On Reading Bad Books – and What They Are

I’m trying to get back to this blog, but paying work continues to intervene, and fiction writing is not paying work for me, nor is reviewing or commenting on fiction. I will get back to posting and even have some plans for some of my material elsewhere.

That said, this morning I found a link from Martin LaBar of Sun and Shield to a post by Elizabeth Moon, Why “bad” books succeed. If I can summarize her post very briefly, I think she is saying that it’s because bad books are not entirely bad.

And I would add that, of course, good books are not entirely good. For example, I read Ms. Moon’s books, and would definitely not call them “bad,” in fact, she is one of those authors I regularly read. Yet I sometimes dislike her battle descriptions and I was not too happy with the ending of Victory Conditions. But to all that I say, who cares? I read the books anyhow, and I like them. Sometimes when you’ve done enough reading you just feel like complaining about something.

To make the same point again, I hate time travel, yet I read everything from the Dragonriders of Pern and other series by Anne McCaffrey that I can get my hands on. Why? Anne McCaffrey is simply in a class by herself as a story teller, and her characters draw you in and make you want to hear more about them.

I think it’s fairly arrogant to tell other people what they ought to like in literature. I’ve been told I should like Dostoyevsky. I can’t stand him. All apologies to advocates of great literature. I’m going to miss that part of it. But are people who like his writing stupid? Do they have bad taste? In my opinion, they simply have tastes that differ from mine. In this case it might be that it is the social commentary and the ideas that drive them.

Speaking of ideas, I like reading parts of Ayn Rand, but things like John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged just turn me off as part of a novel. When I first read Atlas Shrugged I scanned the speech and then read it later when I was in the mood for some non-fiction.

I wrote on this topic before in Defining Good Literature (Or Not), and the follow-up, So Are There Actually Standards in Literature.

Enjoy. (Or not!)