The essay of my discontent

I was pretty good at handling senioritis until my last essay in high school. We read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and I hated every minute of it. So, knowing that I could safely fail the essay and still get the heck out of there, I decided to write the essay about how much I despised Heart of Darkness.

However, as I began writing, I realized that Heart of Darkness is really very well written. There is a reason high schoolers are forced to read it. My problem with it was the content–the utter bleakness of Conrad’s perspective of humanity. I didn’t agree with him in the least, and so I wrote my essay on how his great writing really contributed to how terrible the book is.

So what makes a good book? The quality of the writing or the quality of the content? Or is it not so much the quality of the content as much as content that agrees with your Weltanschauung? Or conversely, content that makes you question and probe your views of the world? Can beautiful writing make up for a dragging plot? Can sheer level of entertainment make up for low-quality writing? Can deep, thought-provoking concepts be conveyed in less than stellar writing?

I really don’t know. I’m not even sure where I fall on the spectrum. This is why the book business is such a gamble: there is no set grading scale for a book. Every book with affect every person in a different way. Every person will see every book through different eyes. There is a dizzying amount of variables on both the author’s side and the reader’s side.

What do you think? Is writing style or content more important? Can you enjoy a book deficient in one or the other?