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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Bad Books Happen to Good Readers and Good Writers

Bad Books? 40 of them with an interesting commentary about what "bad is" (i.e., an overrated "good" book, poorly written, terrible authorial outlook). Favorite quote from the article:  "One mark of a great writer must be the willingness to write a bad book." And here's more on bad writing.  It appears to be today's theme.


Anonymous said...

How about bad article layouts? Wretched, counter-intuitive layout that leaves everyone confused as to where the article actually starts?

Anonymous said...

yeah, a 3-column pdf is kind of taxing; that would have been much better as magazine to hold in my hands. but aside from the layout, i think it was a fun read.

one thing that bugged me is how they so obviously skirted around any bad books by young (or non-ancient), living authors. (they didn't have a problem picking on McCarthy, guess they figure he's so old, it's as safe as criticising a dead author.)

Anonymous said...

lol anonymous #1. My first thought when I clicked on it was, "Why can't they just make this a freaking web page in one column??" I actually didn't read it because it irritated me too much.

Boondocks Journalist said...

Interesting that so many of them mentioned Dreiser, who's basically out of the canon at this point, and McCarthy, who I thought was firmly in it.

I agree with those who suggested that badness is not a mere matter of style. It has to be something that arouses outrage or amusement with its sheer wrongness. There is a contemporary author to whom I always react this way, but I have to review him and try to be even-handed and acknowledge that many people love his books and find them inspiring, etc.

In fact, I've never read a negative review of his stuff, which means that either (a) I'm crazy or (b) he has a self-selected audience which just happens to include Oprah and her followers. By "self-selected" I mean that anyone who would go to the trouble of buying the book is also likely to love it. It's why I don't bother to review movies featuring talking CGI animals: No one's mind is going to be changed by a negative review, because anyone who's going to like that stuff already knows it.

Note the professor who said some of his students became English majors because of The Da Vinci Code. Yes, any reading is better than no reading, but this is one of the sad things about teaching English: The books you love are often the ones your students like least.