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Home » Taste » ISN’T GOOD TASTE IN LITERATURE MERELY A MATTER OF PERSONAL OPINION?

ISN’T GOOD TASTE IN LITERATURE MERELY A MATTER OF PERSONAL OPINION?

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We are in the middle of a series on Questions of Literary Taste, questions such as whether there is even such a thing as literary taste and whether you and I have taste.

So I’m sitting in my magnificent study of mahogany bookshelves and hand-tooled leather bound volumes. (Ok, I drift off a lot into my favorite fantasy. Jeanine’s rolling her eyes.) And I’m wondering.

Good literature matters much in our lives. We read. We enjoy. But we may rarely even question ourselves about why great literature matters beyond the kinds of slogans placed on posters down at the local library about reading in general being fun, or a pathway to other worlds, or some such. But if literature matters to us on more than a superficial level, shouldn’t we at least give a little bit of thought to which literature matters and which doesn’t? Or which literature matters just to us personally and which matters to our whole culture? Thus, questions of taste.

If we make large claims for literary taste, aren’t we ignoring the obvious fact that taste is subjective? If I claim my taste is correct, can’t you just as easily claim that you can believe anything you want to, that you can have utterly different standards of taste for liking whatever you want?

After all, the word “taste” itself seems to apply to personal opinions and preferences. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, someone always says when they disagree with your tastes. But is there no distinction between having a preference for vanilla ice cream over strawberry ice cream and having a preference for a James Joyce novel about a character wandering the streets of Dublin and one of the Dumb and Dumber movies that follows the wanderings of two loveable idiots? If there is a difference, what is the difference? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, give me your comments and follow The Literary Life blog.

Paul Varner

 

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