by Amanda Weist
April 2009

“Have fun at the Breaking Dawn premiere!” I say with obvious over enthusiasm.  Clint, my friend and coworker at Books-a-Million, was scheduled to work the premiere of the fourth book in the newest teen-fiction-vampire saga.  As I waited three more stops to get home, I thought about how vapid and futile both teen and vampire fiction is, and how the modern literary community would be far more substantive without their existence.

While I was opening up the bookstore café the next morning, I noticed people strolling in to sit and read their brand new copies of Breaking Dawn.  What was more noticeable than the amount of people pouring in was the wildly diverse demographic of people that had a copy of the 750-page book tucked underneath their arms.

There was a hipster wearing skin-tight jeans with his hair hiding his whole face tucked in a corner biting his fingernails.  What?  There were two giddy pre-teenage girls sitting in a corner giggling and whispering, their hands embellished with all sorts of sparkling Technicolor rings and bracelets.  Okay, that is to be expected.  There stood an unkempt man who I could smell from where I stood ten feet away at the counter.  Seriously?  I looked a little closer and spotted another type of literature tucked inside the book – the kind you only look at when covered by more appropriate books.  That would have been weird.  There slouched a middle-aged woman wearing a frumpy sweatshirt with the words “World’s Greatest Mom” embroidered on it.  Obviously.  There sat a businessman in a high-end suit sipping a latté that was obviously not purchased from the Books-a-Million café.  You have got to be kidding me.

Out of mere confusion and sociological interest, I crept over to the display table to examine the inside flap of what I had previously interpreted as mindless rubbish.  I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I skimmed through the overly simplistic summary that told of vampires and werewolves.

I was startled by Clint’s voice humming, “Don’t knock it ‘till ya try it,” in my ear.

“Why are you still here?! You should be long gone by now,” I said, puzzled.

“I’ve been in the back room finishing my chapter in Breaking Dawn,” he explained.

“Not you too!” I cried in astonishment.

When Clint answered my complaint by turning his back and walking away, I knew I would have to read the book for myself in order to understand how so many different people could have such a far-fetched common interest.  I violently grabbed a copy and stomped back to my place by the espresso machine, where I threw my copy of Milan Kundera’s Immortality aside and cracked open Breaking Dawn.

I started the first chapter off at an easy and steady pace, with a break to make a mocha here and a pause to make an Americano there.  Before I knew it, an hour had gone by and I realized I had become engrossed in the book.  As much as the thought scared me, I couldn’t avoid thinking about how I had become part of the cult-following I had once mocked.

There is something oddly pleasant about reading something so mindless; it is almost like watching a movie.  It dawned on me that, contrary to my prior belief, not every book needs to be brimming with psychological analysis and penetrating insights into the human condition.  It is, in fact, possible to simply enjoy the telling of a story without expecting exposure to new beliefs and ideas.  Thus Breaking Dawn helped me to overcome my pretentious attitude toward what is and is not worth reading, although I still bear my own prejudices.  I learned to appreciate the storytelling aspect of much popular literature, and I learned to accept what people want to read without gauging its caliber.  Now, when I walk into a bookstore, I don’t sneer at the bestseller displays or the teen fiction and fantasy sections; I may even stop to graze.  But you are still most likely to find me nestled into a lounge chair in the classical European fiction section with my up-turned nose in the books of Dostoevsky, Camus, and Kafka.

previous article     next article     table of contents