Sunday, May 03, 2009

4 books you shouldn't touch with a stick

If you are in the mood for something positive right now, you are not in the right place. For a pick me up, may I suggest julochka's (using the genitive case here folks!) or the new Molly's latest posts.

I'm all for positivity and all that hype (really?), just not today. Today I'm all about a list. A list of books you should never touch, but I have read. Doing my part for the well-being of mankind?

I love bad books. I just do. I love a good rant about something that hasn't really gotten to me that badly. If I want to bash a book, I have to read it, so there will be no bashing of such classics as The Secret, because I just can't bring myself to even touch it at the bookstore. Also, there are some books that I think are bad, but that I have a weird love-to-hate-them/ hate-to-love-them relationship with, such as the vampire love saga currently in vogue (don't judge me, please). And then there are other works, granted none too many, that were so horrible or disgusting that I was forced, lest I puke, to put them aside and not finish. 

But enough about vomit.

I will now attempt to give you my all time top four of books you shouldn't touch with a stick, accompanied by my random reasons as to why I think you shouldn't even pick up the stick in the first place.

1. Leap of Faith by Queen Noor 

2. Mary Called Magdalene by Margaret George

3. Fanie Fourie's Lobola by Nape 'a Motana

4. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho 

Now, none of these books are books that I personally wouldn't touch with a stick to begin with. These are no 'beach' or 'airplane'. These are all books meant to be good, enlightening, and at first glance enticing to a book snob who gives any Marian Keyes or Nora Roberts a wide berth. Some of these were huge bestsellers. 

But let me state my reasons, other than 'puke'.

The first two, Leap of Faith and Mary Called Magdalene, were not reads I chose out of my free will. Two different book clubs voted to choose these pieces of 'literature'. I might have been sick when they decided on Leap, since I don't remember making a huge ruckus about my innate hate of memoirs (this might shift a little though, I LOVED What is the What by Dave Eggers, but it's still so fiction-y), and I know for sure I wasn't there when the other book club decided on Mary. I. Would. Have. Said. Something.

The book club I read Leap for was my favorite one - one of those groups of people who are capable of good (mostly literature-related) discussions, of making good coffee and food at the meetings (Yup. That's, like, half of a good book club), and of picking interesting books to be read. I sorely miss them and the discussions (and yes, the Mexican food). Luckily most of the members in this club hated Leap as much as I did, and in the end no one would completely admit to recommending the book. It was just so... one-sided, and you couldn't even hold the book without getting the stench of agenda all over you. And the parts that were meant to make it reek less like a political move (definitely made by someone else than the Queen herself) were just excruciating. I would quote here, but the book was in a charity bag before I could utter the words 'memoiry shit'. 

The second book club was a rather more surreal experience. The discussion of Mary, that I had indeed read in its entirety, all of the 900+ pages, was to be my first meeting. I rode to the meeting with a friend, her first time as well, and already in the car we discussed the horror that was this 'historical' novel. She hadn't read the whole book, she simply said she couldn't finish, or really even begin for that matter. 

We arrived at the meeting, and after having awesome food and wine (the silver lining), to my absolute amazement, as we went around the room, the regular members said they had rather enjoyed the book and no one had absolutely hated it. The main complaint seemed to be the length. What? Did I just slip into a parallel universe, or had I perhaps read a completely different book? They couldn't mean it!     

And then the person, who had recommended the book took out her enormous Bible. 

The rest of the discussion unfolded through her showing us on the map in her good book just where Hey Zeus did what, when, and how, and then, as always happens when I feel surrounded by too much oppressive religion (nothing wrong with religion per se, just don't like being force-fed anything), I felt the need to reveal my atheism, only to be met with a drawn-out "So what do you believe in then? Nothing? Really?" for an hour or so, at the end of which I was definitely going to hell. Poor me. 

The book, it turned out was never meant to be discussed for it's literary merits (or in this case the severe lack of them), but as a depiction of Mary Magdalene's life. Silly me for thinking the book was a tedious, and unimaginative fictional work that lacked an author who could transform a few obscure mentions of a woman into a fascinating tale of a potentially extraordinary life. Hmph. 

I never went back to that book club. The members were nice and all ('cept for condemning me to hell), we were just never meant to have that dreaded religion discussion, and I never could fully forgive them for making me read this book without letting me rant, I mean discuss, about it.

Fanie Fourie's Lobola is one of my all time biggest haterites. It is written by a South African, whose wife and children I greatly pity, and frankly am a little afraid for. This book is supposedly about a courtship between a South African boer and a black woman and their subsequent wedding. The back cover exclaims that "this is a book about love which will capture many hearts" (Dr. Wangui wa Goro). Of love?!?! More like rape. The most horrifying aspect of this South African book is that in a culture where rape is a humongous issue and an everyday threat for many, many women and girls, the author manages to equate love with rape and make it known that even if a girl says no and runs away she just does not mean it. Oh, and if you drive a BMW she is just waiting for you to come and take (rape) her, since all women are just objects to be used. Ugh.

As I was buying this book at Exclusive Books the clerk, a woman nonetheless, told me how funny the book was and how much I would enjoy it. I also worry about her now.   

The last book on my list is the one I realize will perhaps make you wonder about my sanity. I know. Some of you might absolutely have loved it, and I promise I won't judge, too harshly. Okay, I will, but that's how I am. 

So what is wrong with The Alchemist now? Well, my main gripe is that I just cannot stand it when the author does not allow for me to come to my own realizations. In Finnish you would say that the author was 'twisting it out of wire for you' and in Danish that he was 'cutting it out of cardboard', i.e. that he was making his preferred interpretation of his text so painfully obvious that you are not able to assign any other meanings to it, you are left with not your own, but his dialogue with the text. And to me, that is just a recipe of a bad, bad book. Uhuh, I am one of those 'Death of the Author' weirdos.  

Okay. I have only attacked two of the major forces in the universe: religion and Coelho. Not too bad for a Sunday.

What is your haterite fictional book in the world?   

35 comments:

Molly said...

Haven't read the others (and now don't intend to), but I'm not afraid to stand by your side, united in our hatred of The Alchemist.
Pissy little book :)

But really, the 'new' Molly? Not 'another' or 'the other'?
Like I died and had to be replaced of something?
Sheez...

julochka said...

i recently hated a book by christian jungersen called "undtagelsen" (the exception is what they call it in english, b/c it's been translated as well, tho' why i cannot imagine). it's about mobning and basically the worse of the bullies in the book totally wins out in the end, but every character is more unappealing than the next. in short, it sucked and there was nothing to learn from it, other than how to be a psycho bitch, which you would think i might appreciate, but no.

in fact, just writing this has made me furious all over again...i have to go for a walk (and possibly another latte) now...arrgh!

julochka said...

p.s. i agree about the alchemist. i read it (desperation purchase during long layover in bangkok) on a plane, so i'd have to classify it as airplane reading...retch.

Extranjera said...

Molly who is not dead, but was here first - Awesome. I knew there were others. Somewhere.

And sorry! However, that is not my interpretation of the subtext for 'new' ;o)

Extranjera said...

julochka - now I know why you and Molly the first are both so cool. Again, a united front.

Anandi said...

Tess of the d' Urbervilles. I adore Hardy, but I can't like Tess. I love the countryside, I love her white gown, I can even tolerate the cows, but I balk at the thought of reading ( but since I already have, it would be re-reading) Tess.

And I don't 'get'anything by Coelho. I read them, so I know what I'm up against!

Extranjera said...

Anandi - Kind of with you on Tess, but am more at 'meh' about it. I seem to remember that I 'had to' read it, and that could have worked against it.

You read more than one Coelho? Wow. Commitment. I will never ever pick up another one. Ever.

Molly said...

And to push the religion/Coelho bashing one step further .... I totally lump that utter drivel The Da Vinci Code in with anything by the aforementioned C.

Maybe I've a death wish after all ;)

Extranjera said...

Can't properly bash it because haven't read it. I automatically lumped it in with Keyes and Roberts and refuse thus to even pick up.
Honestly, it screams shit from where I'm standing. And possibly together with The Secret.

Sara said...

Being an atheist myself I think I would have been tossed from that meeting. :)

I was very disappointed when I came across Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (which seems to get high praise). It was supposed to be short stories about scientific facts and *technically* it was but really every short story was about lusting after (and sometimes getting) some female or other. And not in an interesting way.

Hit 40 said...

My oldest told me this morning that I had to read Lord of the Flies. He left it for me to take to work....

I know! How could I be this old without reading that book!!! I told him that I would because I have lots of extra time to read with a student teacher teaching my classes (it rocks!!!)

Thank you for joining my cult! I am honored. I hope I do not disappoint.

Extranjera said...

Sara - Ticking off Italo Calvino. Can't generally take much of any misogynistic shit. thanks for the heads up!

Hit 40 - Not going to rant about the worth of classics... Enjoy! And welcome.

marathoner81 said...

I thought I commented on this...but it must have gotten lost and is floating around the blogosphere. Since I'm too hungover from my winery tour yesterday I don't feel like re-typing it..or to be honest remember what I wrote. Thanks for the warnings!

Georgie K. Buttons said...

I don't know. I hate a lot of books. Probably "Zombie Blondes" was the worst though. I don't even know why I finished it.

Extranjera said...

Marathoner - you're excused...

Georgie - Also ticking off Zombie Blondes from my to read list. Thanks! Even though apparently zombies are the new vampires...

julochka said...

just stopping back by to say that i like the new molly. is that ok? of course, i still love molly the first more.

Extranjera said...

Love all of them Mollys. Good stuff.

Janet said...

I read, also for a book club, Revolutionary Road. I think the advertisements for the movie were just coming out, and they raved about the story. No raving here. Unless there's something "deep" there that I'm just not getting. But I don't think so. Thought a couple of times about just putting it away and not finishing it, but I read the whole thing. And now that I think about it, I'm not sure I can even remember how it ends. ?? I have read some Coelho and would say that they're very predictable. the moral/message is always the same and nothing at all earth shattering or really even provocative in the least.

Extranjera said...

Janet - Welcome and thanks for the definite heads up. Was actually thinking about getting the book (lots of talk about the movie and all..) but will now reconsider. There should be like a master check list (not Oprah's) for all book clubs, so we wouldn't ever have to read the shitty choices someone's 80 year old cousin recommended only to find out NO ONE wanted to read the book in the first place. One can dream, right?

Janet said...

Extranjera, Yes! one can ALWAYS dream!

B said...

I hate, hate, hate The Alchemist! It feels soooo good to say it. I haven't read the other ones, and probably never will after this. There are too many good books out there to waste my time with bad ones.

Extranjera said...

B - Totally hear you on The Alchemist, but I gotta say I love a really bad, bad book every once in a while, just for an epic-sized rant. Still, I understand that this is one of the quirks that make me the unique ranting me. Not everyone's cup of tea - or coffee (or wine...).

Innerspace Yoga said...

hate, hate, hate, & loathe entirely the Twilight series. double hate the notebook. however, the worst book ever is probably The Shack.

Extranjera said...

Kelly - Checked out my weird thing on the vamps? :o)

Sparks is not literature - he is beach. United front on that.

have only read the blurb on The Shack and decided to forgo because it seemed to be selling really well in the christian bookshop...

My name is Erin. said...

The Old Man and the Sea. I wanted to gouge my eyes out through the entire book. And then I felt guilty because I'm supposed to worship Hemingway. But I hated it. Like loving jazz, but hating John Coltrane's music. Blasphemy in the eyes of some, but I can't make myself love something just because I'm supposed to. The Old Man and the Sea sucked.

Cyndy said...

I'm on board with Erin and the whole classic thing. For me it was Jane Eyre (or anything by the Brönte sisters for that matter). I think there is a conspiracy by crotchety librarians to deem certain novels "classics" so that the books get checked out, eliminating the need to dust them...

Elindomiel said...

I hate Silas Marner. And most of Hemingway. There.

Extranjera said...

Erin (I think I got it now), Cyndy and Elindomiel - I too must admit The Old Man and the Sea was not a great personal favorite, but that could have also had something to do that we had to read it in Finnish, in Finnish class, when I was 15, and then discuss the blatant symbolism in it.

Teacher: So what do you think the lions symbolize?
Class: Uhm, lions, what lions...?
Stupig girl(not me!!!): The future?
Teacher: Well, don't you think it's the past? Come on people, he is looking BACK at them...? Could it be the past?
Class: Lions? Lion is an animal. They eat people in Africa.

Very traumatizing. And also I'm not a big fan of Hemingway's treatment of women.

Also gotta admit to liking Jane Eyre and now after reading The Eyre Affair loving it, can't wait to see what that zombie book will bring out of Pride and Prejudice...

Amanda said...

Wowza for the comments on this one! Where WAS I all weekend? I read Leap of Faith, but I didn't think it was as bad as you did...We also read The Alchemist for book group. Didn't love it either. I tried to read What is the What by Eggers, but it was just so...ongoing. I never finished it. Haven't picked up the Twilight Series, and don't have immediate plans to. The Shack sounds hokey to me.

I seem to really veer away from the "best sellers" and the Oprah's book list books. I also have a rule that I only read one book by an author. I figure that if I liked the book, there is not much chance that the author can write ANOTHER book that is as good. If I hated it, well...duh!

One of my favorite books of all time (cringing as I write this for those of you who hated it) was Bel Canto (Ann Patchett). I have resisted reading her newest one, and I have also heard that it is not nearly as good. See? Proof of my theory!

corticoWhat said...

I've never read a bad book. At least not all the way through. I will not let a book that bores me, insults my intelligence, or fails to enlighten me take time away from a book that might do all three. Throw it away and move on or loan it to someone you dislike. :)

Kirsi said...

Almost didn't comment on this one, but finally decided to do it any way... Have to admit i like Coelho (in spite of all you hating him :-)). Alchemist wasn't that good though, read it straight away after The Witch of Portobello, which i devoured at go. My first Coelho was Veronica decides to die (or whatever it's called in English) couple of years ago, love at first sight... What does this tell about me... Well, hopefully only that i'm not a bookaholic (is that a word?!?) and always TRYING to start reading something more intelligent than the ones our dear friend calls "pool reading" :-)

Extranjera said...

Amanda - But what is the absolute worst ever for you?

corticoWhat - I love a good rant, ergo I love a horrible book. It can't just be bad, it has to be epically horrendous. The best discussions come from the best and the worst. What I try to avoid is more of the 'meh' variety.

Kirsi - At least you're reading! Don't love you any less, but I have to say I'm making an exception for you... ;o)

Kirsi said...

Thanks love ;-)

stepforddreams said...

Oh the effing alchemist. Don't start me. Oh actually, please do! I was forced into studying that mongrel of a book when I lived in Chile. It frustrated me no end in Spanish so I went and bought an English copy thinking I'd suddenly enjoy it like everyone else in my class. Nope, I just wanted to burn it then.

Extranjera said...

SD - United we stand in our hatred of The Alchemist, 'cept for Kirsi, who has to be forgiven, because she is like my sis, but at least more or less united, with lots of hatred for the book... ;o)