Previously, we have discussed the need to defend bad novels in general as well as the worth that bad novels have in providing worthwhile questions that deserve answers. It is important at this point to consider that there are still other grounds on which bad novels have some worth. It is not only that bad novels raise good questions that deserve good answers, but also that the existence of bad novels can reveal the preoccupations of a given place and time. This is worth exploring in detail, as the very plague of bad novels of certain kinds that exists is more useful than often meets the eye, as it can be said that the large supply of bad novels indicates the demand for such things. And while such a demand cannot exactly be praised, it should at least be understood. The more we understand, the more we can understand other people and ourselves and what motivates us.
From where I sit as I watch this, to my right there is a bookshelf crowded with books, and two sorts of books on the bookshelf (which is not mine) are especially instructive. On the one hand, there are a few novels here written by Louis L’Amour, various Westerns, some of which I have read and enjoyed, as I am fond of Westerns. Unfortunately, there is at present little demand for Westerns. While the frontier of the United States was officially closed in 1890, the internal development of the United States through railroads and road and air transportation took several more decades, and it was another seventy or eighty years after the official close of the frontier that Westerns ceased to be immensely powerful, as the problems and concerns that they dealt with were no longer in the mind of a large amount of Americans, to the point where now Westerns are of little interest at all to the general public.
On the other hand, I have near me a lot of bad novels of a different kind. Admittedly, the Western novels are not bad, but the same cannot be said for the suite of novels that purports to be focused on the revelation of end time prophecy. These novels reveal an audience that wants to speculate about prophecy and isn’t willing to let these sorts of things take care of themselves. This does imply, though, that there is an audience of people who want to read about Bible prophecy and fancy that they have themselves solved it through the speculations made by bad novelists. This has led to a wide variety of apocalyptic literature that purports to give certain speculative interpretations of Bible prophecy, including such atrocities as the Left Behind series. Again, though, this bad literature exists for a reason, and that is the curiosity of people and their desire to speculate about things they have no proper understanding of.
It is at this point that we ought to discuss among the largest sources of bad literature that exist, and that is fundamental drives that people have. For example, it is of little surprise that terrible romance novels are so common because of the way that love is such a major concern for humanity as a whole. Interestingly enough, the characteristic fears and longings of people helps to explain the way that genres gain and lose popularity, and why it is, for example, that we have dystopian fiction that live out our fears about the corruption and evil of governments. This suggests that bad fiction is not always bad in the same way–romance novels are bad in part because they give people terrible advice and counsel about how to deal with longings that we have to be loved, and dystopian fiction novels are bad in part because they exaggerate the sort of fears as well as feelings of being saviors that young people have. All of this ought to remind us even more that bad literature has its uses, and these uses are not always immediately straightforward to us.