Thursday, April 26, 2007

bad literature

Over the course of the last few years I have read a lot of books, unsurprisingly, considering i do an english degree. A lot of what I read is, as you'd hope, really very good; it makes you think, laugh, cry, and fart. There is, however, a significant amount of the stuff I've had to read that is rubbish. I mean really unreadable shite.

This unreadable shite heap can be divided up into two distinct types:

The first category is stuff that I didn't like, but I'm not willing to discount the possiblity that it has some literary merit that I'm completely missing for some reason or other. In this category I put the stuff too complicated and pretentious for me to be able to understand (James Joyce's Ulysses, Ezra Pound's Cantos) and the stuff that might have some great merit but, due to its soporific dullness, I've never actually managed to finish (Most Victorian Novels, Anything by Wordsworth). This is by far the biggest of the two categories, probably making up about 90% of the stuff that I didn't like at university.

Ther other, much smaller category, is stuff that is just plain bad. This category is one which, considering that most of the time I'm studying works from the literary cannon, you wouldn't expect to exist at all. There are, nonetheless, periods of literature when writers were so focused on a particular mode of literary expression (19th century england's obsession with the novel, for example) that scholars of other kinds of literature are forced to really scrape the barrel looking for decent examples of their craft. Anyone who has had to read what passed for theatrical drama in the mid victorian era, or post romantic poetry will understand my pain.

The thing that has sparked this train of thought was reading the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I don't know whether they included the poetry in the anthology out of a sense of completeness, or because, having included her husband, they felt they had to include her too (like asking a friend with a boring girlfriend to a party) but either way, her poetry is really terrible.

if you don't belive me read this

I think that she should be put up there with such immortals as William Topaz McGonagall