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Let's Procrastinate With Books! Post Three

For bearshorty, from this list, comment if you want to play.

2. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read, and why?

I've been raking over my brain trying to figure this out (not racking; despite what Agents of SHIELD wants you to think, torture doesn't work) and I don't think I have an answer. I've already talked at length here and elsewhere about how much I hated Fahrenheit 451, which in case you missed it was "a lot." But is it the worst book I've ever read? The worst book I've ever read is probably one of those Focus on the Family/Vision Forum/NGJ Ministries books about beating your children so they don't grow up to be gay -- but there's no fun to be had in talking about them.

I might just have to say “I don't know” for this one. Instead, I'll recommend a bad book I really enjoyed: The Whale: A Love Story: A Novel by Mark Beauregard. It's earnest, it's inept, it's broadly and obliviously anachronistic, it snatches at beauty and falls on its face in front of all creation, like I think we all do sometimes. In The Whale, Herman Melville is possessed by the spirit of early 21st-century YA romance, crushes painfully on his hot new neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne, worries about his new book, also called The Whale (progress on which has been tragically stalled by his transformation into a plain-spoken YA protagonist, and also by worries about money or something) and is pestered and eventually helped by a plucky local slash fangirl who takes one look at Melville and Hawthorne and ships them 5ever.

The text includes some actual letters of the real Herman Melville, which are just about worth the price of admission, and lots of awkward teen dialogue bumping clumsily out of the mouths of allegedly adult 19th-century writers. I think at some point they sit on a roof together and look at stars while talking about Important Things? Also, the characters stamp their feet when they're angry, and sometimes throw back their heads and shout at the sky, like in Peanuts.

3. A book you found overhyped, and why

This is a tough one, too. I don't normally think of things as “overhyped” because when I like something, I enjoy the hype (my people! Dance with me in this parade of love!), and when I don't, I don't want to second-guess the people who liked it, because who am I to judge?

The one thing I can think of is Go Set a Watchman, but that also feels like cheating because hype was the only reason it was published in the first place as far as I can tell, so can it really be said to be "overhyped"? I did get sick of seeing it everywhere here in Harper Lee Country. It was billed as a “sequel” to To Kill A Mockingbird, but was actually an earlier draft of the same book with a frame story that had been discarded in revision.

27. The book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve read

A book I'm embarrassed to admit that I've read? To admit that I've liked, sure, despite my ongoing resolve to be less easily embarrassed – but to have read at all? I don't know, one of those Ayn Rand letter collections might be a good candidate? My local public library when I was in middle school had all of them for some reason, hundreds and hundreds of pages of ranty memos about capitalist values and femsub. Or – what? I was extremely embarrassed at the time to have read Belinda by Anne Rice, but I'm not embarrassed to admit it today. I'm embarrassed by how many italics I've used in this post, though!

There must be something, but either I was SO EMBARRASSED that I buried it irrecoverably in the slag heap of my memory, or . . . there isn't one. I'll let you know if I think of anything – for all of these, bearshorty; I'm sorry all my answers today are "I don't know." You picked some hard questions!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2016 09:38 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha I love the image of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne sitting on the roof looking at the stars and talking about Important Things. It's the perfect intersection of "something that nineteenth century Romantic writers might actually do, because Romantics" but also something that would be perfect in a modern YA book.

Actually I want to write a scene about sitting on the roof looking at the stars discussing Important Things now. All I need is some characters and some Important Things for them to discuss.

Did you read all the Ayn Rand letter collections? Did it get boring eventually, or was it strangely fascinating despite the repetition?
Sep. 18th, 2016 10:36 pm (UTC)
Everything's important when you're 15 and in love! Or a 19th century novelist in love - or both simultaneously!! I still wish The Whale had been a novel about early 21st century teenagers in love who adopt Melville as their unlikely hero, but we can't have everything and what we have is. . . well, it's something.

I did actually read every damn book of Ayn Rand miscellanea the library had -- I was fascinated by her and still am, though I doubt I'd have the stamina to read through them today. There was a big book of letters, a big book of notebooks (including her notes for the hagiographic screenplay about that murderer she had a thing for) and a book of marginalia from her books, which iirc was mostly her yelling at the authors a lot for reasons that were unclear. But not her novels; I couldn't make it through them. I started to read The Fountainhead because it was name-checked in a different novel as having a particularly fascinating sex scene, but was disappointed.
Sep. 18th, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC)
Isn't she fascinating, though? I also have never read her books, but I read a book about the cult that grew up around her when she was still alive - her relationship with Nathaniel Branden and the circle around them - and she's just so unique and interesting. Although clearly she was horrible to be around.
Sep. 19th, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC)
So fascinating, so horrible. She seems to have had that situational charisma that fuels so many personality cults -- if you're under her spell, she's the most fascinating and brilliant woman who ever lived, and all your doubts are locked outside the working center of your mind, thumping feebly on the soundproof glass. If you're not, she's just an ignorant loudmouth with big eyes and poor hygiene, and you can't see what the fuss is about.

What book did you read? I always say I'm done gawking at the Collective, but I'm probably not done at all.

Edited at 2016-09-19 03:18 pm (UTC)
Sep. 19th, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC)
I think it was Jeff Walker's The Ayn Rand Cult, although it was so long ago that I can't be entirely sure.
Sep. 19th, 2016 03:33 am (UTC)

I love your answers since you were detailed about why you can't truly answer these questions. And these questions are super hard! Your bad book rec sound hysterical.

Sep. 19th, 2016 03:36 pm (UTC)
The more I think about it, the fonder I am of it. At first I was genuinely frustrated because a novel about the relationship between Melville and Hawthorne could be great, but this was not great. But maybe in its own way, it is, because it made me laugh and it still does. I still wonder how the time-traveling slash fangirl is doing (she is not explicitly a time traveler in the text, but it's the only logical explanation). I like to imagine her hopping around space and time, dressed in polyester stage costumes and carelessly hatless, first-naming all the world and confusing a long line of historical and literary figures with her outlandish sexual mores.
Sep. 19th, 2016 10:49 am (UTC)
LOL!! I almost want to read that horrid book...your description is a riot!

Sep. 19th, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
I certainly can't not recommend it - unless you were hoping for a good book about a recognizable Melville and Hawthorne and idk some kind of thoughtful engagement with history or something, in which case you will be disappointed.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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