounting Finnegan’s Wake, a book I genuinely believe no one has actually read.  I guess I’m writing here in defense of pretentiousness, because it isn’t the author’s fault its work was co-opted by boring pseudo-intellectuals specifically trying to impress people.  Literally, don’t judge a book by its cover.

To counter what I said above, I am currently reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, and there’s a good chance it will probably be the last I read of him.  His essays have all the smugness of any city hipster you’d meet with half the wit of any of the deemed pretentious authors above.  Sure the essay prompts are entertaining in their own light but I just feel prodded with references and this Aren’t-I-Cleverness that I see in Facebook statuses on any given day.  And it sucks because I love pop-culture and I think I dislike things that remind me of myself.

And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about books.  I just wanted to use that as a stepping stone.  Tell a group of people your favorite move is Jurassic Park or Star Wars and no one bats an eye.   Tell that same group you love 2001:A Space Odyssey or name drop Un Chien Andalou, Seventh Seal or Synecdoche, New York and that group will tell you that you’re trying too hard or you clearly don’t enjoy fun.  This can also work if you like any music genre that sounds fake, like shoegaze or any genre with the prefix post-.

I’m not hating on popular things or ‘low culture’.  My favorite movie is Jurassic Park.  I have Game of Thrones on my to-read list and I intend on re-reading the Harry Potter series at some point.  All I’m saying is that it isn’t bad to like difficult things, too.  So go out there and read any of the cited books/watch cited movies/listen to music.  Just remember that it really isn’t that big of a deal.

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