I had my car window open (as required between blizzards by Colorado law). Mylo Xyloto was playing on a recently-purchased stereo that had doubled* the value of my 2000 Jetta.
I didn’t see who shouted it. Probably not the elderly woman on the sidewalk who was attached by a taut pink leash to a matching taut pink poodle. And surely not the five-year-old doing donuts on his Big Wheel in the driveway across the street.
It’s a pretty safe bet the Chris Martin hate came from someone in the huddle of teenagers admiring their generation’s ironic muscle car, a tricked out Scion tC.
I ignored the shout and passed through the Norman Rockwell scene with a vehicular shrug. (The Jetta’s suspension needs work.) But a block later I turned the volume down from 25 to 18. I told myself this was because I didn’t want to cause [further] damage to my eardrums. I even imagined calling over my shoulder, “Thanks, random hoodie-wearing teenager. I will embrace your astute observation as free healthcare.”
There’s no such thing as free healthcare. And I wasn’t concerned about my eardrums.
I like listening to Mylo Xyloto with the volume at 25. Yet after hearing “Coldplay sucks!” apparently I felt 28 percent less confident of this.
I have friends who love the Twilight books. If the Twilight books were people, these friends would marry them. Or at least stalk them obsessively. Now let’s face it, you don’t have to drive down many streets before hearing shouts of “Twilight sucks!” This makes me wonder, do people who like the Twilight books** ever turn down the volume because of the shouting? What if the shout comes from a trusted friend? Or a trusted stranger who goes by the pretentious nom de plume, “noveldoctor”?
I haven’t yelled “Twilight sucks!” on this blog, but I might have made an oblique reference or two about my lack of personal love for Bella and Ed’s Excellent Adventure. (Like that, for instance.) If I’ve caused any of you to turn down the volume, I apologize. I believe strongly in value of literary (and musical) criticism, but yelling “Twilight sucks!” is not criticism. That’s just being rude.
My taste in music and books is different from yours. I’m okay with that. In fact, I celebrate it. If everyone loved the things I loved, you’d all be my soulmates. I live in a small apartment. I only have room for one soulmate. (I know she’s out there somewhere, though the restraining order remains an obstacle.)
I can’t always tell you why I don’t like something. Maybe it’s repetitive themes. Or predictable chord progressions. Maybe it’s paper thin characters or a reed thin voice. Given ample time and motivation I think I could wear the tweed jacket and smoke the tobaccoed pipe of a reasonably skilled critic and explain in more detail. But I don’t look good in tweed.
I can tell you why I like Coldplay. Or books by Alice Hoffman. Or the color and smell and mystery of actual twilight, if not the book. I like these things because they remind me of a secret language I only remember when someone leads me to it. I like them because they break me into pieces or put me back together. I like them for the space between the words and for the unresolved chords.
I like these things because they linger.
That doesn’t make me a good judge of what you should or shouldn’t like. It just makes me…me.
There’s only one opinion that matters when you read, listen, watch. Yours. If you enjoy artful criticism, go ahead and soak up all you want. Then heed it or don’t.
But when you find something you love, keep the volume at 25. Don’t let someone make you feel “less” just because they don’t agree with you.
And then be thankful for the guy who can’t get enough of ABBA. Don’t shout “ABBA sucks!” Let him play it at 25.
Because honestly, do you really want that guy to be your soulmate?
*The stereo cost under $200. You do the math.
**I’m not just talking about Twilight. You did know that, right?