I had a discussion with some friends today regarding a book you've probably heard lots about but whose name I refuse to mention because I don't want the book or author getting any more attention than what it's getting now. But if you have watched the news, I'm sure you've heard of this fan-fic turned published book that falls into the erotica classification and is credited with the development of the term "mommy porn" ::gag::. So anyway, the discussion got me kind of worked up. I didn't realize how strongly I felt about this until I started discussing it. Basically, this post is going to be a diatribe.
I won't get into the issues of intellectual property and fan fiction. I have feelings on those things, but that's not what has me worked up today. Today I am only going to talk about the quality of writing and how it is NOT entirely subjective and it's not about being nice and non-judgmental.
Here's the thing, Reader Friends. Not all books are well-written and not all books are worth reading. In regards to this particular book I have heard lots of people saying "well at least people are reading instead of watching tv". Or, "Well it's not my style, but if people like it, I don't judge." I judge, Reader Friends, and I judge hard. I definitely disagree with the idea that all reading is good reading AND with that idea that reading anything somehow intellectually trumps other forms of information.
The truth is, there is a standard for good writing. Not all successful books meet that standard. This book doesn't even come close. There's a reason we learn grammar and composition in school and if you have completed a high school education you should be able to see how many problems this book has in those areas. This doesn't mean I don't think you should read the book or that you can't enjoy it. There's a difference between reading brain candy and liking it, while recognizing the problems, and reading drivel and not knowing it.
Let's use the last movie I saw as an example - Snow White and the Huntsman. I sat through the whole thing, wanted to know what happened next, and was entertained. However, I can also admit that it was a terrible movie and willingly discuss its flaws. If I were to declare that Kristen Stewart is an amazing actress who deserves an Oscar for standing around with her mouth hanging open, you can and probably should question my ability to discern the difference between quality cinema and total crap.
So here's the thing. When I see someone say "Unnamed Book is the best book ever and the writing is great!" I think "Bless her little heart, she's never read a book before in her life because she obviously has no idea what the basic standards of writing are." And I think I'm entitled to think that. I'm also not going to agree that it's better than watching tv. Reading writing of that poor quality, especially if you can't tell it's poor quality, is not helping your brain. Go watch some TV - you'll probably learn more from that, especially if you're watching quality TV. At the very least you won't be un-learning the rules of grammar and composition that mark quality literature.
And if you claim to be a reader and also claim that the book is well-written, well then I'm beyond blessing your little heart. I'm questioning your intelligence. Yep, I said it. I'm not hating you or angry at your or thinking you're a bad person, I'm just thinking that you must be ignorant to the actual standards that exist for quality writing. Not just the standards for literary fiction, but the most basic, this-is-how-you-make-a-sentence standards.
So there you have it. This is probably the only time you'll ever hear me say it, but if you can't tell the difference between something that is (in your opinion, not mine) fun and sexy but terrible art and quality writing, then please go watch some TV. Don't read. And don't encourage your friends to read it either in hopes that it'll somehow lead them to quality books. It won't. It will just confuse them. For heaven's sake, give them Twilight if you have to because it at least has something resembling writing in it. But do not persist in claiming that reading absolute garbage will somehow improve people's tastes or that reading something terrible is better than reading nothing at all. And if you are going to read crap for entertainment only (which I do not judge you for, even though, seriously? MUST you buy this book?) at least be able to recognize that it is artistically worthless.