Really bad books and why we love them

One of the hardest things to deal with as a writer who knows how to write is witnessing the heaps of fame and riches being heaped upon the sort of writing that makes the illiterate among us appear as learned scribes capable of reciting Plato and Shakespeare at a moment’s notice. We suffer/tolerate/endure  “The Bridges of Madison County,” or “Fifty Shades of Gray,” and we watch helplessly from the sidelines with furious, pained expressions as these books march with steel-toed boots over the wheezing carcass of literary accomplishment to become major motion pictures raking in millions  and millions of dollars at the box office.

Meanwhile there are acres upon fallow acres of starving artists throughout the country faithfully and consistently producing floor-to-ceiling stacks of literary quality that at least appear to be composed by semi-competent practitioners. Their best reward is the cricket serenade.

So why is this? Is it because the writers we think are good aren’t as good as we think they are? Is it because we ourselves aren’t quite so good as we like to think we are? Or is it because a painfully large portion of the reading public doesn’t recognize or care about decent literature anymore? And when I say decent literature, understand that I’m not even talking about critically acclaimed works of literary fiction. I’m simply talking about well-written stories with good dialogue, well-defined characters, and a plot that engages. Just the basics.

I think the easy answer is to say it’s some or all of the above, but I believe the truth is a bit different. I think the truth is much more painfully obvious; humans are humans, and humans are strange and unpredictable. Sometimes they like the good stuff, other times they like what they like. Sure, the culture is much less about reading these days, and the average attention span of your ordinary adult 2016 model human is about the size of a gnat’s knees. And the number of folks who are actually well-read can probably fit within the cracks of those gnat knees. But then is it fair to say that all those tens of thousands who flocked to read “Fifty Shades of Gray”, or who loved watching this year’s TV mega-hit  “Empire”, are all literary midgets not capable or smart enough to appreciate a decently-written story?

I must admit it’s tempting. But it’s also simplistic and, well, wrong.

Humans are strange and unpredictable.

And complex. Which is why trying to predict what the humans are going to love next is a waste of time. So I just write what I write and then whatever happens next happens next. Because I’m a human too.

This is being cross-posted in Detroit Ink Publishing.


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Writer and musician.

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