Part 2 – Books
Welcome back to the place where the lights are dim, the air is musty, the danger is clear and the media I consume is… awful. Yes, I admit it, by most objective standards the things I watch and read are bad. But I believe they are also, essential.
In my last post in this series (does two count as a series?) I argued why I thought that bad movies were important to exist and even be watched. Today I make my case for bad books.
I’ll admit that I have a harder time defending bad books than I do defending bad movies. Movies have a large structured studio system where in order for any creators to make any real money they have to be a part of it. People can and do produce independent films but it’s a relative term. There are independent films with budgets of ten million dollars. I think we can agree that the majority of us do not have access to that kind of money and unless your film is released by a studio, not that many people are watching.
You might argue that books have something similar. There are large publishing houses and it’s not like just anyone can get published by them. The major authors, people like Stephen King or James Patterson are advertised by companies with serious money to get the word out there. Just like Hollywood can advertise the biggest blockbusters.
Unlike film though, authors can and do write something, put it out there and be published on a large retailer instantly. Don’t believe me? Look at the vast amount of kindle books out there by independent authors. Some of them sell very well. A lot of them are not very good, but due to the subject matter might be purchased frequently.
And with books, unlike films, I think a good story will always rise to the top. Harry Potter isn’t famous due to its advertising budget. Although that certainly helped, that story is flat out brilliant, well written and above all, fun to read.
So who wants there to be bad books around? I do. Why? I ask myself. There are a host of reasons and I will do my best to summarize them all but I may forget a thing or two.
First of all, books cover literally every topic there is. I suppose you might say film does too, but I don’t think film covers as much, otherwise people would not say that certain books are “unfilmable.” Since books cover such a range of experience, books that might be considered bad may actually speak to a person in ways that I wouldn’t relate to. I’d hate for a reader to miss out on that experience.
Some people out there feel like Harry Potter is too tied up in “dark magic” to be okay for children. I obviously think that’s ridiculous but those people will certainly say that Harry Potter is a bad book series. Some of those people want those books to be banned, They want them banned from schools, libraries, bookstores and anywhere else you can pick up reading material. Harry Potter isn’t any kind of hate speech, it isn’t attacking a protected group or assailing an individual in an unfair manner. Yet some people think it deserves to be destroyed.
I flat out disagree with that. We shouldn’t be destroying books, even if we think that they are bad. I know, this is just an argument against censorship, not an argument in favor of badly written books.
Well, here’s one. Sometimes an author can write a bad book and then, write a really good book. I’m not going to name names here but there are authors that I like that had books I could not stand at first, then came out with something that blew me away. If that first book did not exist, then the later book would not have been printed and I would have less joy in my life.
Also, like a bad film, sometimes a bad book can be so bad that it’s good. It’s not so entertaining to read perhaps, but it’s definitely something to talk about. And, personally I like putting my thoughts about these things out there in the world. I can acknowledge how much time and effort it took the author to create something and how much bravery it takes to publish it for all to see. Of course once something is out there in the public sphere, it’s free to be reacted to. My particular reaction happens to be to poke fun at these books.
And, like in film, books that speak to a certain category or group that is underrepresented need to be out there. We need books out there for girls who want to be scientists and boys who want to be ballet dancers. Or books that boys can just relate to and the same for girls.
I guess my argument when it comes to books is that, more is better. The more books we can have out in the world, the more likely someone will have a transformative experience because of it.
Now just because I think Agatha Raisin is a terrible series about a self indulgent woman, whom I simply cannot stand, does not mean anyone else has to think that way. If you love Agatha, love away. I’ll disagree with you but, hey if those books bring you pleasure, entertainment, or make you think, good on you.
It’s hard to know what is bad and what is not in fiction. It’s not something everyone will ever agree on. But don’t you think the right to have what you like and what everyone else likes is important to be protected? Even if the thing being protected is a terrible book? I know I do.
Okay, I am getting off my soap box now. Who left that in here anyway?
Thanks for reading if you got this far. And please, let me know what you think.