Aaron vs. Barnes and Noble
I have found Hell. It is not, as previously recorded, located somewhere between here and digging to China. Nor, as hypothezied by deconstructionalists, is it located in our celestial orbit to counterbalance the fraudulent notion of heaven. Furthermore, Hell is most definately not merely a state of mind, as the Freudulent would have you believe. No. Hell exists. Right here, on Earth (but not, as pessimists assert, Earth itself): at any of your local Barnes and Noble/Borders/Local Booksellers.
I refer, of course, to the Young Adult Fiction section. I recently journied through the munificent tiers of books in search of a GRE review book, having decided that such a course of action might be the inevitable conclusion to my job search. After frightening myself initially by picking up the specialized "English" GRE review book (which trains one to recognize classical authors by style alone), I started to flee the ominous and omnipresent stacks, only to collide with this self-made Hell.
First off, I never realized there were so many Chicken Soups for the Soul. Apparently we're all very sick people (we would be, to write these books to begin with), and more so, we can be segregated into extremist factions, from the Christian Right to the Libertarian Right to the hardcore street toughs (who I'm sure have better things to do than read... this, at least). I'm still waiting for Chicken Soup for the Chicken Soup Reader's Soul, or Chicken Soup for the Illterate Soul, or, as my good friend Zack pointed out, Chicken Soup for the Fetal Soul. These, I'd like to affirm, were the best of the section. To the left: illustrated diet books for young teenagers. The kind of glitsy girl-talk pink and posh covered journals that assert, in glam-speak, with like every other word, exactly what it's like, like, to be a girl, like, trying to have, like, a body... and junk. Frightening. Almost as frightening as, to its right (to it's FAR right): The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. Did I mention the brainwashing children's version of the Left Behind series, forty books long and growing? (That's more than Animorphs, and only slightly less than Goosebumps.)
And on the opposite side: popular television show serial novels, set in the Buffyverse or thereabouts (not that there's anything wrong with that) and the modern day Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew equivalents. Yes, I'm talking about the pulp teen spy novel. But they used to have more tact: now they come right out and say "These are ordinary kids. Like you. They dress... like you. But then they go and do dangerous things." Wow. Way to make me feel, even more, like I wasted an integral part of my childhood. Good thing that section's not nearly as long as the wall-to-wall collection of Manga (Japanese comics, read back to front). I remember when these were merely a novelty item: hard-to-find and harder-to-sell, we were assured of only getting the best Japan had to offer. But then we got the culture shock of Tamogotchi and the Fad Market, and all of a sudden, every single pisspoor comic was ported over here. No more Ranma 1/2: instead, we get comics that are a sixteen of that, in other words, Ranma 1/32. For those who don't know, Manga, like most Teen novels, work in decompression: rather than telling a story concisely, they span out simple sentences over multiple pages to convey exaggerated shock and recycle the same sight-gags over and over again. It's much like reading a children's book, but again, we were in the Young Adult/Teen Fiction section. No wonder nobody likes to read any more. Look at the choices we're offering them.
No, this was a horrific example of what the market has been driven to; the same place that The New Yorker informs me many newspapers have been driven to. Despite the writer's general intelligence, they are forced to cater to their audience, in other words, to write not for themselves, but for those who might actually buy the paper. This has resulted in a lot of dumbing down, in other words, the creation of Hell in every bookstore. If we stop writing for the smart, we cease to give people the ability to read anything smart. Stupid becomes the new median, and I hestiate to think what lies beneath being retarded and stunted.
Save us, oh Jesus-for-Kids. We need your almighty miracles, as depicted in at least half a dozen Manga, to rectify the brand new sins of a greedy and intolerable market. For we, or at least I, are surely in hell now.