I have complicated feelings about broccoli writing.
As someone who has always enjoyed broccoli, I’ve still felt myself get irritated by the idea that a food’s only redeeming quality is that it is “good for you”.
There are enough foods that can be enjoyed and provide nutrition that forcing people to associate nutrition with unpleasantness bothers me.
I feel even more strongly when I see “good for you” writing.
There are many varieties and flavours of broccoli writing.
Writing can be considered “good for you” because of its message, because of the challenge of its style, because of its importance in a larger history of ideas. Uniformly, when somebody tells me that I need to read something because it would be good for me, I brace myself for an unpleasant experience.
This is unfair of me, but I think that it is also unfair of the writing’s defenders.
Good writing will stand on its own merits.
Not all stories are for all people, but there is a certain magic, an undefinable spark that catches in the best writing and is recognizable to those who read it.
I may not always enjoy Charles Dickens, but I read “A Tale of Two Cities” in nearly a single sitting, my fingers tingling with adrenaline as I turned the pages.
There was no need to defend it as an important, if flawed, part of both history and literature. I could recognize that clearly enough for myself as I was drawn into the book.
While learning of what came before helps us to build a stronger foundation for our thoughts and ideas, I don’t think that these works need to be defended as “good for us”.
Providing context and understanding can be important, but the joy of reading and discovery is to realize the importance of the basic story on our own.
When I was first given broccoli, no one told me that it was supposed to be good for me. I put it in my mouth, tasted the bitterness, the strange acrid undertones mixing with an odd fresh cleansing.
I wanted more.
As I flip through the pages, I still do.
Even kale has its place in the pantheon of difficult writing choices.
Not a fan of kale, but I do love a variety of historic and important “good for you” stories. I’d like others to be able to share in that love.
I don’t claim to write “good for you” literature, but if you’d like to check out my own work, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.