Earlier this week in my Approaches to Literature class, we discussed literary canons.
A canon is a term used to describe a particular grouping of literature, even music and art, that has been influential in shaping culture at that particular time. The discussion revolved around the literary critic Edward Said and his distinction of what makes a particular work of literature significant enough to be added into the canon.
As I thought about all the wonderful words of influential writers from the preceding century such as Virginia Woolf and J. D. Salinger, I couldn’t help but compare them to some of the best-sellers of our time, like Snooki.
Yes, it is unfortunately true. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (you know, the orange one with the pickles?) has written a New York Times best-selling novel, “A Shore Thing.” Her suggested representation of what it means to be young today consists of drinking too much, pursuing meaningless hook-ups and beating up those “dirty beats” in the modern world.
While this is all very worthy of an eye-roll and can be justifiably chalked up to yet another flash-in-the-pan piece of “Jersey Shore” memorabilia, the one thing that Snooki has perhaps unintentionally done is capture our generation in a nutshell. Love it or leave it (I personally am leaning towards the latter), the 23-year-old Snooki has spoken for us as a collective and acknowledges being a member of a technology-obsessed generation often accused of vanity, over-indulgence, narcissism and ignorance.
Whether this is true for every 20-something, we can all relate on some level because we have all been exposed to this lifestyle.
It can be said that a raw representation from our generation has not been seen for some time and perhaps young people are flocking to their local Barnes and Noble to devour a literary text that can potentially fill the void our generation may feeling.
On the more substantial search for self-representation in literature, we may look towards Holden Caulfield and his words about the coming-of-age angst and rebellion. While “The Catcher in the Rye” is undeniably remarkable, it is likewise irrelevant to the lives of modern-day youth as it was written nearly 60 years ago.
Furthermore, the majority of literary works marketed to us are written by individuals’ years older than us who are often writing in retrospect. This parallel is evident in nearly every publication targeted at our demographic.
While Snooki’s stint as an author is not a momentous one, it is honest. Don’t let her portrayal be dogma which we should fall into, but rather let it serve as an example that we ought to be the ones telling the stories of our generation rather than our observers.
It is doubtful “A Shore Thing” will be accepted into the literary canon years from now, as was “The Lord of the Flies” or “Mother Night.” But we ought to recognize that the fate of our generation’s canon lies in our hands alone. Our complacency with Snooki’s representation only makes it easier for further inaccurate and ridiculous depictions to climb the best-seller list. Ultimately, if we refuse to write the stories of our generation, they will be written for us.
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