In Shakespeare’s day, he wrote unadulterated popular fiction. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I still read, centuries later. It’s a brilliant reminder that highbrow literature wasn’t always an obscure title—in fact, it used to be the books and plays that we now call commercial fiction. What do you think will today’s popular fiction will be tomorrow’s highbrow literature or will it be considered lowbrow literature?
It is said that highbrow books can be difficult because they are complex not for the sake of complexity but because the stories and the lives involved are complex. The characters and their motives are not simple. Readers don’t want simplicity. Highbrow literature is different because it leads you into a story and you have to find your own way. In highbrow books, you are not only the reader but a writer too. You will be asked to fill in gaps, draw your own conclusions, and to find your own answers, Highbrow literature may not be flattering or cater to your ego, but you know that wherever it takes you, it’s going to be quite the journey.
In lowbrow books, the writer determines the reader’s experience. By this mean I mean every detail is explained. The reader becomes passive. Some feel this is enjoyable. because the reader doesn’t have to do anything. It’s the literary equivalent of an amusement ride at a fair. You sit back and soak it all in. It can be amusing even fun because you don’t have to do anything. Once the ride is over you’re exactly where you started.
One of the most significant differences between highbrow and lowbrow books is the way highbrow shows other people’s beliefs and desires may not be what we believe and desire. We’re seeing their inner thoughts and feelings that we may not want to identify or even care about but in that moment anything is possible when we are asked to step outside our comfort zone.
Reading both is essential because exposure to lowbrow and highbrow gives us balance in our lives.