One of the assets of a pricey liberal arts education is that you can turn on the literary pretentiousness with the best of them and then tuck down with your popcorn title of choice, feeling confident in the fact that you know the difference between what’s great and what’s the intellectual equivalent of a Twinkie. Aside from the days of suffering through various soporific graduate school seminars, I’ve never really spent much time agonizing over my literary tastes. I pretty much read from every category of fiction and nonfiction and can find value and entertainment in all but the most execrable writings.
Which is why I like this piece by Laura Miller in Salon. Sure, Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson and James Patterson* may not be on same artistic level as Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan, and Ann Patchett, but as their legions of fans will attest, you can’t put down their books once you’ve started them. You may hate yourself in the morning, but you’ll stay up way past your bedtime to get through every last page—full of clichés, awkward character development, ridiculous plot twists and workmanlike prose though they may be. Thing is, a good story is a good story is a good story. And, there is craft (and sometimes genius) in telling a good story whatever the author’s writing abilities. There is a great deal of bad writing in my life that I am grateful to have read. And, I hope there’s a fair amount of it left in my future. As long as it’s good, of course.
What are your examples of good bad writing/writers?
*Whose work I’ve excoriated for years—‘cause, you know, I’ve got that pretentious lit-major-followed-by-a-career-in-publishing thing to live up to.