Friday, September 14, 2007

Books I have hated

This is really mean, isn't it. I mean, my books are probably on someone's books I have hated list (in fact, given a couple of the reviews I've had on Amazon in the US, I know they are), so maybe I shouldn't do this, but I don't think the writers will actually weep that much if they have one lousy teacher moaning about them somewhere in Brussels, because after all, they are all pretty much successful (which is not my gripe - writing is definitely not for the money and I like it when writers are successful, even when they are lame writers).

Ok, so going backwards,

In joint third place, Encyclopaedia of Snow, by Emily Miano and The Secret of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig.

Here's what Miano's website says about her:

Sarah Emily Miano is the author of “Van Rijn” and “Encyclopedia of Snow”. She was born in Buffalo, New York. Sarah has had a variety of jobs, including stints as a private eye, a pastry chef, and a tour bus driver. Sarah Emily Miano was taught by the British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion on the famous University of East Anglia Creative Writing MA. Her fiction has been published in “Pembroke Magazine”, “Grand Street”, and in the UEA anthology “Papers, Scissors, Stone”. It is appropriate that “Van Rijn” is about Rembrandt, as Sarah obviously comes from an artistic family, since her brother Charles Miano is a well-regarded portrait artist. In 2004, Sarah was one of the final recipients of the UK Art Council’s Writers’ Awards. Sarah Emily Miano lives in London.

Now, there are aspects of this which sum up why I didn't like EofS - the kooky CV, the Andrew Motion namedrop, the use of 'famous' and 'obviously' and 'well-regarded'. And is she in real life Sarah or Emily? Either way, EofS was a pretentious piece of prose that veered at times towards the unreadable. Try it if you don't believe me, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Secret of the Pink Carnation was certainly not pretentious, but it was dumb as a rock and had stupid things like Keats being name-checked as a famous poet when he was only just out of nappies. It had more of its heart in the right place than EoS which was a swagger novel - hey check me out, MA from UEA, publishing deal, hot stuff. But still, it was irritating in its total failure to convey historical period accurately, including the behaviour of the characters who read to me just like modern people from America, except the modern-day heroine, who was American and who came over as Doris Day acting the role of an academic. And it sucked as a romance. No real substantial conflict, and a set up at the end which failed to resolve the book properly so that there was plenty of room for a sequel - of which I think there are two, but I'm avoiding them.

So in number 2 is Book Lover, known in the US as Literacy and Longing in LA, which I hated
because it combined the pretentiousness of EofS with the dumbness in terms of plotting and characterisation of Carnation. That was a considerable achievement, which should not go unsung. So I'm singing it here - this book has the least likeable heroine that I've read for decades, and I've been reading for three and a half of those now, so I've got some book miles under my belt.

And still number 1 after all these years, combining stupidity and stylistic ineptitude in equal measure is the Da Vinci Code, which is still number one in my hit parade of worst books in the world. I know it is going to be hard to believe that I don't resent all the money that Dan Brown has made - I really really don't. I'm glad that there are writers who make megabucks. But what gets me is the total check-my-brain-in-at-the-lost-property-office approach of so many readers to this incredibly terrible book. When I say that I think this is the lamest book in the world, people go, 'but how, it's a bestseller'. Well, so is Coke, but that doesn't make it good for my teeth. In the same way, DVC is right up there as a complete mind-rotter of a novel.

I am going to put the reverse side of the story and write about books I have loved, but I don't want to sully the names of my favourite writers by including them alongside the writers of Big Pants Books. In the meantime, I just want to say that I know that one woman's poison is another woman's Marcolini ganache, so if you think I'm just wrong wrong wrong, don't worry, I won't take it the wrong way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bought the "Pink Carnation" last summer. I let myself be intrigued by the blurb. The general idea had potential, or so it seemed to me then. But aargh, the agony - when I actually got round to read the first 50 pages. It has to be a rare nasty book that ends thrown into the garbage bin by me but such was the PC destiny. Wasted paper.