David P. Welsh responds to my post about lit comics snobbery and the perils thereof, in a very manga-crit way. That is, instead of taking sides, he opens the floor for discussion:
It’s sent me off on a mental tangent, and I wonder how people would define their comics reading tastes if circumstances forced them to do so? I would categorize mine as eclectic, though I would be extremely reluctant to do so precisely because that adjective, neutral as it should read, feels somehow like I’m congratulating myself for liking more than one kind of thing. So I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on categorizing their tastes and the potential pitfalls and moral implications of doing so.
So since David kindly asks: I wouldn’t call myself eclectic (nor omnivorous, as Melinda Beasi does in comments. That’s not because I read only one thing — in fact, I read various sorts of things, whether comics or manga or books.
But eclecticism is a relative term. And however widely I cast my net, there’s lots more stuff I haven’t looked at, and even more I haven’t heard of. I see the stuff Domingos Isabelinho talks about for example…mostly European art comics…and I don’t even know the titles. For that matter, unlike Domingos or Matthias or Suat or Erica, I’m a monoglot, which really restricts what I’m able to process. And there’s whole swathes of comicdom I’m not that interested in (early proto-comics tend to bore me for example; I’m not especially interested in most yaoi, etc. etc.)
I got really into Thai pop music recently, and came out of that experience not feeling like I was especially eclectic or omnivorous, but instead feeling like I didn’t know anything. Entire giant stretches of the globe producing mounds of cultural products, and I can’t even get through the to-read stacks in my house. I know there’s a giant Mexican comics scene for example, of which I have read exactly nothing. I think (though I don’t know) that there’s a fairly large Indian comics scene too, and all I’ve seen of that is a crappy online porn comic that Dirk linked to once.
So if I were going to characterize my tastes, I would have to describe them as “ignorant.” Also as “mean” — because while I don’t know much, I can at least be nasty about what I do know, damn it.
And since meanness is in my portfolio, I might as well sum up by using this post to once again bash all and sundry. Obviously, I’m arguing here that, in terms of cultural consumption in particular, as well as perhaps more generally, we’re all fairly ignorant, from the mouth-breathing superhero fan all the way up to masters of cultural wu-tang like Terry Eagleton or Kim Thompson. Which is why lambasting others for not reading what you think they should read is such an empty exercise…and why even calling oneself eclectic is maybe a little presumptuous (a fact which David basically points out himself.) Event the most cosmopolitan of us are really just provincial hicks. Which is nice actually; it means there’s always some city we can wander into, looking about in wonder.