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When its Godawful. (1 Viewer)

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Olly Buckle

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I was reading Lucky's thread about re-writing when it's Godawful and I thought, partly it depends on why it's Godawful. That made me think one man's Godawful can be another man's really readable, loads of people like Andy McNab, I don't even try reading them. It's the same reaction that means I saw the first James Bond movie when it came out and never bothered watching another, I think they are Godawful, and I know I am in a minority. but so must lots of other people be about lots of other things.

So what does 'Godawful' mean, is it purely personal taste, or are there any universal standards we can apply ? How can we tell if what we write is good or Godawful ? Is it simply that one leaves us emotional and in tears as we type and the other leaves us feeling sick, and disgusted with our inability, when we read it? Or should we rely on reactions we get from others which might be a little more objective? On the other hand they might be coming from those who think 'Shane' the ultimate in fiction :(
 

escorial

WF Veterans
I don't mind writing godawfull stuff and leaving it posted...when I go back I can recall why and under what circumstances I wrote it....embrace godawfull and if someone tells you it isn't then keep at it an if they agree then keep going...
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Godawful means: no voice; uninteresting or cookie-cutter characters rendered poorly; confusing; doesn't focus on what the reader cares about (if anything, since we're talking about "godawful" literature here); jams the author's opinions down your throat; wooden dialogue; massive blocking errors.
 

Olly Buckle

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Patron
No voice is a very personal judgement, uninteresting to one is interesting to another, cookie-cutter characters rendered poorly are the very stuff of successful soap operas, I stoped watching Dark Materials because I found it confusing, and what doesn't focus on what one reader cares about is probably right up another's street, similarly if it jams the author's opinions down your throat you probably wouldn't be reading him unless they were opinions you share in the first place. Even wooden dialogue can be effective, Enid Blyton sold books by the shed load. "With lashings of ginger beer."

Is it just what's seen as Godawful at the moment? Wordsworth thought this was great, Noel Coward thought it hilarious and adapted it , I think it is Godawful.

Felicia Hemans
The stately homes of England.



THE stately Homes of England,
How beautiful they stand!
Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
O'er all the pleasant land.
The deer across their greensward bound
Thro' shade and sunny gleam,
And the swan glides past them with the sound
Of some rejoicing stream.


The merry Homes of England!
Around their hearths by night,
What gladsome looks of household love
Meet in the ruddy light!
There woman's voice flows forth in song,
Or childhood's tale is told,
Or lips move tunefully along
Some glorious page of old.

The blessed Homes of England!
How softly on their bowers
Is laid the holy quietness
That breathes from Sabbath-hours!
Solemn, yet sweet, the church-bell's chime
Floats thro' their woods at morn;
All other sounds, in that still time,
Of breeze and leaf are born.


The Cottage Homes of England!
By thousands on her plains,
They are smiling o'er the silvery brooks,
And round the hamlet-fanes.
Thro' glowing orchards forth they peep,
Each from its nook of leaves,
And fearless there the lowly sleep,
As the bird beneath the eaves.

The free, fair Homes of England!
Long, long, in hut and hall,
May hearts of native proof be rear'd
To guard each hallow'd wall!
And green for ever be the groves,
And bright the flowery sod,
Where first the child's glad spirit loves
Its country and its God! *
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I do not like that poem either. I'm guessing you would have to have seen the "stately homes of England" as they existed during the early 1800's for the nostalgia to make sense. It probably just didn't age well.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Then some writers/ poets are famous *because* they're so bad. William McGonagall is one such poet. He has the reputation of being one of the worst poets in the English language. Here's one of his poems and you can judge it for yourselves. The poem tells about a bridge collapse in Scotland in 1879 as a train was passing over it. All on board were lost.

The Tay Bridge Disaster
by William Topaz McGonagall

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say-
"I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay."

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers' hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov'd most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

(His poem on Edinburgh is just as bad. But McGonagall's famous and I never will be. And truth be told, I kind of like him for believing he was a fine poet.)
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
If I correctly recall info from a course I once took, Shakespeare is one whose work has come in and out of fashion. Some eras thought he was great while other eras didn't share that opinion.

At one time editors rejected Hemingway's work because they didn't see his work as stories-- he was ahead of their time. Then one day the world caught on and named him great.

So many judgements, so little time . . .
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Being famous 'for being bad' is a different thing, in my opinion. Artists renowned for being poor are still poor, it is simply that their incompetence becomes a source of black comedy. That would be your William McGonagall, Ed Wood, Tommy Wiseau, EL James types. I don't think any sane person would call these people anything other than Godawful, but they may still be enjoyable because they are seen as funny and/or a kind of middle finger to the establishment. Essentially, their work becomes a kind of post-modern or even nihilist statement. Everything is meaningless anyway, so we might as well forge our own meaning (post-modern) or make it REALLY meaningless (nihilism). Not that most such creators are in any way visionaries in that sense, but they are fortunate enough to chance upon a few admirers and become a kind of cult thing to be read out drunk at dinner parties or whatever.

But then, additional to that, we have this layer of artists who are, in many respects, a bit shitty but that are sufficiently unique and/or likeable enough 'on the page' that their lack of ability can be come a kind of style in itself, depending wholly on who you ask and when you ask it. Who would that include? Hemingway, comes to mind for sure. The Marquis De Sade, probably. Picasso, probably. William S. Burroughs and his cut-up stuff. A lot of painting that gets labeled as 'art naive'. A lot of other modern art and sculptures. A lot of writing that gets labeled as 'experimental' or 'surreal' or 'absurdist' or, ugh, 'avant garde'. We're talking Christopher Walken's acting; Tiny Tim's soprano singing; Andy Kaufman's comedy. Brutalist architecture. Warhol? Stuff that always creates strong reactions either for or against. Often, with a slight popular lean toward 'this is godawful' but with a small and loud brigade of fans who will swear up and down It Is Wonderful, creating a kind of impasse into which the work becomes Iconic.

I would consider ee cummings in this category. Already I can hear the knives come out, and that's fine. It's fine to disagree. The automatic response is 'there is no such thing as objectively good X, you know' and because we all know these are fundamentally quite personal attachments. It is hard (and, frankly, unnecessarily churlish) to argue against somebody who receives an emotional response from a poem like this. To tell them that this isn't, in fact, work of the utmost genius...

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

^ Now, look, I'll say it again: This is fine. It's perfectly okay to like this sort of writing. Liking it does not make you an idiot or anything. But if you tell me that the merits of ee cummings achieve similar consensus-of-acclaim to the likes of Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth, I am snorting most snobbishly because, darling, it just isn't so.

Cummings poetry -- much of it, anyway -- obviously doesn't have the same mastery of meter, of imagery, as most 'good poetry' does. Like Hemingway, his language is basic. Like Burroughs, it is bordering on nonsensical cut-up. The meaning is, at best, obscure and, at worst, very simplistic and silly. It is also very short. Not much 'there' there. How can I live inside such a poem? What I am saying is, you could tell me a ten year old wrote this and, not knowing better, I would absolutely believe you.

Consider that you simply cannot do that with a lot of classical poetry. Or even actually most mainstream, popular modern poetry. I think most people, certainly most laypeople, to the extent they care about poetry at all, don't want nine lines of weird. You put this cummings poem up for a vote for 'Nation's Favorite Poem' and I'll put money that it won't crack the top 100, probably not even the top 1000. It isn't Wilfred Owen. It isn't Tennyson. It isn't Dylan Thomas. It isn't Oscar Wilde. It isn't Browning or even Ginsburg. It isn't even Sylvia Plath. This is weird stuff. This sort of thing is, to many boring old cretins (who, like it or not, have a controlling stake here) sort of 'Godawful', yeah.

But that's okay! It's okay because, for those who like it, it carries an emotional value and, at the end of the day, that is what matters in writing. It's trying to do something new and succeeding. It deserves credit for that. It deserves acceptance and a place in the canon. However, yes, we must also be halfway rational and admit that this sort of thing has limits when assessed academically and culturally and the reason it belongs in the canon it is mostly because it is unique and experimental far more than because it is something that most of us ill-educated proles want etched on their headstone or read out at their grandfather's funeral or the other avenues in which 'good poetry' tends to touch mainstream consciousness.

It's just harder to advocate for this type of writing as being good, much less 'the greatest of all time', than it tends to be for, say, Percy Shelley...you know? I think we can call this godawful...if we want to.
 
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BornForBurning

Senior Member
Speaking as a writer (not a poet, because I am terrible at poetry) part of the reason McGonagall's work is so terrible is it comes across as trite. He writes about a horrific disaster in the same tone you'd use to read off a child's nursery rhyme. So it's either the worst kind of mockery, or just utterly failing in its intended purpose. Aka immoral or incompetent. Two things that art should never be.
 

Olly Buckle

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Patron
I do not like that poem either. I'm guessing you would have to have seen the "stately homes of England" as they existed during the early 1800's for the nostalgia to make sense. It probably just didn't age well.

No. She lived in Boston, US and had never been to England, it's not distance in time, it is ill informed rubbish. "The cottages of England in thousands on her plains." is about America, not England. We have got Sailsbury Plain, I can't think of any others bigger than about an acre or so, it is practically uninhabited. She wrote reams of this stuff about freedom loving sturdy Swiss peasants and such. God knows what Wordsworth was thinking of to praise it, it is out and out crap, maybe he fancied her :)

On the other hand I quite like the one about the Tay bridge disaster, it deals with reality and if you read it aloud it has got something.
 

midnightpoet

WF Veterans
I suppose you have to wonder, if it was so godawful, how did it get published? I remember reading a book by Bill Pronzini about the old hard-boiled writers of the past saying basically they were often so ridiculous as to provide the reader with some amusement. Of course, back in the 20's and 30's if the editors thought it could sell, print it. Not sure it's much different now.:joker:
 

Matchu

Senior Member
Ingredients for a Godawful, chapter 1

- Sunlight streams through the window, shadows bounce across furniture. Our character yawns, her breasts are wonderful, she considers as she rises for breakfast.
- Dust motes continue to dance in the sunlight of the bedroom.
- She opens the curtain with a tendril.
- Walks to the lavatory like a marionette.

ummm...
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I put up a new video today that I really don't know about, there are 11 minutes of it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afcsx3JF3sc and it could be really good or it could be godawful, I am honestly unsure. It has lots of the qualities associated with Godawful, the characters are not developed, the plot is pretty non-existent, the setting is vague. I like it, but maybe that's just bias.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Speaking as a writer (not a poet, because I am terrible at poetry) part of the reason McGonagall's work is so terrible is it comes across as trite. He writes about a horrific disaster in the same tone you'd use to read off a child's nursery rhyme. So it's either the worst kind of mockery, or just utterly failing in its intended purpose. Aka immoral or incompetent. Two things that art should never be.

I think this is an underrated point. I dismissed it at first because there are examples of flippant writing about bad things that are not awful (gory, gory what a helluva way to die) but, having given it more thought, I'm thinking that the perception of humanity -- or lack of -- behind writing is quite important. Intent matters. To put it in very colloquial terms: "How hip is it?"

Genuinely bad writers are never 'cool'.

Not to say writing needs to be 'nice' or 'appropriate' or anything like that, only that it needs to be likeable, in some way. Likeability (I'm sure there is a better word, but I don't know it -- attractiveness maybe?) of the underlying intent and, in some way, the artist themselves forms part of the impression.

The reason lots of people think Vincent Van Gogh was the greatest painter of all time isn't because he definitely is (he is simply a good painter) but because, in part, they are attracted to the idea of a tortured visionary artist, maybe even somebody a little bit mad. We are especially attracted to this in a Victorian context, for some reason.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
But then, additional to that, we have this layer of artists who are, in many respects, a bit shitty but that are sufficiently unique and/or likeable enough 'on the page' that their lack of ability can be come a kind of style in itself, depending wholly on who you ask and when you ask it. Who would that include? Hemingway, comes to mind for sure.

So you admit Hemmingway is bad?
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I put up a new video today that I really don't know about, there are 11 minutes of it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afcsx3JF3sc and it could be really good or it could be godawful, I am honestly unsure. It has lots of the qualities associated with Godawful, the characters are not developed, the plot is pretty non-existent, the setting is vague. I like it, but maybe that's just bias.

It's certainly not godawful. It's an interesting listen.
 
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