I was asked recently by one of my students have I ever read a bad book, and if so, what was my take on it. I’ve read too many of them! When balancing the scales, and giving credit where it’s due though, more often than not the truth has to be told. And like most of us who want to be open and honest, we are prone to do so without compromise and apology. But let’s face it -- reality throws us curves just to keep us alert when things go awry in our choices of the books we read. I’m sure if I were to poll all of you, there would be major declarations of independence making a fetish out of quality: You would tell me that you read only good books, you see only good movies, you listen only to good music, you discuss politics only with good people, and you’re not shy about letting me know it. It’s all too easy to be overly judgmental and miserly when we misjudge a book by its cover, or flip through pages to gauge content, and read a favorable prologue here and there. I’ve come to believe that bad books are an essential part of life, like bad food, bad music (hard rock at a beach party, Lyle Lovett anywhere), bad trends (Gangsta Rap), and bad politicians (take your pick) that some people like to embrace. I started reading extremely bad books as a boy, when my beloved but slightly unhinged Uncle Jesse lent me the boring classic, The Red Badge of Courage, and I read more of them every so often. Indeed, one of the reasons I became a book reviewer is because it gave me the opportunity to read a steady stream of books under the alert eye to find storylines out of line, plots with poor planning, back stories without bonding effect, and characters without charisma. Alas, there comes that one beauty of a book gorgeously adorned with graphics to die for the cover art and other things the author feel is right about it. I get halfway through the book and wonder why I’ve took the time to continue.
Those who read only good books cannot understand such a mentality, or perhaps whomever reviwing the books may not be properly trained to know what to look for. Unfortunately, bad books are commonplace in the literary world and should have an important place in our lives, if for no other reason than to keep the brain active and alert! We reviewers who understand the craft will spend time wondering what incredibly dumb thing the author will say a few pages down the road in lieu of giving us ‘the rest of the story’. At no point do I ever lose sight of the fact WHY bad books are truly bad, or that it might be reasons why others may thhink it may be good. But the educator in me will forever cry the need for grammatical forttitude to be in placel that is -- for metaphor to be in place, for hyperbole to standout, and for syntax to ring supreme. When authors understand this, there are, and will be no bad books! It is my opinion that bad books comes about when authors fail to do all of the aforementioned, and a lot more of the simpler things in crafting good linguistic verve. Storyboards and writing a preliminary synopsis are archaic to some, I was told. Then there are those that eschew research as tedious and time consuming. They opt to go on instinct without getting the facts, and their belief that they are consummate storytellers writing with purpose and with a sense of continuity often betray them. Perhaps then, one of the main reasons bad-book lovers go out of the way to make their sentiments known is because it is a way of resisting the hegemony of good taste.
If status quo would be left alone withjout admonishment devoid of a system adhering to checks and balances then there would be no parameters or wherewithal to tell authors that their books sucks! I then, would get a chance to tell them sans the rancor that there indeed was something good about their book, but lacked the vivacity of page-turning delight. With customary insight, a copious reader once surmised: “A good newspaper is never quite good enough, but a lousy newspaper is bad Karma.” I agree. Some people would identify a passion for any book that is good as long as the author make a case to tell a somewhat decent story. Some have even told me that bad books are guilty pleasures, but I prefer to think of them as pleasures I do not feel guilty about, even though I probably should. Bad movies, bad hairdos, bad relationships and bad Supreme Court rulings merely make me think twice. But a bad book will disappoint me every time. And if they ever stop writing books with lines like “Being an Atheist is better than to worship someone sight unseen is often par for any course,” I would stop breathing on the spot. Then there are authors who would want to edit their own books (now, THAT'S a story for another time!). When was the last time YOU read or have written a bad book and admitted it?