“It is very rarely that a bad book does not contain some merit in the cultivated man.”- Pliny the Elder.
Writers will notice Pliny used the word ‘very’ and writers know to use that word, if at all, sparingly, very sparingly, but we must forgive the Roman Pliny for he lived from 26 AD to 79 AD and was unfamiliar with modern grammarians.
I admire Pliny for he loves to read, loves book, even bad ones, for he can find something of value where others can not.
But . .
Notice the phrase ‘cultivated man.’ The implication is that if you find nothing of merit in a bad book, something to take away from the book, you are not cultivated, therefore, or as Pliny would say ‘ergo’ you are unsophisticated, uncultured, unrefined, ignorant, perhaps outright stupid.
Well who wants to be uncultured?
So we who want to be cultured, must of course, according to Pliny, find something in all books, no mater how bad, that we can learn from, or that brings up a pleasant memory, something we understand, that connects with us no matter how tangentially, anything at all.
I have tried. I have started books that had great reviews, or at least great blurbs on the back book jacket, and after twenty pages or so I am bored. I get what is going on. I just don’t care. Books talk to us. Each of respond differently to words, sentences, stories, just as we respond differently to food. Our taste buds are different. Sushi-never for me. Moby Dick-never for me.
Conversely, I have read books without any burbs whatsoever and found the story, the writing, everything about the book an absolute delight. Sometimes we are lucky and find these little treasures.
I do try to find something of merit Mr. Pliny, but I have many unread books, so I can set aside something that doesn’t taste quite right at the moment and try something else that looks more appetizing. But I do agree, every book does contain something for all of us, it is just a matter of connection.