I have really enjoyed reading through the Rumpus list of writers talking about their favorite books. Sometimes surprising, occasionally illuminating and eminently useful. And you know, it has been said by some that if you don’t have something good to say, you shouldn’t say it at all. Maybe. My Manichean outlook, however, demands that likewise a list of the last books that attentive readers absolutely despised would be an equally fruitful enterprise. I know we’re all about positivity here, but I, for one, would appreciate some timely warnings of books that will, if I’m not careful, make me bleed out of my eyes and rend my bathroom slippers in agony. The three least awesome books I’ve read recently are these:
1) The Hour I First Believed, by Wally Lamb: I’m still dealing with the aftermath of this nearly 1,000 page bucket of swill. The Oprah-adored author uses the Columbine massacre as a jumping off point for his emotionally manipulative, clichéd slop bucket of senseless tragedy.
2) The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littel: I guess I just have a problem with books that demand a lot of my time and page-turning energy and don’t give anything but poop in return. Littel’s controversial novel of a sadistic, intellectual S.S. officer making his way through the various theaters and meat grinders of World War 2 seems like the type of thing I’d be into. Not so! The flat and unlovely prose (maybe what you’d expect of a book written by a Nazi bureaucrat) is only to be outdone by the author’s obsession with feces.
3) Break It Down, by Lydia Davis: Blasphemy! I kind of liked The End of the Story, and, to a lesser extent, Varieties of Disturbance, but this one just didn’t do it for me. For every story I liked, there were three or four that made me want to quit reading forever.
What books do you hate?