Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Does a book have to be entertaining in order to be good?

It's only been a few minutes since I finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which is not enough time to settle on how I feel about it. Why?

Because at times I felt like I was upon a work of unbridled genius, and at others I flipped the remaining pages with a groan of boredom. What struck me as confusing was that I couldn't pinpoint why I found it boring. Its plotline was mostly a spiral consisting of sex scenes, pseudophilosophical meanderings, weird but funny events, and more pseudophilosophical meanderings. It didn't spend an excess amount of pages on either of these ingredients, and I usually tend to enjoy any of 'em in appropriate quantities. And yet! I had to plough through its 300 or so pages, despite the exquisite pen with which it was written.

Objectively then, it's a good book. Perhaps great, if it weren't for the whiff of "I've read this elsewhere" that tainted my reading. And yet I can't say that I enjoyed it, not like I enjoyed Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels or Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Fifty. 

I don't have any good answers to the question that titles this post. Obviously an entertaining book is a better one, but is a tedious book immediately bad? (This would instantly invalidate nearly all of the Western canon, and I at least don't want Harold Bloom's ghost hunting me down for that.) What if it's sort of entertaining, but never quite "grabs" you? Is it your own bloody fault, for not having the cultured mind of someone who loves pretentiously titled novels?

What does the kind blog reader think?

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