Jun 23, 2012

Bad Books and Why We Read Them

I'm some 20 pages away from the end of a really, really bad book. Reeeeally bad book. It's not mine (Thanks Hyne!), and I want to return it to its owner tomorrow after the church service, but I wanted to post before I end it, otherwise I know that the post would be an endless diatribe about why is that book such a waste of time, energy and tree life, and why should the writer be forbidden to write or dictate as much as an SMS. Hell, the writer is so bad, he would ruin emoticons! Then again, I guess that writing about God and religion is much like writing porn: quality doesn't matter as long as you fill the pages with the usual formulas. (I'll try to remember not to say that to the shepherd if he asks me what I think about the book.)

However, this isn't the worse book I've read. This got me thinking why I even read bad books?

Reading bad books is normally an accidental thing. Usually what happens is that you get a book you don't know a thing about - maybe because a friend recommended it, or it was recommended at the bookstore, or maybe because the description or the cover seemed promising - and as you read it it goes worse and worse and worse. Naturally, the worse type of bad books (though these don't make often the worse books you've read) are the ones that start really good, continue quite well, and at the end they fuck it up royally. These are the Bad-Bomb books (BBB), or the Stinky-Bomb books (SBB). These are bad books that come with a trap: they lure you into reading them, you get all excited and swear you found the best book in town and then WHAM! shit happens and the whole thing gets ruined. If you are creative and willing, you can always rip out the bad part and rewrite it (I did that with the second Harry Potter book).

But what happens with the bad books that start bad, continue worse and end up really crappy? There have been a few books in my life that were so bad, so bad, that I couldn't finish them at all. I put them down half way, or ten pages into the story and decided to save myself a couple of hours of my life. I can't recall any of those books, so though they were so henious, I can't tell you which were they, nor I account them among the worse books of my life. Those who do make the list are the ones I've finished. But why do I finish them? Why do we finish them? I'd certainly would like to know if others finish bad books and why they do it, but these are my reasons:

1. I read them knowing they are bad because I'm curious about what's so bad about them.
2. I finish them because they are mandatory literature for a class or something like that.
3. Because in the begining I still want to give the book a chance. Like many BBB, there's the Great Surprise Effect books (GSEB) as well. I include Sunstorm (Asa Larsson) and Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert) among them. These are the books that have quite an uninteresting, weak starting, but unroll to be a page turner. So with some bad books, you start under the illusion that you are reading a Great Surprise, but as the pages move and the chapters pass, nothing seems to improve. Sometime after you realize that there's no GSEB in store, you may decide to stop reading and either give the book to someone who can appreciate it better, donate it to a library or give it away to someone you don't like. If you continue reading, it's often for a morbid inclination, simply to see how bad can the book go. Sometimes a bad book has wrapped a BBB in the end, so, it was already bad, really bad, but the ending becomes the bow on top of the shit pile.

In a way, finishing a bad book makes us feel entitled to criticize it. If you don't finish it, you can't be sure it's not a last minute GSEB - though there's only so much crappy plot and writing that can be corrected with an awesome ending - but if you finish it, you take upon yourself all the rights to say "Well, I read it cover to cover and I can tell you, it's the worse type of crap humanity has ever typed down".

Question, really, why do you finish bad books?

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