I've often wondered why I dislike certain writers or particular books that seem to have achieved a kind of cult following. I feel so out-of-step sometimes when I mention how boring I find the whole "Lord of the Rings" thing to be or how pretentious and boring I find anything that ever came from Ayn Rand's pen. Then there's my reaction to certain contemporary writers like Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Jackie Collins, etc., writers that seem to have cloned both themselves and the tripe that they so consistently place on the best seller lists. While I would personally be embarrassed to be seen browsing through any of their books in a public place, I can always count on seeing the very same books prominently placed in the best seller display of any large bookstore I visit.
I suppose that's why the Times article made me chuckle a bit this morning. I know it's Sunday morning and this might seem to be a little bit of a mean-spirited way to start off the day, but here are a few highlights from the article.
Daisy Goodwin, TV producer...
Patricia Cornwell... anything lately Her first few books starring the paranoid but compelling Dr Kay Scarpetta were gripping, if a bit gory – but, in the past few years, Cornwell seems to have abandoned any pretence at coherent narrative structure, decipherable plot or any shred of credibility. I threw her last book off a boat. A classic book I have never managed to stomach is The Lord of the Rings – enough with elves already.
Ian Rankin, novelist...
I haven’t ever wanted to hurl it to the floor, but I’ve started Midnight’s Children several times and been unable to get past the first 10 pages. Not sure why; it’s been a few years since I gave it a go . . . maybe time to try again! I loved Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, but was told by author friends that Blood Meridian is his masterpiece. I tried it and couldn’t get halfway through. Just didn’t find it interesting. Also couldn’t finish The Road. How can a book be harrowing and pedestrian at the same time? Enjoyed The Hobbit as a teenager; gave up on The Lord of the Rings after about 30 pages
Stephen Amidon, novelist and fiction reviewerThese are just three of the people who speak their mind in the article. Read the whole article and, if you feel up to it, let me know what is on your own "most-loathed" list and why.
The Waves by Virginia Woolf is everything a novel should not be – and so much less. After the triumphs of Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, and the fascinating experimentation of Orlando, Woolf decided to change tack with this “playpoem” and wound up sinking into a putrid morass of unreadability. Beloved of American academics – which ought to tell you something right there – the book fairly accurately simulates the experience of sitting next to a pretentious old windbag on a flight to Australia.
I do feel better now about my reaction to Patricia Cornwell novels and The Lord of the Rings because it seems that I might be in good company on those. Some of the choices surprise me, though, and make me wonder how readers can see books so differently, with the same books being on "most-loathed" and "best-loved" lists. We readers are a bit strange, aren't we?