When Good Writers Write Bad Books

I recently finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

I love Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles are in my top 20 for sure. His short stories are great. I teach Sound of Thunder and The Pedestrian to my ELA classes every year. He’s a great writer.

So imagine my surprise when Something Wicked This Way Comes was a turd.

Ok. It wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t enjoy reading it, and I really, really wanted to. He uses this elaborate, flowery literary style to write what is basically a Goosebumps book about evil carnies and it just doesn’t work. It’s like he couldn’t tone down his genius to accommodate the plot. A plot about a carousal that makes people super old or super young doesn’t need seven pages of dissertation on the philosophy behind Good and Evil.

In the midst of my slogging through the book, Harper Lee died and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her knowing that a vast majority of people despised her sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. In all fairness, making Atticus a raging racist was probably not the best way to go. Part of me thinks she died just as a means of escaping the criticism.

Great writers tend to be blown up to god-like proportions to those in the literary community. It’s easy to forget they were just flesh and blood human beings. They made mistakes. They wrote books that amounted to turd sandwiches. Hemingway wrote lousy novels. My favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote lots (by his own admission and grading scale). It happens. You’re not going to hit a homerun every time at bat.

It is strangely comforting as a writer to know that the Greats failed, too. They struggled. They took the wrong path. Maybe I just have to get all the turd sandwiches out of the way before I write my classic that will live on in infamy…until I write the sequel fifty years later that sucks ass.

I look forward to disappointing that many people at once. Usually I have to do it one person at a time. This will be quicker.

So here’s to writers and their worst works. We must love all our children, even the ugly ones.

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~ by themoderntranscendentalist on February 29, 2016.

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