Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I've caved in and started reading the Tales of Atlantis boxset by Gena Showalter that I picked up before Christmas, and I was a little thrilled at the idea of giving into a guilty pleasure when I got in from work this evening. And it started me thinking, why is it that erotic/romance/chick lit novels are usually termed as "guilty pleasures?"

Chocolate is a guilty pleasure, because it has calories in it which if consumed in large quantities, can negatively impact your health and should therefore only be consumed in small quantities as a treat. I've never heard the same said of romance novels.

My train of thought led me to consider that it perhaps it is that these books are badly written. But there is obviously more to a good book than how well it is written.
I've discussed "good books" with many people over time, and the unanimous conclusion is that Harry Potter, Twilight, Dan Brown novels and even the recent Millennium Trilogy, are poorly written books. And yet they are the most popular books of current times, accredited with encouraging whole new generations of readers (who then have no capacity for reading anything of literary merit, but that is another story.)

Jane Austen novels are considered of great literary merit, but I find them tedious, with no plot and usually vapid characters that do nothing but sit around and talk social politics. Stephenie Meyer, on the other hand, creates interesting, if not very real characters and weaves them together in an equally interesting but equally ridiculous plot, and I literally put my life on hold because I HAD to see how Breaking Dawn would end. So why is it that I feel virtuous for forcing myself to endure Jane Austen, but guilty for lapping up Stephenie Meyer? It seems to me that a "good" book is not necessarily one is well written or even one which is well balanced. It is simply one that you enjoy, surely?

I don't have some profound answer to my question of why some works of fiction are considered great and the others merely a guilty pleasure. But it has made me think a bit about what I read. Reading is supposed to be a delight, not a chore. And a lot of people might be a lot happier if they stopped reading what they thought they should read and just read what they wanted to. And if fiction that I enjoy is classed as guilty, well... I guess you'll just have to lock me up.


Most books are poorly written, but then, most people are poorly educated.

What exactly defines a "well written" book? I thought I knew, but now I'm not so sure.

The secret to truly great writing is to place the right word in the right place. Of course, one needs a very extensive vocabulary to make this possible.
Poor writing is pretty easy to recognise, it's a little more difficult to recognise the absolutely authentic voice of genius amidst the legions of the very good.
I'ts not sufficient to be merely entertaining, the truly great also astound us with their perception and impress us with their ability to open our understanding to new possibilities and show us fresh perspectives regarding our common humanity.

Post a Comment


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites