have been discussing the top five worst books they've ever read. I normally don't like to bitch about bad books (life's too short), but there have been a few books that I've wanted to scrub from my brain.
I've read a lot of bad books in my time--badly written, badly plotted, and even vaguely unpleasant--because a bad book can be better than no book or I didn't know any better, and I've learned my lesson; or there was a test. Most of them I've forgotten, and moved on from. Some, however, have stuck in my head and have continued to annoy me. In no particular order are:
1. The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy. I think that this was the first book or author that I ever developed a true animus for. The main character is unpleasant, it is true, but this unpleasantness is crushed underfoot, relentlessly, by Hardy's use of deus ex machina, ensuring that horror, bleakness, and total ruin must occur just when the character's doing something good or right with his life. There is no redemption; only punishment when one dares to find happiness after error. I had to read it for Grade 12 English. The horror. The horror.
by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Very early on, there is a gratuitous, graphic child rape scene that I wish I'd never read. Book abandoned, but not soon enough.
3. Little People
by Tom Holt. I'm tossing this one in for my husband, who recently gave it to me and told me that it could leave the house and he would not mind at all. Please understand that he is a packrat of the first order, and so this is rather damning. I am given to understand that the payoff at the end is cheap and unfair, and leaves a very bad taste in the reader's mouth after the lead up.
4. Piers Anthony. I know, we all pick on him, but after Firefly
, he particularly deserves it.
5. Sexual Personae
, by Camille Paglia. A book that I have repeatedly wanted to throw against a wall, despite several tries to make it through. Chthonic, all-consuming mother goddesses vs Apollonian, creative male sun deities without which we'd be stuck in stagnant, uncreative darkness. Where do I start? However, I understood right away where Elizabeth Hand mined her ideas for Waking the Moon
, which I didn't dislike as a novel.
An honorable mention, of a sort, goes to The Stone Angel
by Margaret Laurence. I had to read this book for Grade 13 English (that dates me, somewhat), and hate hate hated it at the time. To grossly oversimplify the plot,it is the story of Hagar Shipley, a woman who, through her own stubborn pride, locks herself emotionally from those she loves, and makes a general hash of it.
The problem with the book was, despite how much I detested the main character, I kept arguing with her in my head. For years, as I kept the book on my shelf instead of selling it. Slowly, because I can be dense sometimes, it dawned on me that I was doing so because Laurence had written her *that well*. God damn it. So, while I can't say that I'll ever love the book, I respect it and Laurence for the strength of the character that she created.