So, hey, there's been another article published in a newspaper that casually assumes that all romance novels are formulaic dreck. I've stopped paying attention to these articles. I've had the argument so often that it bores me now.
But one of the quotable moments from this one got my attention (it's a donotlink link), to wit: "But a romance novel isn't exactly Infinite Jest."
If every writer sits down and thinks, "Well, I've got to write the next Infinite Jest or there's no point..." the only people who finish books will be delusional narcissists.
There are bad books. There are good books. There are great books. Which books fall into which category is a matter of debate, but we need bad books. Bad books are like extras in a movie. The scene feels empty and less alive without them. Bad books are starting points; they leave room for growth. The profusion of bad books lessens the shame of writing one, which makes it easier to sit down and write a second, hopefully better than the first. And then a third, better again, and so on, until you've written a good book.
A thriving book culture will populate every part of the landscape, from shoddy to polished and from low to high. You don't have to read bad books--whatever your idea of 'bad' is. You don't have to like them, praise them, offer them your grudging respect. But if you want to collect the cream, you'd better hope that someone out there wants to buy the milk.