My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Almost three years ago I wrote on GR about this book:

Whilst I attempt to get my own thoughts in order, for those curious about this book, I strongly recommend reading both Nandakishore’s review and Whitaker’s here.

The fact that the reviews are so very different in content, attitude, the lot surely has something to do with the book.

More later.

But I simply couldn’t think of anything good to say. I’ve discovered, however, that I have company, I’m not the only person in the world who has an aversion for this book. Discovering that has given me the strength to move on without feeling like it must be my fault or that I should be feeling guilty. As much as I loved Museum of Innocence, I dislike this.

There, I’ve said it. And do go to the reviews referenced above to read erudite discussions of this book.


The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

Until my dying day I will remain mystified by whether Peter Carey is a writer once good, gone bad, or whether I was seduced by home-sickness into adoring Illywhacker.

This is awful, I’d like to hand it over to Reger of Old Masters to properly trash it to death. I have no need to rant about it myself, plenty of others have expressed their bemusement online. But I felt need to note that I tried and that any failure is not, in my opinion, the fault of the reader.

I do wish I hadn’t wasted valuable book buying funds on this one.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

Awful. Trivial tripe terribly written. What possessed me to buy a book about a handbag?

Just be be clear about it, that is zero stars for the first 40 pages, consequently abandoned.

And one reflects (again) on the state of French ‘literature’ that this author is highly regarded in that country as a writer of the same.

Voices from the Street by Philip K Dick

This is a UFD. Let me explain.

Almost before he could read, Lloyd Spiegel wanted to play blues. As a precocious youngster he went on tour of the US. Bo Diddley came to see him and then went backstage and asked Spiegel what he wanted to be. Lloyd beamed up at him. ‘Don’t you get it, Mr Diddley? I’m a blues man.’ Whereupon Bo Diddley looked down at him and said ‘Son – you’ll be a blues man when I say you’re a blues man’.

Late in life Dick opined that he hadn’t been told early and often enough when his work was no good. I guess it’s too late, but if you are listening from whatever bizarre possie you might have elsewhere now: this book here? Voices from the Street? Absolutely bar none the worst written thing I’ve ever seen in print. To be fair, it wasn’t you who published it. It was somebody who figured there was some money to be made from The Legend of PK Dick.

Lloyd Spiegel, enthusiasm unquenched by Bo’s assessment, carried on his tour. Knowing Chuck Berry was in the audience at another show, he performed his interpretation of one of Chuck’s hits. Chuck came backstage to see him. Lloyd beamed up at him. ‘What did you think of it, Mr Berry?’ Chuck looked down at him and said ‘Son – that was an unmitigated fucking disaster.’

UFD. I read that the Dick Legend is such that an army of believers is willing to read complete crap if it is written by him. Apparently it is interesting to see the development of his ideas. Not if it is early incompetent drivel. People are so nosey.

I can’t recall where I bought this. It has a sticker that says ’22’ on the back. I have no idea what currency that is, but I bitterly resent the idea that I might have spent 22 cents on this. Or 22 anything-elses for that matter.

Harry Harrison and Christopher Fowler: aka the good bad and the bad bad.

Deathworld I admit it. Harry Harrison’s bad style irritated me. For a while. Mainly it was these. The short sentences. If you can call them that. Sentences.

I did manage after some encouragement from the ranks to get over that and I’m glad I did. It’s a good bad-book. The Wildside edition I read was horribly proofread, but not nearly as badly as the academic books I’ve been reading lately. Nothing, at any rate, that distracted me from a punchy story, good characterisation as sci fi goes and a really interesting idea for world in which the story takes place.

As it happens I next picked up The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler. I thought this was going to be another good bad-book for a few pages, but it doesn’t take long to discover it’s a bad bad-book. Really so bad on all levels that I don’t know what I find more mystifying: that is is consistently praised on goodreads or that it is the tenth in a series. The tenth! It’s messy, heavy handed, repetitive, characters so badly drawn that one never recognises any of them and this in turn adds to the confusion of dialogue set out so that it is impossible, as a rule, to tell who is speaking. In fact it’s the first thing I’ve read that makes me wonder if Harry Potter might be well written after all. Yeah. Maybe I should upgrade HP to a good bad-book.

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

If I had time, I’d rage into the night about this one, but I’d rather move onto one of the slightly scary number of books I have on my to-read shelf.

I haven’t read much of it, though I’ve tried various times over the last couple of weeks to blame myself for that and get over it. But there is no getting over it. I can scarcely believe that this is written by the same person from whom I expect elegant, succinct prose. This seems like a reject from Mills and Boon – I can just see the letter. ‘Cut it in half, less of the tawdry and we’ll reconsider. No promises mind. We don’t really think you are up to it.’ I see in reading a bit about its composition, why it is a wallowing piece of utter embarrassment to the reader, whilst being too close to the writer’s heart. Nothing except good punctuation should be close to that particular organ. It has a duel for heaven’s sake. Maybe the duel doesn’t take place – I didn’t read far enough to see – but honestly, what was he thinking of?

I feel let down and I’m taking it personally. How could you do this to me, Fitzgerald?

I’m in recovery with a nice book of Indian short stories. More on that soon.

The Lost Boy by Camilla L√§ckberg

I have to say I’m fair dinkum gobsmacked at how bad this book is. I guess although I’ve read a vast amount in the general area, I rarely descent to the lowest common demoninator. And, ladies and gentlemen, what a descent it is.

Having said that, I can understand why it is so popular. In that blunt, matter-of-fact Swedish way the language is simple enough for semi-literate people – it reads like it has been written by a competent eight-year old. And this, of course, must make it a doddle to translate – useful for something planning to be a big seller outside the small native-speaking population. There is an avalanche of stereo-typed characters that are entirely undemanding. The plot is almost non-existent, so nothing taxing there either.

And yet, despite the almost entire lack of plot, this plods on and one AND ON for over 500 pages. I’m guessing you only need to read about a 40th of this to follow it. The rest is padding, the tedium of which makes Steig Larsson’s sandwich descriptions stand out as on-the-edge-of-your-seat-thrilling, small sub-plot masterpieces. Apparently this is what readers en masse want at the moment, padding and tedium. If that is so, this review will signally fail. Damn it, padding just isn’t my thing.