That there is good in all things

I went to the bookstore today to sell my copy of Emma Straub’s novel Modern Lovers, which is a fairly terrible example of “contemporary fiction.” (It is, however, a terrific band name. There should definitely be a band called The Modern Lovers.) The bookstore offered me $2 in store credit for a 2016 hardcover.

Don’t worry, my point is not that this was a very poor offer. My point is that — I guess, in a way — it was a great offer, because I immediately took the book back and deposited it in the back seat of my car. Now, time being as short as it is, I may never read Emma Straub’s novel. Instead, at the moment, I am reading Adam Phillips’s pretty good long essay on pleasure, “Unforbidden Pleasures.” 

Phillips is a pretty good Freudian academic, and so like Emma Straub, he is readable but not essential. But there is something valuable about reading that transcends the value of the work. What happens when I’m done reading a bad work is that very little stays with me; it is like thin soup. But whatever does stay with me is good. Eventually one can go from the pleasures of reading to the realization that evil is merely absence, nothingness, entropy; and that, therefore, there is good in all things, in different concentrations. I can’t wait to read Modern Lovers.

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