Earlier this week we celebrated the two year anniversary of Bad Books, Good Times by answering your questions, but there were a lot and now here’s part two!
Questions About The Arts! We’ve Successfully Tricked You Into Thinking We’re Smart!
How do you feel about adapting literature (fanfiction or otherwise) into other formats, such as live adaptations, musicals, and fan comics?
Ariel says: I love that this is something people actually do. Clearly, there are things that will fail (remember that time someone turned a Twilight fanfic into a best selling, shitty-as-hell book? I guess that’s not everyone’s definition of a failure, but I consider it as such.), but then you get just like really fun, awesome things like A Very Potter Musical, which I just love. Anyway, I’m all for this!
Matthew says: For a more pretentious answer, I think it can be a really fun way to share in and enjoy a fresh take on mutually-enjoyed works in a community! It’s also a cool way for creatively-minded people to get exposure for their work, because there’s a built-in audience to appreciate the effort. I went to a fan-made musical adaptation of Predator once. It is a story surprisingly well-suited to a musical format.
You read a lot of YA and erotica on this blog. Are there any novels in those genres that you really like?
Matthew says: I definitely have a soft spot for YA. I recently read John Greene’s Looking For Alaska and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and they are absolutely among the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read. My favorite YA novel when I actually was a young adult, however, was Rob Thomas’s Rats Saw God. I read it in seventh grade and it’s basically a high school senior reflecting back on how his life turned to shit vis a vis his first love. It’s brutal and honest and scared the shit out of me in middle school. I’ve never seen Veronica Mars (Thomas’s better known work), but I wish more people talked about this book.
I got nothing to add for erotica. I’m sure there’s erotica of reasonable artistic merit out there somewhere – maybe the uncut version of Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, depending on whether I’m allowed to cheat and include film and depending on whether that would even count as erotica – but I don’t feel particularly much need to think more about sex, you know? (Fun braggy aside: I’m actually (slowly) working on a new piece for NPR’s Monkey See talking about Y Tu Mamá También vis a vis the Fifty Shades phenomenon.)
Ariel says: I haven’t read YA in ages, but as a whole I can appreciate the genre, and I still look back fondly on books I read when I was younger (and I was still picky then). Recently, I really loved The Hunger Games, and I think a lot of other people did too, but I’m not sure because no one seems to have given it a chance. Here’s hoping it gets its day in the sun sometime soon.
I don’t really read erotic novels besides what we do here on the blog, but I have been involved with fandoms in the past that had some really awesome erotic fanfiction (when my boyfriend reads this I’m going to get teased, but whatever, real talk), so I get pretty annoyed when Fifty Shades fans get all up in arms and tell me I’m just a prude for hating the series. LOLNO. I just have read better work that is sadly unpublished when this crap (remember Ana “detonating”?) has been published and consumed by many. Anyway, I firmly believe amazing work can be written in any genre.
What do you think best makes a work of art (including literary, film, or musical works) a “classic”? How do you personally define whether something is a “classic”? Conversely, what are your personal criteria for bad literature?
Ariel says: I think a book is a classic if enough English classes force students to read it. Forget something resonating emotionally with you personally, if it’s a fucking classic someone will aggressively and obnoxiously let you know. BECUZ THE LITERARY CANON.
The one thing I like is that having some books which everyone reads/is forced to read means that you can be pretty confident a joke about Shakespeare will be widely understood. I like the idea of a common pop culture language (not that there should only be one pop culture dialect or anything, but it’s nice to have some common ground that most people get when you reference.)
Matthew says: Dang, this is a lofty one! Well, there’s no way I can answer this without sounding super pretentious, so heads up. I personally feel like a work of art becomes “classic” when it captures some element of society and/or humanity in a such a way that it becomes similarly absorbed into the culture it was commenting on or reflecting an aspect of. So this works for both “high art” stuff like Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, and other stuff in the canon, as well, as, say, Star Wars or Mean Girls. Some combination of cultural resonance and quality, basically, as “quality” is both seen critically and socially constructed. To put it simply, have a lot of people liked it for a long time?
As for my criteria for bad literature, I feel it’s sort of the inverse. One of the things I’m always trying to do on the blog is really make it clear what makes these books “bad”, as opposed to just boring or unlikable. Bad literature doesn’t just not capture some element of society or the human condition, but it has to miss its mark so badly that it fails and says something else, something worse, something totally opposite instead. It would be one thing if Fifty Shades was a badly written love story about overcoming past emotional abuse (that could be a perfectly good story, and even have some value for people struggling with similar issues!), but what makes it “bad” is that it fails to do so so badly that it instead glorifies emotional abuse. So “bad” literature isn’t just poor quality, but such poor quality that it actually makes the world a worse place.
Because I already got off to a really pretentious start in this answer, I might as well go all out and end with an Oscar Wilde quote: “Bad artists always admire each others’ work.”
Is there a book all of your friends like that you just can’t stand?
Ariel says: The Time Traveller’s Wife. I remember I devoured this book, loved it at first…then I started talking about it in depth because I’d loved it so much, and then the more I talked about it, the more I hated all the characters, the more pretentious and obnoxious I found the whole thing. This was a long time ago, so I can’t get into more specifics (sorry if you are dying to know more because you love this book), but all I remember was fucking hating it eventually after I couldn’t stop thinking it had this sense of massive self-importance and smugness that I hated. Maybe I’ll read it again just so I can bitch about it more. The writing itself was very good, though, if I recall correctly.
Matthew says: Buzzfeed probably doesn’t count, does it? Hmm… it’s probably a stretch to say “all” my friends like them, but I think the Hunger Games sequels would fit right in with the books we read on this blog. [Ariel says: NO. Katniss > Zoey and Nora and all other teen “heroines” on our blog. But this just proves Matt’s answer is true.] (The Catching Fire film, however, was actually competently made and will 100% be the artistic high point of the entire Hunger Games franchise.)
And I know you specified “book”, but I really want to throw out my utter disdain for The Big Bang Theory and The IT Crowd. [Ariel says: WHAT THE FUCK THE IT CROWD?!??! DO I EVEN KNOW YOU?!??!?!? I feel like insanely homophobic parents must feel when their child comes out to them. My whole life has just been altered and you told me this in our two year anniversary post? That’s just fucked up.] Oh, and Katy Perry is my most hated “musician” of all time ever. In case you’re curious. I’M JUST FULL OF OPINIONS TODAY.
What are some YA/erotica/romance tropes/cliches that you personally detest? Any that you have a soft spot for?
Ariel says: I think it’s pretty clear I hate the romance trope of the man being this all powerful man who owns every establishment the female protagonist steps into and that he often uses this to stalk his
prey love interest. Romantically, of course. If it were a horror movie, you’d be concerned, but omg it’s totally fine because he’s so handsome and his heart is in the right place.
I have a soft spot for any love story done right. I don’t mind at all that most YA books (or books in generally) will have some sort of romantic relationship involved, I actually prefer that. I just want it to resonate with me and for me to believe in the relationship. I don’t care if cliches are involved as long as they’re done well and not just because it was easy/all the author knew.
Occasionally, I do have a soft spot for the male love interest seems like a jerk/cold/hard to reach at first, but then once you get to know him he’s a wonderful person. I think that can be really great! Not Christian Grey or Gideon Cross, though. Never. I’m sorry but Edward from Twilight’s “You smelled so good I just had to stay away and be mean to you!” was also not my cup of tea.
You’re all allowed to point and laugh at me when I say this, but I watch Once Upon a Time and I think it’s just ridiculous and fun and has the ability to not take itself seriously all the time, and one of my favorite things was that they made the Captain Hook character so wonderful. He was a total dick at first, but now he is wonderful and loves the main character and I root for them so hard. So hard, you guys. HOOK JUST WANTS EMMA TO BE HAPPY, GUYS. He’s just there for her and tries to help her save her family.
Matthew says: I have a love-hate relationship with the YA love triangle, just like how the characters in a YA love triangle have a love-hate relationship with each other.
Questions About Life, Because Apparently We Appear To Be Trustworthy People
I’m graduating from high school next month. Any college advice for me?
Matthew says: Keep an open mind! It’s great to learn more about things you already know you like (and are presumably majoring in), but it’s just as important to find other things you never knew about. Reflecting on what was probably most useful during my own college experience, I’d say don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes you learn your best lessons about how to be a better you from when you’re the most of a mess.
And always have Clorox wipes around. You are always three seconds away from suddenly having to clean something.
Ariel says: Your best friends from your first year won’t always be your best friends the second year (or third or fourth), and that’s okay! You will meet lots of awesome people, and you will meet some shitty ones. Never ever be afraid to distance yourself from the shitty ones because you need to take care of you. Life is too short for the poisonous people who drain you, and there are too many incredible people out there to focus your energy on. [Matthew says: This is really, really good advice. Ariel’s got this, yo.]
Also, gatorade really helps a hangover. The light blue flavour. Life elixir, I swear. [Matthew says: wtf Ariel why did you never share this information with me WHEN WE WERE IN COLLEGE?]
Pepsi or coke?
Ariel says: Both. Everyone yells at me when I say this, but I have no preference. If I’m willing to drink one at any given time, I would be equally willing to drink the other.
Matthew says: I’ve actually managed to cut soda out of my other awful habits! But to answer your question… Dr. Pepper. [Ariel says: You just keep dropping these bombs on me, Matt. Who even likes Dr. Pepper? I thought its continued existence was just the worst and longest practical joke of all time. I accidentally got it from a vending machine the other week and nearly died from how nasty it was.] [Matthew adds: Ariel, Dr. Pepper is far and away the best soda! THE BLOG IS OVER.]
Questions About Dogs! Guys, More Of These Next Year!
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO PLOT PUPPY? Enquiring minds need to know!
Matthew says: WEIRDLY ENOUGH, we gathered from the comments that a few blog readers are under the impression that Kara adopted plot puppy, either seriously or as the equivalent of jamming your fingers in your ears and going “la la la la la”. Even though we never actually found out what happened to plot puppy (because plot puppy served its purpose in the plot and Jamie McGuire just kinda stopped), we seem to have collectively created a sort of BBGT alternate canon. For example, nobody remembers plot puppy’s name was actually Toto. Isn’t that weird?
Ariel said: Given we were just talking about fan adaptations above, I think someone should write the epic story of Kara and plot puppy, because it sounds beautiful.
Matt, I read that you grew up with a sheltie. I too have a sheltie, but what are your thoughts on CORGIS?
Matthew says: I’m gonna cut right to the chase here – all dogs are friggin’ sweet. At the moment my personal favorite/”maybe someday…” dog is a Pomsky, which is a mix between a Pomeranian and an Alaskan Husky. They basically look like fluffy Alaskan Huskies. I’m pretty sure Ariel has some rather passionate views on Corgis, specifically, however.
Ariel says: I like corgis a lot, but I too love Pomskies! Is that how you spell the plural? My friend sent me pictures on facebook and I was melting. Finally, Matt and I found common ground. [Matthew adds: The blog can continue. Phew.] I actually also adore just regular Pomeranians and Pugs and Semoyeds and Newfoundlands. But my personal favourite are Havenese because that’s what my dog is <3 Omg I just love dogs.
Questions About The Blog, AKA This Thing We’re Incredibly Happy You’ve Been Reading For Two Years
How do you pick the next BBGT book out of what I’m sure is a list of bad books rivaling the size of Santa’s naughty list?
Ariel says: Readers of the blog have made some awesome suggestions, and we have a shelf that’s growing on our Goodreads page, which I need to be better about updating. I also subscribe to Bookbub, and while they often have deals on good books, they also offer a lot of hilariously shitty books for free that I glance through from time to time. Feel free to add stuff to the bookshelf on Goodreads, it helps us keep track of all the crap out there!
Matthew says: You’d think we’d maybe do actual research, read the books and test them, but we basically work entirely off of bad word of mouth, amazingly enough. Every time we start a new book, I’m worried this will bite us in the ass, but it’s always been an unreadable piece of shit! Which isn’t really much better.
Has a book ever gotten so bad that you seriously questioned humanity for writing/publishing/loving it?
Matthew says: That’s literally the entire blog 🙁
Ariel says: Look at us agreeing all the time again! This post really turned around.
Honestly, what is the worst scene in any of the books you’ve read? (“Worst” relative to your reaction to it, not necessarily if it was the worst-written scene or whatever) Best scene?
Ariel says: It’s been awhile, but I remember after Eva tells Gideon about her past sexual abuse, she’s mad that he’s not lusting after her, and they have sex, and it was really uncomfortable to read. Especially given initially Day had impressed both Matthew and myself with how she handled the reveal. There’s also this line: “I feel you getting ready to come. Your cunt gets so hot and tight, so greedy.” So theres that.
I loved every single damn cave tour we went on with Uncle Jeb in The Host.
Matthew says: Worst scene is a seriously daunting question, but I’m probably going to have to go with a classic: the first sex scene in Fifty Shades of Grey. We’ve read many terrible scenes for this blog, but that first sex scene holds a special place in my heart for being the first time we gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back and said, “Holy cow!”
Strangely, the best scene for me also comes from Fifty Shades of Grey, because I still think Ana giving Christian the model hang-glider for his birthday was really cute. Even if it happened in Fifty Shades of Grey.
What is the most annoying “big misunderstanding” in any of the books you’ve read?
Matthew says: Does the entirety of Reflected in You count as a big misunderstanding? It should, because the entire plot was, “Oh, I thought you were being cold and distant, but you were actually just lying to me about planning to murder my stepbrother! What a wacky misunderstanding!”
Ariel says: Yes!! Totally counts because I thought the same thing. Same brain forever. [Matthew says: LONG LIVE THE BLOG.]
What novel would you most like to see told from the POV of a minor character (e.g., Beautiful Disaster from Kara’s POV, The Host from the cave’s POV, etc.)?
Ariel says: KARA!!!! The cave from The Host would also be amazing, but probably just consist of, “Sigh, another cave tour going on in me again…Jesus.”
Matthew says: Well, the obvious joke answer here is that I’d like to see Fifty Shades of Grey from the point of view of Christian Grey’s penis [Ariel says: Yes. A thousand yesses.], but I actually think that House of Night could be genuinely interesting and unique from Zoey’s mom’s perspective. Think about it! It would be an already underrepresented mother-daughter story that could have commentary on feminism and gender roles, religion, and her estranged daughter’s vampirism could be a metaphor for all kinds of thoughtful things! You know, if a competent writer wrote it.
Which of the books would make the “best” film adaptation? The worst?
Matthew says: I hate to say it (although it’s not like I wouldn’t hate to say any of these books…) but I bet Beautiful Disaster would be much improved by the editing and time constraints required of a film adaptation. Out of the books we’ve read, it probably comes the closest to having developed characters (even if they’re all terrible) and a narrative arc. The book worst-suited for a film adaptation would unquestionably be Fifty Shades of Grey. Ironically. There isn’t enough substance in terms of character, plot, narrative pacing, or literally anything that would translate into the “shit you have to stare at” medium of film. I eagerly anticipate the day the Fifty Shades movie inevitably winds up on Wikipedia’s List of Films Considered The Worst and Ariel and I can say, “Uh… yeah…”
Ariel says: Yeah, and we’re going to ride that gravy train. Blogging our little hearts out about that shitty film. You know, I think House of Night‘s redeeming feature could be that Zoey’s horrible and constant asides won’t be in any film adaptation. They’re so distracting and detract from the story 99% of the time. Removing those won’t suddenly create a plot, but it would be an improvement!
Not including the Goosebumps or Magic Treehouse books, if you had to pick the “best” book out of what you’ve read so far, what would it be? (if “best” is too much of a stress, than the “one that would give me the least amount of pain if I had to re-read it”)
Ariel says: I really can’t make up my mind. I wouldn’t want to re-read any of these at all. Whatever the shortest one was?
Matthew says: Oh God, they’re all so awful. I’m sobbing just contemplating this. Probably either Walking Disaster, because I could at least get some fleeting, shameful entertainment out of a trashy read, or the first House of Night, because at least it would be over really quickly.
What book/series have you enjoyed blogging about the most so far?
Ariel says: I had so much fun doing The Disasters. I loved getting to read Travis’ awful perspective without having to read the book, and it was fun seeing which scenes McGuire chose to include or leave out from each book. Provided a lot of laughs!
Matthew says: Probably Fifty Shades. For a repetitive, three-book series, it was somehow constantly coming up with new ways to be stupider. At least it was always a wealth of good material for scathing mockery! The first House of Night might be a close second, though. It’s so inane and inconsistent, it reads like the result of a drunk high school girls’ game of telephone.
If all the heroines from the books you’ve read had to fight to the death with only one left standing, who would be victorious?
Matthew says: Depends. If this was an all-out, battle royale fight to the death, probably Crossfire‘s Eva. Most of them would pretty much take themselves out, and here’s how I see it going down. Fifty Shade’s Ana and Hush, Hush‘s Nora wouldn’t have the mental capacity to understand what was going on, so they’d be taken out really quickly. Pamela would let her guard down by stopping to write a letter about what was going on, and The Host’s Wanderer would die immediately in an act of heavy-handed self-sacrifice trying to save her. Magic Tree House‘s Annie would sprint headfirst into a dangerous situation and wouldn’t last very long either. You might think that House of Night‘s Zoey would get pretty far into this with her vampyre powers, but so far her vampyre powers are, like, grooming horses and talking to cats. Beautiful Disaster‘s Abby would be targeted early on for wearing a cardigan, but would probably get rid of it in the first two minutes and then become a different character entirely and might put up a decent fight. But really it all comes down to this: Eva is the only character who ever learned how to fight. ALTERNATIVELY, were this a one-on-one tournament kinda deal, Zoey would win hands down, because everyone would kill themselves after listening to her talk for a few minutes.
Ariel says: I can’t even follow that up, it’s too accurate. All I know is, if Matt had his way and The Hunger Games was on this blog, Katniss would kick all of their asses. [Matthew adds: WORD. Katniss is a fucking boss.]
What would you say if the author of one of these books admitted to reading this blog? What advice would you give them?
Ariel says: Depends which author it is! It’s okay not to have your characters have the same argument a thousand times in each book. It’s okay to have a plot. It’s a good idea to have characters with more depth than “he’s gay and uses big words.” Or it’s okay not to write a creepy romantic lead
Matthew says: This is such a wonderful question! I honestly do wonder if any of the authors have stumbled across our blog, but I guess that most of them probably don’t go poking around on the internet for scathing criticism (except for Jamie McGuire). I’d basically just hope they at least have a good sense of humor about it!
As for what advice I would give them, wow, no one man should have all that power. Having previously worked as a tutor in my college’s writing center, my advice would basically boil down to, “Get an editor”. And I don’t mean the yes men working with the Casts on House of Night, either. An editor helps you figure out what you want your work to say, and whether what you’ve written actually says that. If there’s any one, simple, recurring problem with all of the books we’ve read on this blog, it’s that no one was telling these authors that not all their ideas were good ones.