Bad writing: What is it good for?

Laura Miller in Salon:

Stormy Earlier this year, the American Book Review published a feature in which assorted authorities (mostly academics) cited their examples of “bad books.”

Some of the titles picked (on) are widely considered classics, from “The Great Gatsby” and “All the Pretty Horses” to Richard Yates' “Revolutionary Road.” A few readers were indignant about those choices, but the majority responded with glee; everybody feels he or she has been tricked or forced into reading an unjustly celebrated book and longs for the opportunity to rant about it.

Still other books are so universally derided that they endear themselves. The stupendously lousy poetry of Sir William Topaz MacGonagall (1825-1902) remains in print while the works of dozens of Pulitzer winners languish in obscurity. You can even subscribe to a service that will e-mail you a sample from his execrable “Poetic Gems” every day.

In the early 20th century, dinner party guests would entertain each other by reciting passages from the alliteration-heavy works of one Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), regarded by experts as the greatest bad novelist of all time. In Oxford, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and their friends competed to see who could read aloud from Ros' books the longest before cracking up.

More here.