Confession time: I have never seen a single episode of the MTV show Jersey Shore and have no intentions of ever viewing one. I have no idea if its star, Nicole Polizzi, is a good actress or a putrid one, though a nickname like “Snooki” leads me to suspect that she doesn’t take on many Meryl Streep-like roles. I’ve never read or heard an interview with Polizzi either, so she might possess the intellect of Albert Einstein for all I know. (Did anyone ever call old Albert “Snooki?”)
Polizzi would have ever remained one of the many pop tarts I routinely ignore save for one thing: newspapers confirm the rumor from last fall that Snooki has written a novel, which will be released in 2011. First of all, I doubt she has “written” anything at all; a ghostwriter (or two or three) is likely responsible for whatever golden nuggets will appear. I’m even okay with that. What I’m decidedly not happy about, however, is Polizzi’s statement that she’s only read two books in her entire life. She did not say whether those two books were from her pre- or post-Beatrix Potter years, but I infer from this that we should not anticipate that her literary talents will be viewed as the next coming of George Eliot.
I could continue jumping up and down on the lampoon bandwagon, but my main feeling about all of this is one of sadness. Literature, it would appear, is indeed dead. There has long been the axiom that a good writer begins as a good reader, so you must excuse me if I offer the prejudgment that Ms. Polizzi lacks the qualifications and gravitas to call herself a novelist, even if she employs an army of ghostwriters. To call her such cheapens the craft of novel writing, one in which many highly skilled writers have toiled for years with little commercial success. The latter is distressing because the one thing we know for certain is that Polizzi’s “novel” will sell quite a few copies before it is remaindered and pulped and the next pop idol releases his or her “novel.” The buzz guarantees it.
At this juncture I should admit that my own last book took about five years to write and has yet to earn a nickel in royalties, but there’s more than sour grapes at stake here. The saddest thing about the Snooki novel is that it’s the latest confirmation of the anti-intellectual dumbing down of American society. It’s bad enough that more people vote for American Idol than in Congressional elections, but now we’ve entered the age in which anyone who has ever Tweeted thinks he or she is an “author.” No aspirations cast on Ms. Polizzi--they’re all aimed at her handlers--but she should be ashamed to attach the accomplishment “novelist” to her résumé. Sorry, but you need to read before you can write. Might I suggest starting with Middlemarch? --LV