dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #70

Philip.Belben at pgen.com Philip.Belben at pgen.com
Wed Sep 1 13:20:56 EDT 1999

Buried in a long post, Mellissa wrote:

> Don't feel bad about not liking something.  And on this list you don't ever
> have to suggest that you might not know what you're talking about. (Okay, so
> this is one of MY buttons.)  It's one thing to make comments about the
> absolute worth of a book--whether or not it is, in some concrete sense, a
> bad book.  It's another to say that you just didn't like something.  Your
> opinion of your reading tastes is something only you can know!  Sure, you

Very good point, which I've never thought of before.  Some books I don't like
because they are bad books, others I simply don't like.

A bad book is very subjective, but I (not educated in lit. crit., BTW) would be
fairly confident in labelling a book bad if I could identify concrete features
about it that I consider bad.

For example, Heinlein "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" I don't like, but I wouldn't
label it bad.  The reasons I don't like it are (mainly) gratuitous sex and lack
of plot; the one many people like even if I don't, and the other is a valid
literary technique, though again not to my taste.  (I think my own aunt ********
does plotless books much better, though.)

On the other hand, with Terry Brooks' "Shannara" trilogy I would stand up and
defend my verdict of "bad book".  (Although I would probably have to re-read it
to do so, which I don't think I'd enjoy).  It contained a lot of the features
that DWJ parodies in Tough Guide, and the style of the prose is so turgid.  By
the end of the trilogy I was wincing every time Brooks used a circumlocution to
avoid writing a person's name, and I nearly threw up when he used
circumlocutions to avoid using a horse's name...

(FWIW I like most of Heinlein's work, and I like Brooks's Magic Kingdom series.
I haven't tried any later Shannara books...)

Thanks for making the point.  It's a good distinction to remember.


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