Beth, Slayer of Foley, has nailed it on the head with her take on what constitutes good writing vs. bad writing vs. writing you love.
It’s funny that she used the food analogy, because I’ve done the exact same thing, only I used Doritos instead of Little Debbie cakes. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Doritos, and there’s also nothing wrong with not particularly enjoying high-falutin’ food that requires fresh ingredients and a modicum of skill to make. But to say that the two are equivalent is, I think, a somewhat muddle-headed thing to do. In terms of hateration, The Stone Diaries incites a similar intensity of feeling in me that Desire’s Blossom does, but I reserve the title of Worst Book of All Time for Desire’s Blossom, because frankly? It’s impossible to be worse than THE WORST BOOK OF ALL TIME. The Stone Diaries exhibited skill and a certain coherence despite its non-linearity, while Desire’s Blossom exhibited all the skill and coherence of a drunk midget trying to run the 100m hurdles at the Olympics.
And to stretch the food analogy even further:
Sometimes you can acknowledge that the dish is really, really good, and you would’ve loved it—except there was cilantro in it, and you know, gaaaaaah cilantro PUKE. You might learn to love cilantro down the line, or encounter a chef might so skillful in her cilantro usage that she creates a singular dish, The Only Dish With Cilantro You’ve Ever Enjoyed, but by and large, cilantro = death to your tastebuds.
And you look at people who will consume whole sandwiches consisting almost entirely of cilantro, and you cringe in horror, but at the same time, you can acknowledge that a cilantro sandwich made with freshly-baked home-made bread is NOT in the same league as Doritos or Little Debbie.
Or, conversely, your hatred of cilantro is so all-encompassing that anything with cilantro in it = crap and a danger to good nutrition and a moral society as we know it, the end. I’d disagree with that view, even if I dislike cilantro, too, because dude: it’s just cilantro.
And then there are other dishes that are made with skill and the finest ingredients, but they kind of piss you off because you don’t get the point of this particular mingling of flavors. These dishes are usually entirely too fond of their own cleverness and innovation, like the chi-chi platters you get at upscale fusion restaurants that don’t put dollar signs before their prices in the menu, like so:
Sardines broiled in a raspberry compote, served on a bed of raw oysters and drizzled with rice wine reduction 85
And you look at it and think “what in the hell,” but dayum, look at all the people slurping up the raspberry sardines on raw oysters around you, apparently enjoying their meals. So you think OK, I’ll try this, how bad can it be, and you do, and IT’S EVEN WORSE THAN YOU’D IMAGINED IT’D BE. It’s not just death to your tastebuds, it’s death by dysentery.
Or, maybe you love it, and you’re telling all your friends about this crazy dish, and they tell you to stop hitting the crack pipe so hard before heading out for overpriced fusion cuisine but you swear up and down that it’s GOOD, it’s not just the hype.
Anyway, now that I’ve beaten that particular analogy to a bloody, whimpering pulp…. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to tip your servers.