20161201

BOSH



BOSH

From Desmond MacCarthy, Experience, OUP, 1935, p. 281-2

THERE are books which belong entirely to that day-dream world into which it is often restful to nestle down, away from reality—and away from literature. For literature and indeed genuine art in any form, even when its theme is most remote from reality, has an odd way of seeming real—of making us feel more alive. We do not turn to it when we want to fade out.
Anyone with the habit of self-observation, when searching his shelves, must have often caught himself avoiding not only masterpieces, but even the works of any writer who has a position in literature. There are moods when we want to read bosh. With some people this is the only mood in which they ever open a book, and this is their misfortune; but we all feel that there is not as much first-rate bosh as we want. The supply of second-rate and third-rate is almost unlimited, but first-rate bosh is nearly as rare as a masterpiece. The purveyors of it therefore deserve very well of mankind. Next to the writers who have created beauty, and fired and renewed our love of it, or have recorded their own sense of the meaning of life, next to these, the prime entertainers should be ranked as benefactors of mankind. They are always handsomely rewarded as far as money is concerned, but they are too little esteemed. A fairer sense of proportion would give them more respect than the majority of the almost-artists, for they provide something which men genuinely need.
There is a type of reader who puts any book which aims at merit of a serious kind above rubbish, and despises rubbish, even when it is as good as Sherlock Holmes. For my part, I think it fair (and possible) to be as critical of bosh as of literature. It is no use comparing them, because the test is different, but each within its own category can be as rigorously tested. War and Peace is a stupendous work of art, though it has faults which anyone can see; Sherlock Holmes is first-rate bosh, though it also has faults any one can see, but it is — well, first-rate bosh.

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