Smarties Spoiling Stuff; Or, In Praise of…Fuckbois of Literature

One of the unwritten laws of the bookish life is that books that we read when we’re teenagers seem to have an outsize place in our hearts. I think it’s because we start to become our own selves when we’re teens; it’s hard not to be influenced by the books that come into our hands during those years. I still have a place in my book-y heart for Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Around the World in 80 Days. I still love this trio of books but it’s only as an adult that I’ve started to see their problems. I’ve been thinking about these reconsiderations a lot lately, due to my recent discovery of a new book podcast called Fuckbois of Literature.

Yes, you read that right.

Karl Haider

The host of Fuckbois, Emily Edwards, invites scholars and readers on to the show to talk about books that are much loved. After a quick definition of “fuckboi,” Edwards and her guest dive into all the things that make our favorite books problematic. The first episode I listened to was “Rebecca,” another much loved book. This episode highlighted all of the troubling things that I’d managed to overlook when I read the novel. Edwards and guest Claire Willett speak so intelligently—and irreverently—about the dynamics between the second Mrs. de Winter, Maxim, Rebecca, Mrs. Danvers, and Jack Favell that it completely upended my interpretation of the book. It wasn’t long before I was hooked.

The hilarity that always ensues on episodes of FboL keeps the podcast from becoming overbearing or preachy. Edwards and her guests never shame readers for loving the books they discuss. Instead, they invite us to look beyond the surface, beyond the swoon, to underlying prejudices; class, race, and gender issues; and attitudes that definitely deserve another look. As I listened to FboL, I knew that some readers might consider what Edwards et al. were doing as spoiling their favorite books. More than once, I wanted to pipe up to defend some of my favorite fictional men. (Mr. Rochester! Mr. Darcy!) In addition to their jokes and witticisms, it was clear to me that Edwards and her guests also loved (at least most of) the books they discuss on the show. They love these books enough to re-read them and think about them and ask questions about what’s going on below the surface.

They say on the internet that all our favorites are problematic. Edwards and co. certainly put that truism to the test. These books aren’t spoiled, in my opinion. Edwards and her guests enhanced my knowledge of these books. I still love Rebecca and Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice because these books are so damned good that I don’t think they can be ruined. Their protagonists are so beautifully drawn, the settings so fully realized, and the plots so engaging that a few fuckbois here and there don’t really matter.

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