On purpose. I mean, really, who was I kidding with that last one? Even if that Dracula sequel didn’t qualify as good junk food reading, I was going to grind that mother out. Did I pick it up out of morbid curiosity? Not entirely. I can’t even say I read it out of a masochistic urge. It was simply a practice I describe to other people as cleansing the palate.
Because I’ve had it too good, maybe. A solid series of books where the worst of them is still decent… it’s too easy to take quality for granted. I honestly think throwing a stinker in there will heighten my sensitivity to the quality work, raise my appreciation.
But I have to admit that “cleansing the palate” isn’t the right phrase. Dracula the Un-Dead wasn’t a neutralizing taste so much as a mouthful of dirty pennies.
Here’s a more relatable idea: have you ever read lousy literature that raised your spirits with the thought, “Gosh, does this mean I can publish something, too?” And that inspiration doesn’t last long because what quickly follows, you know, is the realization that it also means you live in a world where textual composte can pass for art. How good do you feel now?
Sometimes I like that complicated feeling there, but for me it’s about the first thing I mentioned. It’s the noxious tang of a bad book, a pouch of smelling salts that starts me back awake when strings of goodness threaten to lull me under.