Short Saturday: Mr. Grossman Hates This Book

I stumbled on this article by Time magazine’s book critic, Lev Grossman, and it made me laugh out loud.

I cannot stand this book I’m reading right now.

It’s a novel. It’s by a writer who is generally described as Great, but who I’ve always personally felt is Pretty Good When He’s Really On His Game, Which Was Like For One Book, But Generally Speaking He’s Really Not That Good At All. Like For Example Right Now.

Ordinarily I would just stop reading it. But in this case for professional purposes I kind of have to keep going.

Oh, this is a delightful rant! Particularly when he continues:

In fact I hate books all the time. Loathe them, even. I mostly write about books I love, but those books have beaten the odds. I throw books across the room. I throw them down the stairs. I throw them in the trash, lest they fasten themselves to some other human and drain away even more irreplaceable hours from humanity’s collective finite total.

He had me at the “irreplaceable hours [of] humanity’s collective finite total.” True confession: I, too, have thrown away books.

I know my reading tastes and am normally a pretty good judge of the reviews I read; I can filter out the hyperbole (after all, I write a lot of book jacket copy myself). So I very rarely end up with a book I don’t enjoy. And when I do, I give it to Goodwill.

Except for World Without End by Ken Follett.* I fell victim to the “follow-up to the international best-selling Pillars of the Earth!” business I’d read and ended up with nine hundred pages of anachronistic, boring, ridiculous purple prose so awful I quit reading somewhere around page 374 and took it straight to the trash for the very reason Grossman cites. It was a humanitarian act, I tell you.

Have you ever thrown out a book? Or just … thrown a book? (I’ve done that too. Hope the, um, Fraternal Order of Librarians don’t show up at my front door.)

*And the Glenn Beck book my brother gave me for Christmas one year. I trashed that too. (Sorry, Jon.)

 

Tweet: True confession: I, too, have thrown away books. Hope the Fraternal Order of Librarians don’t show up.
Tweet: I took Follet’s World Without End straight to the trash. It was a humanitarian act, I tell you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in Books You Might Like | Tagged as: , | Bookmark the permalink | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

16 Comments

  1. I hate not finishing books, even the worst of them. But just one time, when I finished one particularly bad book, I tore it up into tiny pieces, lest anyone accidentally pick it up out of the garbage and try to read it.

  2. I wanted to like The Time-Traveler’s Wife. I did not. I traveled less than 20 pages and quit.

    • Jamie says:

      Oh, I’m sorry to hear this, as I loved it. But I tell people I recommend it to to quit reading the date/time she has at the beginning of each section; it’s just too confusing. Just read the story and it all becomes clear. That said, everyone has her tastes. I hated “The Book Thief.” I started, hated, stopped, sought counsel (from friends who’d loved it), was reassured that it was OK to hate. Later I did go back and started again and finished it, mostly because I work on a lot of kidlit and I wanted to know what the big deal was. (I call that “homework reading.”) I’m still not impressed by it.

  3. Jody says:

    I hate a lot of books, too. It’s not something one generally talks about, and I’m delighted that both you and Grossman (whose recents novels I didn’t hate at all — far from it) share this capacity.

    I can distinctly remember throwing out a book, deliberately, but I can’t remember its title, which is probably understandable, don’t you think?

    Delightful post for early Sunday morning. Thanks!

    Jody

    • Jamie says:

      Oh, I’m Chatty Cathy—I tell. (It’s no secret how I feel about Twilight etc.) But I mostly read books I like, really like, or love. (Sometimes love-love-love. Ha.) Thanks for coming by!

  4. Sarah Thomas says:

    I’ve only ever thrown one book away. I don’t remember the title, but it was by Jimmy Carter. Gack. I have, however, learned to give up on books after years of finishing them no matter what. Life’s too short for bad books!

  5. Liz Johnson says:

    Hmmmm… I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a book away. However, I have thrown plenty of books. I distinctly recall chucking the last Harry Potter book across my room in a fit of anger toward Ms. Rowling when she killed off one of my favorite characters. I recently read a book that came VERY highly recommended By friends and realized that even though I finished it, I only liked the last 10 pages of it. I too am learning it’s okay not to like a book. Even one my friends love.

    • Jamie says:

      Tastes differ, for sure! Although I am thrilled when my friends love a book I loved. I am dying to know your last-10-page book. You must email me. :)

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I couldn’t finish Wuthering Heights. I gave it a good shot, in about 200 pages, still I was terribly unhappy with it. The characters were so unappealing that I was never able to emotionally invest myself in them.
    When picking it up felt more like a chore than a pleasure, I was done.

    (Also, I read the first page or so of 50 shades and was not impressed at all, worst published writing I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading.)

    • Jamie says:

      I’m betting when E. L. James got that publishing deal, they just went straight to press without an edit. Any book that has whole YouTube channels devoted to mocking its badness surely can’t have seen an editor’s pen.

  7. This is one of the most delightful blogs I read each week. Thank you for investing in engaging content that encourages, enlightens, and elicits a regular chuckles.

    A fellow book thrower and trasher (which looks like recycling),

    Terry

  8. This is one of the most delightful blogs I read each week. Thank you for investing in engaging content that encourages, enlightens, and elicits a regular chuckle.

    A fellow book thrower and trasher (which looks like recycling),

    Terry

  9. mcgrimus says:

    Have you ever read a book so bad it was good? One young author sent me her novel, and it was so terrible I couldn’t put it down. It was Mystery Science Theater 3000 bad. I’m sure she broke more than a few of these rules.

  10. […] simply don’t spend their time writing about books they dislike. This article even mentions an article I pointed you to a couple Saturdays ago. But the atomization of literary journalism—and the attendant problem of getting paid for […]

  11. […] *I don’t mentally edit every book I read. I don’t. My personal reading is pleasure reading. But when a book has been badly or barely edited, I can tell; you probably can too. **It’s interesting, also, that she avoids negative reviews. Although I understand it; when I’m excited about a book (see: Wolf Hall) I want to talk about it to everyone. I’ve written about this before. […]

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Short Saturday: More Criticism, Less Liking on 11 August, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    […] simply don’t spend their time writing about books they dislike. This article even mentions an article I pointed you to a couple Saturdays ago. But the atomization of literary journalism—and the attendant problem of getting paid for […]

  2. By Quitting While You’re Ahead on 18 February, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    […] *I don’t mentally edit every book I read. I don’t. My personal reading is pleasure reading. But when a book has been badly or barely edited, I can tell; you probably can too. **It’s interesting, also, that she avoids negative reviews. Although I understand it; when I’m excited about a book (see: Wolf Hall) I want to talk about it to everyone. I’ve written about this before. […]