Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bad Books

I'm reading one right now. I almost stopped, then realized how few bad books make it into my personal corner of blogland. I like most of what I read, but then again, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I tend to acquire books I know I'll like.

The last book I read and disliked was Harrison's Returning to Earth. And though I found it flawed, nobody could argue that it lacked originality. The plot, setting, and characters were uniquely realized. The sentences read like a pileup on Interstate Five, but hey, Harrison is famous without me.

The book I am currently reading is so close to another writer's novel that I'm surprised there haven't been rumblings. The characters are annoying, thin, stereotypical. The sentences clunk. Many all but weep for commas. Metaphors repeat, an unforgivable sin. Never, ever repeat an adjective on the same page. Avoid doing it through the entire chapter. Hell, English is rife with adjectives. Don't repeat them at all!

I'm halfway through: things are crashing along unevenly. I want to smack the protagonist, which means perhaps the author was successful after all: she has elicited a response.


Yeah, I know. You want to know the book. I'm almost done and will talk about it this weekend. Try to quell your excitement.

What struck me in reading this particular work, with its spectacularly awful sentences, is how my reading tastes have changed. And I blame the blog.

Once upon a time I was able to read a lesser book--i.e., a novel by somebody besides Atwood or Oates or insert your fave writer here--and enjoy it. Something lightweight, with a few off-key sentences, was okay. Now I am Ming the Merciless. Missing comma? Therapyspeak? Unreal (to me) situation trying to pass itself off as reality? To the gallows, or at least, the resale pile. Give me Irene Nemirovsky! Lionel Shriver! Trillin's beautifully economical sentences!

Why the blog? Because blogs are nothing without fresh content, and that means a lot of reading. Because blogging eats--no, devours--time. And that means the media feeding it better be worth that time--mine and yours.

Because life is just too short for bad books.


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