Alex Rose isn’t so sure that it’s straightforward and intrinsic:
A few years ago, I found myself on a blind date with an English professor. At some point after the second drink, one of us mentioned a feature in the Times that day about a recent slew of steamy, pulpy young adult novels whose sudden popularity had incurred the wrath of both protective mothers and knuckle-rapping critics.
"But at least the kids are reading," said my date, raising her glass. "That's got to count for something."
Does it? . . .
The only conceivable value of trashy books is the dubious but not unthinkable possibility that they might go some of the way towards engendering in young people a love of reading as an end in-itself, which in turn might whet the appetite for better books. For many, that's the only way in. They'll read Sweet Valley High or Twilight at thirteen, lose their taste for it by fourteen and demand something richer and more challenging at sixteen. Or so the thinking goes.
If the argument applies to one form of entertainment, though, it should apply to all. Why is it that when kids become enraptured by some idiotic program, no one says, "well, at least they're watching TV?"