Prufrock's Page

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Good Bad Books

One is again at Mumbai airport, gazing at ghastly pulp fiction at the bookshop. How appropriate, then, to chance upon Stephen Bayley's engaging piece on the merits of bad writing:

Alberto Manguel, Jorge Luis Borges's amanuensis, explained how the writer used to treasure terrible lines from literature. One was a character in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi who says, "We are merely the stars' tennis balls." Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights contains this shocker: "I had no desire to aggravate his impatience, previous to inspecting his penetralium."

Bad, it turns out, can be better than good and is always better than bad good, but good bad is perhaps the best of all (certainly the most entertaining). Beowulf has many qualities, but it is not a page-turner to rival The Da Vinci Code. This delicious confusion makes me feel, in Mark Twain's execrable expression, "as sweet and contented as an angel half-full of pie". By any test that can be devised, that's a really bad line.


  • Query: "Back at Mumbai Airport" means you're back from your long trip or going on another long trip? If the latter, please inform. I will visit the cyber cafe only once in a while.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:29 PM  

  • Went on another short trip. Back now. Visit away :)

    By Blogger PrufrockTwo, at 1:55 PM  

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