Sunday, May 06, 2007

Loving Lousy Lit

Joe Keenan (who says that he became a book reviewer so that he could read a steady stream of hopelessly awful books under the pretense of work) sings the praises of atrocious literature in the New York Times.
Most of us are familiar with people who make a fetish out of quality: They read only good books, they see only good movies, they listen only to good music, they discuss politics only with good people, and they’re not shy about letting you know it. They think this makes them smarter and better than everybody else, but it doesn’t. It makes them mean and overly judgmental and miserly, as if taking 15 minutes to flip through “The Da Vinci Code” is a crime so monstrous, an offense in such flagrant violation of the sacred laws of intellectual time-management, that they will be cast out into the darkness by the Keepers of the Cultural Flame. In these people’s view, any time spent reading a bad book can never be recovered. They also act as if the rest of humanity is watching their time sheets.

Such prissy attitudes are neurotic and self-defeating. Bad books are an essential part of life, as entertaining and indispensable as bad clothing (ironic polyester shirts), bad music (John Tesh at Red Rocks, Phil Collins anywhere), bad trends (metrosexuality, not using toilet paper for a year in order to “help” the environment) and bad politicians (take your pick). ... Bad books have an important place in our lives, because they keep the brain active. We spend so much time wondering what incredibly dumb thing the author will say a few pages down the road. One caveat: As with bad movies, a book that is merely bad but not exquisitely bad is a waste of time, while a genuinely terrible book is a sheer delight.
Confess now, what's the most enjoyably bad book you've ever read?

(Picture nicked from Bad Books Dublin. Link is down.)

20 comments:

Subashini said...

all of sidney sheldon's work is enjoyably bad, in the best possible way.

old-school virginia andrews too, before the entire family took over and started writing bad AND boring books.

Gette said...

I honestly can't think of any "enjoyably bad books". If it's bad, I won't enjoy. (But I will enjoy taking my wrath out on it in a review.) If I enjoyed, then it can't be that bad. Now if you're talking about books that I enjoyed but most other people think are bad, there's plenty. Dan Brown, for one.

Anonymous said...

Yeah if you like it, it's not bad. Books are like food, others may not like what you like.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally was at KLIBF yesterday. It was fun, they had a display of "restricted" books -- needless to say that was the most popular booth :D

Anonymous said...

anything from the shopaholic series. i cringe whenever i read them (bad plotting, unbelievable coincidences), but i can't help but read them!

-anon2

Anonymous said...

that article is complete and utter bollocks.



Viz (no book title today)

Dean said...

The guy's got a problem of self-esteem. In any case, 'bad' literature gets plenty of attention in the arts departments of Western universities, where postmodern modes of study flourish.

If I don't like a book withn a couple of pages, I put it down and read something else.

Anonymous said...

"Book are well written or badly written, that's all" I believe that!

I have enjoyed some atrocious books, I have been unable to complete some acclaimed masterpieces. :)

Hi Sharon, was just passing through.

Shakeel

Pelukismelukis said...

I read URTV, Mastika and Bacaria guiltlessly :-P

Greenbottle said...

what a cheeky guy...i personally don't exactly know what is meant by a bad book...what i don't read are books i feel are simply written to get money out of my pockets...

what i'd like to read are books that i feel are written because the authors feel they NEED to be written...and i think that's why 'literary' fiction are so attractive...

animah said...

If we enjoyed the book, would we find it "bad"?
I have to think far back into the years before I became a literary snob.
Enid Blyton? I didn't even know she was racist.
Viz, as I'm in a hippyish "all is beautiful with the world" today, I love you too.

Anonymous said...

yeah, the world's alright.


I Am Viz

Nuri said...

Probably Tokyopop's Duan Surk books. They're not well written and the story's a bit cliche, but I enjoy the adventures anyways.

Argus Lou said...

Bib, the article is entertaining to read. Thanks. Maybe it has a grain of truth about those who neurotically read 'good' books and watch 'good' films.

But I can only think of guilty pleasures. Children's books are such fun guilty pleasures, e.g. 'Dirty Bertie' by David Roberts and Alan MacDonald is funny, cheeky and charming with not-too-cutesy illustrations.

Enjoyable bad films are easier to think of: 'Borat', 'Dumb & Dumber', 'Ready to Rumble', 'School of Rock'.

Anonymous said...

Dumb & Dumber and School Of Rock "bad films"???


The Gift Of Viz

bibliobibuli said...

i must say i don't go looking for bad books ... a book takes more effort than a film ... but i enjoy our book club meetings where we pull to bits a book that none of us liked. and i think that some bad stuff is good for you if you want to be a writer because you can see how not to do it.

i do enjoy bad films and tv though ... those 1950 B movies esp the horror ones are often very good, hey Viz?

NoMo1521 said...

Okay, I'm a bit ashamed, but I relish most cheap, cheerful, and dreadful horror /crime thriller I come across. Admittedly, I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, even as I picked Brown's style apart. Oh, and those Child & Preston novels--love those.

Anonymous said...

oh i have a DVD copy of Plan 9 From Outer Space. it's a bloody riot!


Viz From The Black Lagoon

Subashini said...

i think a bad book is, as someone already pointed out, bad in terms of plotting, writing, characterization. yet it might afford you entertainment and fun for a couple hours at least, so you overlook the cliche-ridden writing and paper-thin characters. so yes, sidney sheldon wrote bad books, in my opinion... i think they're bad, bad for my brain just like KFC is bad for my body but i eat it on occasion anyway. that's what i call "enjoyably bad books." if you like something it can't be bad? so there are absolutely no universal standards of good/bad? that's a whole other topic altogether, ain't it?

and considering that the article sharon linked to seems to have been written with tongue firmly in cheek, anyway...

Gaspode said...

It is... I don't think there are universal standards, unless we're Borg or something.