In Praise of Bad Taste

Lindsay Soladz in Bookforum:

Tackiness, it would seem, has always been in the eye of the beholder—a disapproving audience, real or imagined, clicking their proverbial tongues. They usually judge from the other side of some perceived divide, whether cultural, socioeconomic, or generational. “I always thought of tacky as my mother’s word,” Rax King writes at the beginning of her spirited new essay collection .Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer (Vintage, $16). She can still describe with stinging clarity the first time her mother flung the insult at her: she was eight years old, dressed in a puff-painted and bedazzled T-shirt she’d made with a friend so that they’d have something to wear when performing a song-and-dance routine at the elementary school talent show. (The song? An unnamed jig by the ’90s Irish girl group B*Witched, naturally.) “It occurred to me that being tacky was, in some sense, the opposite of being right,” King writes, reconsidering that formative moment two decades later. But even then, beneath the shame triggered by her mother’s laughter, she felt the illicit, hedonistic allure of the tacky: “Why should I put all that work into being right when the alternative was so much more fun?”

More here.