Shit Taste and Paranamanco

Shit Taste and Paranamanco

Disliking many of the short stories in The Big Book of Science Fiction made me wonder if maybe I have shit taste. After all, nearly all of them are award-winning or era-defining or represent the national sci-fi archetype or have some other pedigree. If other people thought they were so good that they awarded them the highest award in the land, what am I missing? Do I not have the experience to appreciate what is good about this story?

The story which prompted this article is Paranamanco, by Jean-Claude Dunyach. I mentioned it in the introduction to this analysis series as an example of a story whose premise I loved, but whose execution I absolutely hated. I initially wanted to write an article which would tear the story in half, surgically exploring why I hated it so much. I even wrote a short outline and picked a photo for the article. I’ve started over, turning the original analysis into a mild ramble.

My conundrum is this: Shouldn’t I like this story? It’s objectively good. Should I acquire a taste for the types of things I don’t like about it, because if the story is objectively good, I will then be able to enjoy other good stories with the same elements as well? Does having good taste mean that I enjoy good writing, or does it mean that I appreciate good writing?

I didn’t think to ask these questions until I watched a Digibro After Dark video. It pertains to anime analysis (I watch a lot of anime analysis videos), but I think it makes a point that can be used across all mediums of art criticism. His argument in a nutshell seems to be, “Something that is objectively good is good because it meets the criteria of what the consensus deems is good.” In other words, what people say is good, is good, no matter if they are the highest literary critic in the land or a teenage keyboard warrior who once took a creative writing class.

I have a confession. I love the Twilight series. Please don’t unsubscribe. I read the books, loved them, found out I was supposed to hate them for their shit writing, dutifully hated them, and then chilled out and decided to accept my shit taste. Why do I like the series? The books hit most of the things I like in writing. On a macro level, the story and writing work well enough that it’s enjoyable. On a micro level, where critique bends over with its magnifying glass, it falls apart. I would be lying if I said that a work that I enjoyed wasn’t good, because it must be good if I enjoyed it— enjoyment being one of the most important, if not the most important, criteria of what is considered good. Conversely, Paranamanco hits most of the things I hate in writing. The style in which it’s told, the type of narrator, and the excessive dialog is not my cup of tea. The story itself, the world, I love. I appreciate its craft, but I don’t enjoy it.

I guess this means having good taste means enjoying things that are conventionally considered good. In the case of Twilight, the literary world has done the critical equivalent of putting a copy in all the train station urinals in NYC. It has formally proclaimed, “This isn’t good.” But if so many people have enjoyed it, how can it not be good? I’m getting off topic to defend my taste. Twilight isn’t the point.

I guess I’m saying, like what you like. Don’t like what you don’t like. It’s fine.


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