We try to stay above the fray here at TLM. Really. We rarely comment on headlines, except when they relate directly to the literary scene, which (it seems to us) happens less and less frequently. And when I refer to the literary scene, I generally mean well-recognized prizes for established literary genius (see our recycled review of Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa's work, Pantaleon y Las Visitadoras here). See how I did that? I just recycled Vargas Llosa for the third time. Priceless.As for the would-be literary trolls, we try not to feed them. I mean, have you heard so much as a peep from us about toddler Justin Bieber's upcoming memoir? Not a one. How about Snooki's pending contribution to the world's literary heritage? Nada. Though, I do fully expect that it will have all the girlish intrigue of Emma and the social commentary of a modern-day Pride and Prejudice. Oh, I shouldn't have written that ... temptation too great ... but no ... I can't ... I shouldn't ... I can't help it .. oh what the hell?
"All round chicks?" interjected Mr. The Situation laying aside his teacup. "Yeah, I know a few. But those bitties gots ta have skills in tequila slammin, booty bumpin and grindin, Jersey hairspray art, ID'n muscle cars, patchin up old wife beaters, mixin' protein shakes, and they gotta have a nose to avoid that gold-plating that leaves your neck green to be tagged all round in The Situation's book."
"Right on, brotha" agreed his faithful companion, Mr. Pauly D, most enthusiastically "And she gotta have a sweet booty to be tagged at all ... that goes without sayin'."
"Get lost," said Ms. Snooki, gently disagreeing with her companions, as she picked at a ribbon on her dress that had come unraveled. "You two losers ain't know no chicks like that."
Oh, I think I've got a best seller on my hands ... Pride and Prejudice at the Jersey Shore. It would be like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but a little less believable.
Anyhow ... before I was so rudely taken on that Jersey Shore tangent, I sat down to tell our faithful readers that The Daily Beast (my favorite news aggregator and my home page) thinks that we and they are stoo-pid. How so, you ask? Well, in compiling its annual list of America's Smartest (and Dumbest) Cities, the editors at The Daily Beast took four factors into account as follows:
1. The ratio of those holding undergraduate and advanced degrees to overall population (over 25);
2. The ratio of institutions of higher education to overall population;
3. The ratio of public libraries to overall population; and
4. Population-adjusted figures for the purchase of non-fiction book titles.
Now, I have no real problem with the first three factors, though I have to say that public library figures seem outdated in the Digital Age. But I have to seriously question the wisdom of focusing on non-fiction book sales at a time when many (if not most) of those titles are being put out by political pundits and (I kid you not) two of the top ten non-fiction best sellers this past week were "A**holes Finish First" by Tucker Max (if you do not know who this is, be thankful and let it go) and "Sh** My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern.
Does reading non-fiction make you smarter than reading fiction? I ask not only because I think the answer is obvious, but because I fear that this is the decided point of view of most male readers ... and we're a small group as it is. Why this bias against fiction, which at least at the higher echelons seems to be much more widely recognized, appreciated, and enduring than non-fiction? Is it just another symptom of a global culture with ADD (seeking the sound bytes that non-fiction titles seem to provide) or is it something more deep-seated and sinister?
Please discuss. Meanwhile, I'm going to get started on Pride and Prejudice at the Jersey Shore.
N.B. The Daily Beast's faux pas is compounded by the fact that its very name comes from the fictional newspaper in Evelyn Waugh's novel, Scoop. Assuming that someone at The Daily Beast has actually read the novel and that the founders did not simply pick the name off of a Wikipedia entry, they too would appear to be among the stupid.