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Bring on the Bad Reads

By January 10, 2013Blog

At what point in our literary history did it become desirable to devour books, gobble them up, or have them go down smoothly? When did the idea of a “good read” come to connote something blandly palatable, soothing and diversionary? (Here, see Kirsty Gunn, who has written a great piece for The Guardian about “the terrible rigor mortis of the phrase that is ‘a good read’.”)

Perhaps it’s time to make a case for the “bad read.” (I can see it now: a mirror site for goodreads. It would feature all those terribly demanding books that have dared take us to the frontier of the familiar. Catch-22, Pastoralia, Slaughterhouse-Five, 1Q84, Sexing the Cherry, The Accidental…) Yes, bring on the bad reads. Bring on those lousy good-for-nothing novels that embrace novelty, possibility, and surprise. Let’s hear it for god-awful fiction that believes anything can happen—that captures the weird, the awkward, the complicated, the downright bizarre…in all its ghastly glory.

(Excerpted from a guest post in which I discuss the value of literary estrangement and one of my favorite Canadian writers…with thanks to the good people at the 49th Shelf.)

Image: Olaf Hayek