The Book Meme: Day 27

Day 27 - If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!

It's rare that I reject a prompt wholesale, but this is one of those instances. There is no way on earth I would commit to reading something just because it contains a certain trope or plot development or type of character. I don't say this because I have no favorite tropes or plot developments or types of character, but because those things can all be handled well or handled poorly. I'm not willing to waste my precious reading time on something that's being done poorly just because I've seen it done well before.

Example: do I love Tolkien? I do! Will I read anything that smacks of Tolkien purely because it DOES smack of Tolkien? Not anymore, because I read The Sword of Shannara and dear god help me even The Elfstones of Shannara before I realized that they were not merely incredibly derivative of Tolkien, but not very good. Heck, I haven't even read most of the History of Middle Earth books, which are basically all just editorial notes and unpublished bits of JRRT presented by his son Christopher.

Another example: I enjoy stories of transformation and have enjoyed a number of Jack L. Chalker's books because that's pretty much the only trope he uses (though a deep-seated dislike for political and religious absolutism also sneaks in regularly.) Does that mean I will read anything that involves transformation? No! In fact, I won't even read some things written by Chalker, including his final few Well World books (despite the fact that I loved the first few, especially Midnight at the Well of Souls) because they weren't very good.

Still another example: I deeply enjoy comic books about superheroes. Does that mean I will read any comic book with superheroes in it? No! Despite a near-lifetime fondness for the Legion of Super-Heroes and a collection containing everything from the X-Men to the Justice League to Invincible, I am acutely aware that many super hero comics suck like leeches mixed with vampire bats by B'wana Beast. (Read about him in DC Comics' Showcase #66, True Believers!) In fact, I was one of the notorious reviewers paid good American dollars to say terrible things about bad comic books by The Comics Journal. During my roughly three years of reviewing for TCJ, I raked any number of comics over the coals, including the X-Men, but I was most infamous for the raking of Wild Dog. This book about a low-budget Punisher-style gun-toting vigilante was dopey on basically every level, and by saying so I managed to get drawn into one of the Journal's not-especially-rare feuds with comics creators, in this case Wild Dog's writer, Max Allan Collins, Wild Dog's artist, Terry Beatty, and even Beatty's girlfriend. I still think the comic was a bad one, and I'm not sorry I criticized it, but looking back at the review that 24-year-old me wrote, I can't say I like much about my own work, either.

In short, there is nothing with which I am willing to fill this prompt's blank. I am a believer in Sturgeon's Law, usually rendered as "Ninety percent of everything is crap." It's true of music, of comics, and yes, of books. When you look for a good book, you must be aware of that ratio, and you must be willing to wade through the nine parts of drek to find the one part of enjoyment. I am willing--but I am also entirely unwilling to pretend something is not drek merely because it resembles something I often enjoyed. I like Tootsie Rolls, but I am aware that there are other things that strongly resemble Tootsie Rolls. I will not always eat them.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 2, 2018 10:26 PM.

The Book Meme: Day 26 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Book Meme: Day 28 is the next entry in this blog.

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