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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Stunningly Tedious

At the Times Online site, Rod Liddle presents the books that make him see red:

Powell’s name came up an awful lot as I importuned a bunch of writers and hacks about books they had read that now, when mentioned, make the red mist descend. Books that made them angry just thinking about them; that were once clotted with extravagant critical praise, like the butter surrounding the tiny crustaceans in the potted shrimp at White’s club, or that sort of sprang from the collective consciousness of the metropolitan elite of the time and that everybody felt they had to read. And that, from either category, we now realise are close to worthless.

You can, of course, add your own. Liddle’s list contains Anthony Powell, Robert Pirsig, Carlos Casteneda, Luke Rhinehart, Colin Wilson, Mervyn Peake, John Fowles, the entire Virago imprint, all magic realists and angry black novelists, Salman Rushdie, Herman Hesse, Henry James, and Zadie Smith.

2 Responses to “Stunningly Tedious”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    I’d let John Fowles off the hook purely for ‘The Collector’. I’ve never been able to get into anything else he’s written. I actually bought ‘The Tree’ a while back because it was very short and I couldn’t even get into that. But ‘The Collector’ was such a wonderful approach to a book, tell the came story twice, once from the captor’s perspective and once from the captives, tag on a coda and you’ve got a pretty decent novel.

    jb says: I don’t know The Collector, but I revisited The Magus recently and gave it up less than an hour in.

  2. Shawn says:

    Cormac McCarthy! Slowly I turn, step by step… But seriously, Cormac McCarthy is one of the most egregiously overrated American writers I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. I’ve tried several times to finish one of his books — mainly at the urging of friends who insist that I’m wrong about him — but I just can’t do it. His preposterously flowery and overwrought style is so terrible that it would be laugh out loud funny if it weren’t so aesthetically offensive. And all the gore and violence seem like just a smoke screen for a fundamental lack of storytelling talent.

    As for the article, I agree with some of the choices, but when people start throwing out Dostoevsky and Cervantes it starts to become clear that many of those questions don’t know what they’re talking about.

    jb says: Snap, Shawn. I never managed to finish a Cormac McCarthy book either. Maybe we have the same friends, who assure me, also, that I’m missing something special.