To respond more fully to GOB’s post:
While I fully support Mr. Allen’s tower metaphor, having experienced Laurell K. Hamilton once, I cannot find it within me to subject myself to her again. On the reading front, there can be nothing worse than opening a novel about vampires only to find dreadful sentences, inconsistent logic, endless cliches, and characters so thin that they resemble thin wafers rather than full flesh and blood. There can be nothing more horrible than picking up a book and realizing how terrible it is and throwing it across the room and realizing that you have to give into crappy emotions rather than letting the great joys and pleasures of literature subsume your very being. A great read is like great sex. You wonder if it’s possible again and you realize, holy hell, it is. And you’re just as wowed by it the next time. And the next time after that. And it reminds you just how great the reading experience is.
But a bad book is the asshole who dents your car and drives away. It’s the guy behind a telemarketing scam who calls a lonely old woman and bamboozles her out of her life savings. Sure, you’ll pick yourself up off the ground and dust yourself off and live to fight another day. But it may not be easy. It’s the bad books that often discourage those who aren’t so stepped in this books thing from giving it another shot. And just as everyone has a different notion of who an asshole is, each and every person is bound to have a different notion of what a bad book is. That’s the trouble. That’s also the excitement.
One wants to avoid the bad books whenever possible, just as one wants to avoid the assholes. But the flip side of this mission is to keep an open mind (genre-blind, personality-blind) and remain open to the many possibilities of the universe (literary or human). And jumping off the cliff into something you’ve never even experienced could very well leave you bruised. But how else will you know what’s beyond the cliff? And how else can you find recherche treasures?
But just as one must display a little common sense with life, one must display a little common sense with books — however narrowly or broadly one decides to pursue it. So my feelings on the tower is that I’m glad it’s there, but I’ll be the crazy bastard shrieking outside the window about the great jacuzzi on the literary fiction floor, inviting people to come inside. Of course, I’ll still ride the elevator, even if I could care less about where things fall on the vertical axis.