What's worse - a bad book that makes you feel so passionately about it you're angry for days and days just thinking about the ending, or a mediocre book that slips from your memory almost immediately?
Once upon a time, when I was a less educated and critical reader than I am today, mediocrity hardly existed. When I was growing up, books generally fell into the camps of "books I love" and "books I hate", with very little in between. The more I read and grew and expanded my literary perception, the more I began to find a middle ground. I realized that I could like a book without it being good, and I realized a book could be good without necessarily enjoying one iota of it. The potential of a lukewarm response - for mediocrity, for ambivalence - suddenly arose.
It's been particularly bad this year. Besides the fact that I've read very few books this year (relatively speaking), I've noticed that few have stood out in any way, whether positively or negatively. There are some books I disliked and some books I quite liked, but nothing this year has evoked anywhere near the passion and excitement I felt after reading, say, Wolf Hall. Or The Golden Age. Or A Monster Calls, The Name of the Wind, even the absolute hatred I felt after reading In the Shadow of the Banyan or Across the Universe. Some books have been good, some have been bad. But I've been feeling utterly empty regarding most of them.
I don't like mediocrity. I don't like ambivalence. I like gaining something from the books I read, whether intellectually, emotionally, or imaginatively. I like my books to change me, for good or for bad. Books are supposed to leave an impact on their readers. A book that fails to do so is, in my mind, committing the greatest crime - worse than bad plotting, bad writing, or bad characterization will ever be. Because books need to matter.