For any girl who grew up close to her mother and/or sisters, the novel Little Women is almost indispensable. A portrait of the lives and loves of four girls raised primarily under a mother's care, it's a tale told with little plot and much feeling. It's a literary idea without the literary prose, and while it draws criticism for various weaknesses—and possibly for not having much appeal to the male half of society—it captures the beauty of mother/daughter and sister relationships like no other book I've ever read.
It's not the only beloved story that gets criticized as poorly written. Stephenie Meyer's husband reputedly attempted to talk her out of getting published because of the potential for criticism, and few popular books have been more universally called out than her Twilight. Mike Duran recently gave a strongly critical (and fair, in my opinion) review of Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, and got firestormed in his comments from fans of the book. Literary elites turned on Harry Potter en masse when it began its rise to wild fame.
No work of art is absolutely beyond criticism. Of course, 'bad writing' can mean anything from sloppy prose to awkward pacing to believability failures and more. Little Women sort of rambles through the lives of its characters, including many scenes that possessed neither conflict nor much bearing on the story arc. Twilight is the product of an outstanding concept and an immature writer. Redeeming Love falls into a lot of common CBA problems, such as attempting to be gritty and not at the same time, pasting modern thought into a historical setting, and uneven craft. The Harry Potter books have too many adverbs, a handful of inconsistencies, and some pacing issues, but overall are written in an uncluttered comic style that perfectly suits the need of the story—it just isn't Nabokov or Rushdie.
'Good story' can prove almost as difficult to define as 'bad writing', with personal preference often playing more of a role than most of us critics like to admit. All reviews are subjective, and may be affected by the reviewer's dislike of happy-go-lucky Cinderella endings, or insanely tragic Madama Butterfly ones; of literary aimlessness, or genre tropes; of a strongly masculine approach to storytelling, or a feminine.
However we define it, bad writing involves failure of art, which should pursue beauty. But should we ignore a powerful concept that's readable and reasonably executed if it's no more than that? Little Women may ramble and lack narrative tension in places, yet I'm richer for having read it. The same is true for Twilight, Redeeming Love, and especially Harry Potter.
Whatever the answer to that question, of course, aspiring writers have no excuse for trying to push novels they haven't worked up to the best of their ability. It's important to strive for beauty regardless of what we can find on the shelves at the local bookshop. That said, tales with glaring flaws will continue to get published, because someone saw past the weaknesses to something they loved.
What story do you love in spite of its failures? Can you envision a better version? Do you wish the publishing industry had forced it through more revisions, or that a different author had gotten the idea? What are your thoughts on this subject?