My senior year of college, I finally confessed something to my professor: I didn’t like reading. I felt like a fraud. Aren’t students of literature supposed to love their subject? I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was missing out. Maybe all the other students got it. Maybe the books weren’t dull, maybe I was!
Of my picky reading, he said, “No, that’s a good thing. It means you’re developing taste.” Oh, or that. Yes. That sounds nice.
Of course, taste is subjective. Lots of books have merit, even if they aren’t my tin of biscuits. Power to those books! Some, though, are just so full of fail I can’t, as they say, even. Here are some reasons I’ve thrown books across the room in disgust:
1. Similes Slimed Across The Pages Like Caterpillar Guts On The Sidewalk
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get past page 30 of this book, the imagery was so bad. Crows like thrown black socks: really? Dude. Still I carried on, until I came across “the dust sparkled like mascara.” Somebody either spends too much time at strip clubs, or he doesn’t know what mascara is.
2. The Chosen One Shall Be Denied/This Prophecy Is Biblioicide
Rhyming couplets have their place in fantasy novels, but not all that rhymes is gold. Such was the case with a book a friend lent me, which sadly meant I was unable to chuck it at the wall in good conscience. Sing-song prophecies replete with reaching rhymes make it clear from page one that the story consists of loosely cobbled clichés, characters made of tissue paper, anachronistic dialogue, and other such crimes against literature. Don’t try to be Tolkien. Just be you.
3. I Didn’t Order A Fluff Sandwich
If the idea is to educate me, please do. For biography, history, science, and other nonfiction, the ratio of hook to content should be pretty low. Sure, you have to entertain the audience, but if I’ve only managed to learn three things on your purported subject in 300 pages because you’re verbally playing the accordion and juggling and being cute, I’m calling your bluff.
4. James Joyce Wrote It
What can I say? Thanks for your contribution to canon, but nah. Admit it: you hate at least one beloved writer.
5. Hack Writers, Or Sorry I Interrupted Your Ego Trip But I Thought This Was A Book, My Bad
Once upon a time, before I got so mean, I would gladly volunteer to read over all my acquaintances’ stories. I naively assumed every writer strove to make good (or at least passable) art.
- A heinously written Doctor Who Mary Sue masquerading as original fiction.
- A near-death experience narrative complete with Native American stereotypes straight out of 1955 (“How!”).
- A memoir that wandered into patchy theology and then took a surprise twist into chapter after chapter of fretting about the Illuminati.
You get the idea. All of them ended up in book or eBook form, and I paced around reciting Macbeth’s soliloquy with ever increasing fervor (“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!”) until I did myself a favor and stopped taking pro bono manuscripts.
I have since learned to smile and say, “You know what? I just don’t have the time, but it’s so cool you’re doing this. Keep writing!” instead of giving my opinion to amateur writers who, bless them, inevitably throw a hissy fit the first time some kind person takes the time to write a critical review on Amazon.
In truth, there is nothing quite like the satisfying thud of slamming a terrible book shut, except maybe Judge Judy’s gavel, or Bukowski shredding hack writers. Go on, be a savage reader. You may just fall in love with books again.
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Featured image via JSTOR Daily