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Bad Books: Fit Only to Kindle Fire

Apothe0sisApothe0sis Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?Registered User regular
edited March 2012 in Debate and/or Discourse
It is no secret that the Internet loves to hate things, and I love the Internet, so by the transitive property, I too hate everything. We shall now commence hating things in the thread about bad books and their even worse movie adaptations. Hating things is fun, however terrible things tend to split into two camps: the hugely popular yet remarkably flawed and the obscure but brain breakingly awful. The following is a place holder OP. There is something more substantive coming.

While there is a certain perverse pleasure to finding an obscure book to revel and discovery it's absurdities this pales in comparison to the intense relief at tearing down the latest sensation to infect the minds of everyone you know. It might be my curmudgeonly sensibilities sharpening in my old age but it seems to me that the publishing industries have discovered a new magic formula to produce works that become staggeringly popular and pop cultural phenomena.

The idea is to discuss and critique (not insult) bad books (NOT so-bad-they're-good books). Ideally, blockbuster books which are bad (so, most of them) but if you find or had read something utterly awful despite its obscurity then by all means, have at it.

Suggested lines of criticism

A lack of conceptual coherence
A lack of thematic coherence
Lack of narrative direction
Abuse and misuse of literary device
Lack of characterisation
Inane characterisation
Excessively shallow world building
Any kind of inconsistency
Political implications
Allegorical aspirations
Moral instruction

Not suggested

Insults toward the author or audience
Simple declarations ("This was boring.", "This was based on Mormonism and Mormons are weird.", "I this was boring", "You're an idiot not to like X, you think you know better than everyone else?")
Accusations of "overthinking it"

YES: "In the Wizard books a vast array of their magical devices and capabilities are in fact plot devices, to be used and discarded only when it is convenient to the plot, when in fact such devices would fundamentally change the nature of other conflicts and issues encountered in later books. In one particular instance such a device seems to have been added merely for the purposes of adding to the magical and whimsical atmosphere of the book, despite the fact that it would solve almost every issue encountered by the protagonists throughout the rest of the series - its usage within the narrative being rather superficial and rather contrived manner by which to arrange the players into their respective positions where other less extravagant methods would have served equally well while providing the same narrative messages."

NO: "The vampire books are boring and dumb. People who like this are stupid."

Bear in mind that the preferred targets are popular and thus particular books and series will be have larger followings within the forums. Likewise, you might think that other books are quite good but contain a number of problematic elements which need to be discussed. For those books in particular (say the wizard book, not the vampire book) bear in mind that negative views will be controversial and I urge you as a detractor to take extra care in expressing your opinion and assessment of the text. The aim is not to be excessively inflammatory we do not want to start a screaming match and get the glorious thread about hating bad things locked. Likewise, I urge those who disagree, particularly if they are disagreeing with a minority view to take care in responding to the proponents of that view and try to bear in mind that responding when greatly outnumbered is extremely time consuming and, at times, intimidating.

Suggested Targets

You might like to consider the following topics to hold forth upon - there are a lot of things to be discussed within, and a handy guide to some of the things to expect and look out for. If you have things to add, be they books, quick guides or corrections please don't hesitate to post them in thread or PM me to add them.

The Obvious
These are some examples which we can probably almost guarantee that the criticism thereof will be positively received by the participants.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer and its adaptations
The Good:
There is a cool Muse song in the movie.
Rifftrax makes the movies hilarious.
The books are attractively designed.
Amazing wig on display in the first movie.
Everyone likes Charlie's moustache.
Ashley Greene is naked on the internet.

The Bad:
Everything.
Repressive patriarchal gender politics
Obvious author insert
Complete absence of technical proficiency in writing OR direction
Hackneyed plot devices throughout
No characterisation
Main character is unlikeable and contemptuous of everyone despite their being overwhelmingly nice to her
Main character lacks agency
Ten pages of story spread across 300 pages of writing
Utterly beset by fridge logic at every turn

The Ugly:
Isn't it almost too easy?
Apparent Mormon influences in a lot of the story and its literary allusions.
Has spawned countless imitators.
Other than their drinking blood this involves vampires in name only.
A 100 year old trapped in a teenager's body goes through high school countless times only to fall in love with a 16 year old girl. That's pretty creepy.

The Twilight Sequels by Stepanie Meyer
The Good:
<Footage not found>
The Bad:
Everything from Twilight is magnified one hundred fold.
The Ugly:
Vampire Birth
There is some weird sex
Their is even weirder stuff after the birth of the child
The Left Behind Series by Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown and its adaptations
The Sword of Truth by Terry "Crazyface" Goodkind and its weird adaptation
The Anita Blake Series by Laurell K. Hamilton
The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris but probably not its adaptation
The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

The Bizarre and Obscure
Here are a couple of books which are very bad that I know of but are rather obscure.

Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea
Wild Animus by ???

The Controversial
These books and series are almost certainly well loved by the PA community and will have their defenders - certainly these may be the most fun to poke holes through, but they are also most likely to cause the thread to go to dark places.

Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling and its adapations
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (DANGER, DANGER, THIS IS AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD IF YOU DON'T AGREE)

Stuff I Haven't Read or Otherwise Don't Know Where to Put
Things that I either haven't read or have read but don't have a good feel for the rest of the thread's opinions on.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Things to come:

Suggestions and mini-profiles of different candidates.
Answers to common charges: "Art is subjective", "Story X is good and it breaks the narrative conventions you identify when critiquing story Y, therefore Story Y is fine.", "Is it time to hate things which are good and popular now?"
A more coherent rewrite of the aims of the thread
Other things.
Use of the phrase "This is bad and you should feel bad"
Prettier formatting.

Tide goes in. Tide goes out.
Es-annon NEVA 4GET
Apothe0sis on
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Posts

  • Tiger BurningTiger Burning Dig if you will, the pictureRegistered User, SolidSaints Tube regular
    I fault the OP for lack of characterization and excessively shallow world building. Also for its political implications.

    Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    This OP is bad and you should feel bad.

    Shall we start with Big Bertha?

    I cannot stand Twilight because of how it treats women in relationships. The whole series is a long experiment in repressed judeo-christian sexual morality and gender privilege. For young kids to read these books and see how worthless and without agency Bella allows herself to become over Edward is worrying to me.

    They can't have sex because Edward will freak out and kill her, but this could seemingly be solved by allowing Bella to take the lead.
    When Edward leaves, Bella keeps putting herself in danger to bring him back, which is believable for a teenager I guess but the books portray this not as a naive action by a young person, but as a sensible choice.

    And that's not even starting on the Super Pedo ending...

    Lh96QHG.png
  • Apothe0sisApothe0sis Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Registered User regular
    I do feel bad. I wish it were more capably written.

    Tide goes in. Tide goes out.
    Es-annon NEVA 4GET
  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    It's okay, I actually think it's a fairly decent OP, but you had a reference to that phrase in there so I couldn't help myself.

    Lh96QHG.png
  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    I think it's hilarious that in reading this thread on a Kindle Fire :P

    0WBv0.png
  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I think I would like to start with the condemnation and hopefully an insight to the origination of the bandwagon effect that seems to happen almost annually now with regard to terribly-written mass market fiction.

    What is it about a book, like The Da Vinci Code, or Twilight, or The Hunger Games, or Harry Potter, that catches the public's eye to such a degree that it quite literally causes a panic? Taken as a sum, these are 17 very not-good books. Worse (for any arguments of origination), they're not even particularly original (their collective subject matter has been rehashed many, many times over) nor do they particularly offer any novel or provocative commentary, other than the meta-textual commentary they provide about our society and the people who continue to seek out these experiences.

    Conversely, why is it that legitimately engaging fiction never seems to take the public consciousness by stranglehold the way these books do? Why are Michael Chabon and Jeffrey Eugenides not household names, but Dan Brown and Gregory Maguire are?




    I guess I have trouble reconciling myself to the fact that we live in a world where people will gladly and habitually put in the effort of reading without any expectation or desire for edification.

    Atomika on
  • VanguardVanguard Je suis le savant au fauteuil sombre. Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    I call bullshit on that attitude, there has always been utter schlock in the literary world. This isn't new, we have a false idea of literature as a great thing of the past because the only things we remember are the Shakespeares and the like. The Victorians alone had a huge industry of crappy dime novels and romances.

    Lh96QHG.png
  • Tiger BurningTiger Burning Dig if you will, the pictureRegistered User, SolidSaints Tube regular
    edited March 2012
    I guess I have trouble reconciling myself to the fact that we live in a world where people will gladly and habitually put in the effort of reading without any expectation or desire for edification.

    Are you similarly disturbed that people watch TV or movies? Or that people often prefer cheeseburgers to cauliflower? Those books are easy to read. If there's pleasure to be had and it's easy to get, it shouldn't be a mystery that it's popular.

    Tiger Burning on
    Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Well, by pure consumption, we've never been more literate. We collectively buy and read more books than in any other point in human history, in both measures of per capita and total volume.

    We just don't seem to have the collective requirement that books need to be good anymore. We treat books like we treat television now, disposable and empty enjoyment that never need to be thought about.

  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    I call bullshit on that attitude, there has always been utter schlock in the literary world. This isn't new, we have a false idea of literature as a great thing of the past because the only things we remember are the Shakespeares and the like. The Victorians alone had a huge industry of crappy dime novels and romances.

    But were those things held as paragons of the form by public consensus?



    I like to think someone literate enough to read a 300 page book written for adults is also literate enough to want something edifying from the experience. I'm almost certainly wrong, I feel.

  • Tiger BurningTiger Burning Dig if you will, the pictureRegistered User, SolidSaints Tube regular
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Well, by pure consumption, we've never been more literate. We collectively buy and read more books than in any other point in human history, in both measures of per capita and total volume.

    We just don't seem to have the collective requirement that books need to be good anymore. We treat books like we treat television now, disposable and empty enjoyment that never need to be thought about.

    I think you probably have an inaccurate idea of "the way things used to be", book-quality-wise.

    Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    I guess I have trouble reconciling myself to the fact that we live in a world where people will gladly and habitually put in the effort of reading without any expectation or desire for edification.

    Are you similarly disturbed that people watch TV or movies? Or that people often prefer cheeseburgers to cauliflower? Those books are easy to read. If there's pleasure to be had and it's easy to get, it shouldn't be a mystery that it's popular.

    In a way, I'm disturbed by grown adults who watch endless hours of crap. But at least TV is passive entertainment, delivered in short bursts.

  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    I call bullshit on that attitude, there has always been utter schlock in the literary world. This isn't new, we have a false idea of literature as a great thing of the past because the only things we remember are the Shakespeares and the like. The Victorians alone had a huge industry of crappy dime novels and romances.

    But were those things held as paragons of the form by public consensus?



    I like to think someone literate enough to read a 300 page book written for adults is also literate enough to want something edifying from the experience. I'm almost certainly wrong, I feel.

    I have no idea, they were widely consumed and often best sellers so maybe?

    In the academic world, from which we get our Canon and idea of literature, no they weren't and somehow I doubt that The Davinchi Code will ever be in the canon. The past was not a nicer country.

    Lh96QHG.png
  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Well, by pure consumption, we've never been more literate. We collectively buy and read more books than in any other point in human history, in both measures of per capita and total volume.

    We just don't seem to have the collective requirement that books need to be good anymore. We treat books like we treat television now, disposable and empty enjoyment that never need to be thought about.

    I think you probably have an inaccurate idea of "the way things used to be", book-quality-wise.

    Maybe, but I do know that for a fact, almost everyone here was conditioned to read quality, contemplative literature all throughout their schooling and education. For the first 18 years of our lives, most of us had a ratio of literature consumption that largely favored the good.

    It seems exceedingly odd to me that someone would maintain the practice of reading, an active process that often takes hours or days, but eschew the search or demand for an edifying throughline. It seems to me, in a way, like jerking off for hours with no intention of climax.

  • Apothe0sisApothe0sis Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Registered User regular
    I was going to venture the idea that the reason that blockbuster atrocities are so successful is that like pop music there are a variety of techniques that can be used and strings that can be pulled to disguise or otherwise make desirable a rather lame central core of music or narrative.

    However, that immediately lead me to the questions - why then do these empty suits succeed as well if not more than their more thoroughly capable counterparts? Should not we expect there to be as many Lady Gagas as there are Nickelbacks? For the Twilights, shouldn't there be... some kind of sensible counterpart?

    Tide goes in. Tide goes out.
    Es-annon NEVA 4GET
  • Tiger BurningTiger Burning Dig if you will, the pictureRegistered User, SolidSaints Tube regular
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Well, by pure consumption, we've never been more literate. We collectively buy and read more books than in any other point in human history, in both measures of per capita and total volume.

    We just don't seem to have the collective requirement that books need to be good anymore. We treat books like we treat television now, disposable and empty enjoyment that never need to be thought about.

    I think you probably have an inaccurate idea of "the way things used to be", book-quality-wise.

    Maybe, but I do know that for a fact, almost everyone here was conditioned to read quality, contemplative literature all throughout their schooling and education. For the first 18 years of our lives, most of us had a ratio of literature consumption that largely favored the good.

    It seems exceedingly odd to me that someone would maintain the practice of reading, an active process that often takes hours or days, but eschew the search or demand for an edifying throughline. It seems to me, in a way, like jerking off for hours with no intention of climax.

    Again you're describing reading as some arduous or involved undertaking. But it needn't be, and for many popular books it isn't. It's as easy as watching TV or a movie, and often more pleasurable. Why shouldn't they be popular?

    Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
  • DelzhandDelzhand Venitah, Satariel! Registered User regular
    For my part, I don't have a problem with books that are literal, I rather enjoy them. I got my degree in literary criticism, but I overwhelmingly prefer literal stories. I care more about the trials and tribulations of Frodo Baggins than the struggle of "mankind against war". I have little patience for real world fiction. Toni Morrison's Beloved is pretty unequivocally the "best" book I've ever read, but it's far from the one I most enjoy.
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    Should not we expect there to be as many Lady Gagas as there are Nickelbacks?

    Wait, which one in this analogy is the "sensible counterpart"? Lady Gaga?

    Steam|FFXIV|Switch SW-3472-4893-0802
  • sportzboytjwsportzboytjw squeeeeeezzeeee some more tax breaks outRegistered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    I tried reading a Michael Chabon book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and I just never got into it. It didn't connect with me on an emotional level which is necessary if I'm going to read a book just because its well-reviewed. Basically, it was a little boring and I didn't enjoy the characters. I didn't get past page 100.

    EDIT also I think that maybe what makes a good book good to an academic and what makes it good to me are two different things. Classical music is good (and I enjoy it sometimes), but it's not something I'd expect big commercial hits to come from more than once in a blue moon. Britney Spears is/was a bad musician, but man are her songs catchy. Commercial success comes from being appealing, and a masterpiece of a story may not be appealing. Moby Dick is a terrible book because it boring and a lot of work to read, plus, unless you were actively looking for symbolism, you miss most of the story. It is also a literary masterpiece...

    sportzboytjw on
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  • MalReynoldsMalReynolds The Hunter S Thompson of incredibly mild medicines Registered User regular
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    For the Twilights, shouldn't there be... some kind of sensible counterpart?

    There would be if anyone would publish my goddamn books.

    "A new take on the epic fantasy genre... Darkly comic, relatable characters... twisted storyline."
    "Readers who prefer tension and romance, Maledictions: The Offering, delivers... As serious YA fiction, I’ll give it five stars out of five. As a novel? Four and a half." - Liz Ellor
    My new novel: Maledictions: The Offering. Now in Paperback!
  • Apothe0sisApothe0sis Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Registered User regular
    Delzhand wrote: »
    For my part, I don't have a problem with books that are literal, I rather enjoy them. I got my degree in literary criticism, but I overwhelmingly prefer literal stories. I care more about the trials and tribulations of Frodo Baggins than the struggle of "mankind against war". I have little patience for real world fiction. Toni Morrison's Beloved is pretty unequivocally the "best" book I've ever read, but it's far from the one I most enjoy.
    Apothe0sis wrote: »
    Should not we expect there to be as many Lady Gagas as there are Nickelbacks?

    Wait, which one in this analogy is the "sensible counterpart"? Lady Gaga?

    Lady Gaga is the sensible counterpart.

    Tide goes in. Tide goes out.
    Es-annon NEVA 4GET
  • BogartBogart I Will Cure You Registered User, Moderator mod
    Conversely, why is it that legitimately engaging fiction never seems to take the public consciousness by stranglehold the way these books do? Why are Michael Chabon and Jeffrey Eugenides not household names, but Dan Brown and Gregory Maguire are?

    Just as Avatar or Titanic become a blockbusting juggernaut that levels all the movie competition, Twilight and Harry Potter tower over pretty much everything else in bookselling. Even when a great director like Scorcese gets a hit movie it's always a much smaller hit than, say, Hunger Games. Very, very occasionally you'll have something that is legitimately great and incredibly popular, like Jaws or the Godfather, but those are rare exceptions with equally few equivalents in the world of literature. Dickens was popular and a candidate for greatest novelist in the English language, Lolita sold 50 million copies, as did The Name of the Rose. Pride and Prejudice has sold by the bucketload and finished, I think, second in a poll to find the most popular book in Britain (LOTR won). 1984 sold millions. Obviously, these are exceptions.

    As for why the examples of bad or mediocre novels become phenomena more often than the genuinely great, who knows? I have no idea why The Name of the Rose became such a smash hit while other equally fine novels have not, or why Dan Brown is more popular than God when equally bad books sell nothing. I suspect no one really does. Some things just catch light and suddenly it's a topic of conversation, a frequently-picked present for others and a newspaper story. And if you're recommending something to someone the concept of the Da Vinci Code is likely to be an easier sell than, say, House of Leaves or Underworld.

    "What's it about?"

    "A conspiracy theory about Da Vinci and Jesus and the church and it's a real pageturner!" will go down better than "It's an attempt to look at American postwar history by following the baseball from Babe Ruth's shot heard round the world as it passes through various people's hands and also an examination of American life and families and life in cities and is very carefully written by a brilliant literary writer and wait where are you going?".

    In the end it might come down to the fact that the number of people who can engage with Twilight is exponentially larger than the group of people who can engage with Underworld. One is easy, one is not.

  • TheBigEasyTheBigEasy Registered User regular
    While we read more than at any other point in history, there are also more people alive than in any other point in history. Plus, our whole technology. I am pretty certain, that in times past there was an equal amount of crap and crappy bestsellers available as it was today. Only today it seems so overwhelming, because we have better technology to make more people aware of that crap.

    That doesn't mean literature is going down the drain. Besides, literature, same as movies or games or sporting events, are a form of entertainment. I read the DaVinci Code, it really is a page turner. I devoured Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I couldn't tell you exactly what made those books so easy and fast reads, but they are. While other works might be better literature, they are also harder to read - so most people won't bother trying it.

  • BogartBogart I Will Cure You Registered User, Moderator mod
    The Da Vinci Code is the best recent example of a truly terrible book I can think of. It's an absolute stinker, and can accurately be judged as one after reading the first sentence.
    Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

    That's awful, and an excellent blog post about it, the first chapter in general and how terrible it all is can be found here.
    Maybe, but I do know that for a fact, almost everyone here was conditioned to read quality, contemplative literature all throughout their schooling and education. For the first 18 years of our lives, most of us had a ratio of literature consumption that largely favored the good.

    Well, school certainly tries to get us to read good literature, but pupils often don't bother reading it, because they don't really have to. You can answer essay or exam questions on a book without reading all of it, or even much of it. You might read a chapter in class, or read through a whole Shakespeare play in class, but kids very often avoid engaging with it when they do so because it's schoolwork and who wants to enjoy that?

  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Chiming in on the "reading is fun" bandwagon here. Blame Reading Rainbow for teaching a generation of kids to read a book as a form of mindless entertainment, not as an exploration of the inner self as it grapples with the implications of a heartless world.

  • TheBigEasyTheBigEasy Registered User regular
    Bogart wrote: »
    The Da Vinci Code is the best recent example of a truly terrible book I can think of. It's an absolute stinker, and can accurately be judged as one after reading the first sentence.
    Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

    That's awful, and an excellent blog post about it, the first chapter in general and how terrible it all is can be found here.

    It has been a few years since I read the book - maybe I should read it again and actually look out for all the bad stuff :). That ought to be fun.

  • Evil MultifariousEvil Multifarious Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    As a massive literature snob I am going to agree with Tiger Burning.

    Not everyone wants to engage with a challenging book that will force them to confront difficult new ideas and explore subtle themes and interpret metaphor and allegory. Even those who do don't want to do it all the time.

    There is zero mystery in why Twilight or Harry Potter or the Hunger Games or the Da Vinci Code are popular. They are popular because they are easy to read, they are fun and appealing for their target audience, and they are heavily and professionally marketed to those audiences. It doesn't matter that they're badly written, because lots of people don't care. They want to read about cool things happening and see what happens next. They want to be entertained. And they are!

    This is not some apocalyptic descent into boorishness and superficiality. Books are 99% superficial, poorly written faff, as are 99% of films, television shows, video games, and music, and they largely always have been. Out of all that, I'm sure we all have our corporate, heavily-marketed pabulum that we enjoy, as we have every right to, as everyone has ever right to.

    At best you can want people to be aware that what they're reading isn't great literature, and even that is unrealistic.

    Evil Multifarious on
    Inquisitor wrote: »
    I fucking hate you Canadians.
  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I have sort of a question, because I don't know if it's just me.

    When reading through The Dark Tower by Stephen King I kept being drawn into the world, and then just when I felt like it was familiar, he'd go and shit it up with some crazy stuff that was incredibly jarring. Every time the story would begin to pace itself and I'd start giving a shit about what happened next, something would occur in the plot that was just a "what the fuck did I just read?".

    I really enjoyed The Stand and in general like his writing (older stuff mostly) so I just don't get it. Was it just me?


    Edit: I also did not care much for The Catcher in the Rye but I could appreciate it as being incredibly well written and worth reading at least once.

    dispatch.o on
  • Apothe0sisApothe0sis Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Registered User regular
    Ok, so I am about to go to bed, so this will be short.

    My initial focus is going to be Harry Potter. The books are not good. I was surprised, having only seen the movies and picked up stuff overhead in conversations that when I actually got around to reading the books that they were less of a chore to read than I expected. Whatever the narrative failings, Rowling apparently has some technical skill when it comes to writing. Unfortunately, my criticisms and concerns for the details of the story were confirmed in spades.

    I have a handful of major critiques of Harry Potter, each of which I intend to elaborate upon as I get a chance - here are my introductions of a few.

    I struggle to find a thematic coherence. One such example being the fact that we are at once supposed to be enchanted by the Wizarding world and the richness it contains but at the same time acknowledge that the government is largely incompetent, large swathes of society entirely reactionary, an undercurrent of corruption and both tacit and no end of other failings. However, this tension goes largely unexplored and entirely unacknowledged. All in all the books are depressing rather than exercises in whimsical escapism.

    The Wizarding World is a hidden dystopia even beyond the bumbling, ineffective and corrupt nature of their society. They are technologically stagnant, they make no effort to understand anything about the world beyond magic, he magic they do learn is largely inherited knowledge, almost no mention is made of higher education, the magic they do learn is either useless or designed to harm others or just plain doesn't work (see: Divination), they almost entirely ignore muggles despite coexisting with them. The large majority of the population who are not aligned with Voldemort are essentially complacent with regard to any kind of social justice or concern for the wellbeing of their fellows, muggles or other sentient beings. There are a handful of careers available, one of which being an Auror which is more or less a secret policeman, bounty hunter and inquisitor rolled into one - it is doubly troubling that the society is so thoroughly dysfunctional that there exist a sufficiently large prevalence of dark wizards to justify the existence of Aurors and that people hunt and, on occasion kill these people for their profession. The magical society is not an enlightened one.

    The story is one of broken morals - despite ostensibly having a message of tolerance and liberty we are faced with a large gaping hole in the case of the house elves. Even if we grant that Hermione eventually advances their cause when she is capable of affecting Wizarding law she and her cause is presented as an object of ridicule and pointless badgering throughout the stories. The elves' cultural acceptance of their position and their notions of honour and insult on at Hermoine's attempts to free them is hardly an answer or a solution to the problem - there are some interesting philosophical questions with regard to sentient beings who wish to be slaves but the books do not even begin to ask them. But at its base, we have a society which has bred and subjugated house elves to the point of of complete neurosis and subjugated them to the point of entirely lacking legal rights and the overwhelming majority of society makes no effort to rehabilitate or liberate them.

    Wizards are basically stupid. Or rather, every major point of plot and resolution are matters of convenience, not consequence. @Atomic Ross quite rightly pointed out that the time turner is the most egregiously stupid part of the whole series - and to make matters worse it was more or less introduced for nothing more than an additional sense of wonder. Somehow the godlike power of being able to travel through time and the dangers this represents is appropriate for inconvenient scheduling issues with regard to elementary education but employing it to reverse the successes of the most powerful and dangerous dark wizard ever to exist is beyond the pale? The a few tweaks to the way the story unfolded could just as easily have demonstrated Snape hateful, the ministry inflexible, Dumbledore benevolent (another characterisation which I believe is unearned) and rendered Sirius a fugitive without introducing the one-size-fits-all solution to any conceivable problem and then ignoring its existence for the rest of the series. A different demonstration of the plot contrivance is that of the Mirror of Erised and its layers of protection - it's just plain stupid.

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  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Any trip to a local antique shop will net you a treasure trove of old, yellowing books fit for nothing except placing on a shelf so the old, weathered spine can be viewed by your guests on their way to the sideboard for another brioche.

    They are uniformly unfit for actual reading.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Venitah, Satariel! Registered User regular
    @Apothe0sis

    I suppose that's why I enjoyed HP and the Methods of Rationality. By god, it's got some issues (being a 1000 page masturbatory celebration of the author's own morality will do that), but it's fun to watch the author's protagonist-as-self-insert just rip the world's logic to tatters.

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  • Linespider5Linespider5 ALL HAIL KING KILLMONGER Registered User regular
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Chabon's a weird one.

    He writes very well, often.

    Not always the best when it comes to writing with finesse or economy, however. It's kind of his thing, though, and a lot of people embrace the oddness of a writer and it becomes their strength in terms of finding an audience.

    I would also submit Chuck Palahniuk, in his ability to write books with the express intent of aggravating the reader. He does it well, and it's done on purpose, but...I don't read books to get pissed off.

  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    At best you can want people to be aware that what they're reading isn't great literature, and even that is unrealistic.

    Well, we've nationally placed a high priority on literacy, and concordantly in doing so, placed a high cultural value on the act of reading, certainly much higher than we do on watching TV or films.

    This has resulted in the shorthand assumption by many that "Reading is good," which is easily extrapolated into, "If I am reading, I'm doing something good," which again quickly turns to, "The things I'm reading are good."

    To steal someone's argument from a thread years ago (Jeffe? perhaps), there's not a strong link between encouraging habitual reading and a person habitually seeking out edifying literature. As they said memorably, reading Twilight is only likely to encourage reading more books like Twilight.



    And still, easy as it may be to do blithely without regard to its merit, reading is an active process that requires both the conscious choice to devote time and energy to the process as well as (typically) money out of your pocket for each new experience.

    It's not the same as watching bad TV, despite the fact I find both practices untoward.

  • EupfhoriaEupfhoria Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Bogart wrote: »
    The Da Vinci Code is the best recent example of a truly terrible book I can think of. It's an absolute stinker, and can accurately be judged as one after reading the first sentence.
    Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

    That's awful, and an excellent blog post about it, the first chapter in general and how terrible it all is can be found here.

    heh, I read the first bit at that link, and my first thought in regards to this: "We could have deduced that he would be fairly well known in the museum trade from the fact that he was curating at the Louvre."

    was that D. Brown is probably intentionally writing with a 'tell don't show' syle, because his target demographic are people who need to be told that he is renowned, as they need to be told that the Louvre is a fancy art museum in Paris, and probably need to be told that Paris is a city in France, and...well you get the point. The point being that people are dumb.




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  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    Conversely, why is it that legitimately engaging fiction never seems to take the public consciousness by stranglehold the way these books do? Why are Michael Chabon and Jeffrey Eugenides not household names, but Dan Brown and Gregory Maguire are?

    Because "legitimately engaging" fiction isn't particularly engaging to many people, while popular literature is?

    I'd imagine that for many people who kept on reading after high school, it was less a process of lowering their standards and more a process of discovering that they actually could enjoy reading now that they were no longer forced to drag insights out of everything.

  • VanguardVanguard Je suis le savant au fauteuil sombre. Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited March 2012
    I call bullshit on that attitude, there has always been utter schlock in the literary world. This isn't new, we have a false idea of literature as a great thing of the past because the only things we remember are the Shakespeares and the like. The Victorians alone had a huge industry of crappy dime novels and romances.

    Did I imply this is a new thing?

    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Well, by pure consumption, we've never been more literate. We collectively buy and read more books than in any other point in human history, in both measures of per capita and total volume.

    We just don't seem to have the collective requirement that books need to be good anymore. We treat books like we treat television now, disposable and empty enjoyment that never need to be thought about.

    I meant if you look at literacy rates. It's starting to go the other way. That each person who reads reads more is of little import if the pool of people who read, or, more importantly can read, is shrinking (in America at least).

    Vanguard on
  • AtomikaAtomika not a robot. does not eat bugs!Registered User regular
    Vanguard wrote: »
    Vanguard wrote: »
    I haven't read Chabon, but he's on the list.

    To answer your question: because people like terrible things all the time, and we are becoming increasingly illiterate.

    Well, by pure consumption, we've never been more literate. We collectively buy and read more books than in any other point in human history, in both measures of per capita and total volume.

    We just don't seem to have the collective requirement that books need to be good anymore. We treat books like we treat television now, disposable and empty enjoyment that never need to be thought about.

    I meant if you look at literacy rates. It's starting to go the other way. That each person who reads reads more is of little import if the pool of people who read, or, more importantly can read, is shrinking (in America at least).

    That doesn't surprise me, given how the segment of the population that does read collectively hold little standard for their product.

  • furlionfurlion Riskbreaker Lea MondeRegistered User regular
    I think the success of these types of books can be attributed almost entirely to being easy to read and understand. As hackneyed as it is to say the public school system does a very poor job preparing your average American (no clue for the rest of the world) for dissecting and understanding complex literature. I have a lot of friends that fall reasonably close to the average American demographic, including my wife, and they are all huge fans of Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. Off the top of my head I do not know why those in particular took off except random chance. Although I do think it is interesting, and perhaps informative, that these and several other books on the list in the OP are aimed squarely at young adults. Perhaps that is as far as your average American progresses in their reading comprehension. So it is easy for books like this to be passed about by word of mouth. After all reading an interesting book is fun, but talking about it with your friends adds a much larger amount of enjoyment, at least for me.

    I will also add that of the books in the OP I am a big HP fan, loved Ender's Game and the sequels/prequels, and quite enjoyed the first 4 or 5 Anita Blake novels (before the sex got in the way).

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  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    @Vanguard, that wasn't specifically directed at you, but on the attitude that somehow literature is worse now than it ever was.

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  • BogartBogart I Will Cure You Registered User, Moderator mod
    To steal someone's argument from a thread years ago (Jeffe? perhaps), there's not a strong link between encouraging habitual reading and a person habitually seeking out edifying literature. As they said memorably, reading Twilight is only likely to encourage reading more books like Twilight.

    Everyone starts reading somewhere, and very few people start reading classics and great literature and only classics and great literature. I read a shitload of genre fiction in my youth, and gradually added more dollops of literature as I got older. I might be an exception to the rule of genre fiction leading to literature, but I imagine a whole bunch of people currently reading literature are the same way. The point isn't that twilight usually leads to nothing but more twilight, but that never reading twilight or anything like it (Lord of the Rings, Hardy Boys, whatever) is even less likely to lead to reading literature.

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