Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yet Another Meme: Six Bad Books

This post is at least partly Cosette's fault. She named me in a perfectly good meme over at Pandora's Bazaar--the Six Random Things meme. But I'm feeling a bit twisted today, so I'm going to twist it. You ready? The new, twisted rules are these:
  • Link to the person or persons who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • Name 6 obscure books that you honestly love--but think almost no one else could. (You must really love the books; you must think most people would hate them. No cheating with books you think other people will love, too!)
  • Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them.
  • Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
So, here are my Six Bad Books I love. (Really. I think they're awesome. But don't take that as a recommendation...)
  1. Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson. This epistolary novel from the 18th Century is the longest novel in the English language. (And you thought that was Joyce's Ulysses!) It is almost out of print, and the only reason it isn't is that it gets assigned to graduate students. Even in its heyday, those who really enjoyed it spoke of it as "that great, still book." It has almost no plot--it's nothing but agonized soap-opera ruminations on Puritan morality put to the test under the most artificial and contrived conditions possible. I adore it. Trust me--you wouldn't.
  2. Sir Charles Grandison, by Samuel Richardson. Even fans of Clarissa normally dislike this book, which is Richardson's attempt to depict a perfectly moral 18th Century gentleman. This one is out of print--but if you can score me a complete hardcover edition at less than museum collection prices, I will love you forever. The way I love this book. But don't be tempted to keep it for yourself--you won't like it, I promise you.
  3. Frances Hodgson Burnett's adult romance novel, The Shuttle. You know how Burnett's children's books, A Little Princess and The Secret Garden have a timeless appeal? Her adult romances do not. They read like toothless dilutions of Edith Wharton, only without the style. This book is actually a sequel; I like it better than the original. Yes, I really like it. Quite a lot. Sad, but true. I like a bunch of her other adult books, too, but that's really cheating, since they are so much alike. So instead, I'll move on to:
  4. Fanny Burney's Evelina. This one is kind of cheating, because you can find critics, even today, who like this book. And, hell, this one is worth reading, even if you're not me, just for the biography of Frances Burney they'll tuck in the front. On some levels, it's a typical Austen-esque story of trying to get a girl well married... but just a little bit more reality sneaks in around the edges than Austen would have been comfortable with. So, well, if you like Jane Austen, you might like this book. Possibly.
  5. But don't, under any circumstances, try Burney's The Wanderer, which does not work--kind of a failed attempt at a proto-feminist novel. But I love them both... cross my heart.
  6. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, or: Life Among the Lowly. Yes, it's sentimental. Yes, Stowe totally underestimates the toxicity of slavery and racism, and is blissfully unaware of her own stereotyping. Yes, she ladles treacley-sweet dollops of 19th Century piety over the whole. But, you know what? She's funny in some places, and engaging in other places, and, on the whole, I really liked climbing inside her Victorian mindset. (I'm trying to get hold of a copy of her other, edgier, much less popular book, Dred. I bet I'm going to love it even more... and that most normal human beings would like it even less.) No reading a Classics Illustrated or abridged version of this one and claiming to like it. If you haven't chewed on Harriet Beecher Stowe uncut, you haven't really had the full monty. But don't stay for the whole show unless you are truly stout of heart--and don't blame me if you don't love it, too!
So that's my six. And I'm going to inflict this meme on Cosette, because it's her fault; Bright Crow of Wallhydra's Porch, because Surly Librarians surely love them some dreadfully bad books; Brightshadow over at Enchante, because he actually tried to read Clarissa (poor brave soul!) knowing how I love it--not to mention the sheer obscure genius that creates a libretto based on Casablanca for Verdi, a mere 107 years after his death; Kevin, at Quakerthink, because he writes too well not to love a few bad books; Ali over at Meadowsweet and Myrrh, because sensitive and well-read poets clearly have a few bad books they cherish stuffed under the mattress somewhere; and Peter, because, reading this post over my shoulder, he has already begun to compile his list of six.


Brightshadow said...

I deny ever attempting Clarissa. I may be crazy but I'm not insane.

And I can't really contribute to this list because I never love a book without thinking that any rational person would love it.

Latest books I've adored that anyone would love if they had a grain of brain:

The Ides of March, Thornton Wilder

The Honorary Consul, Graham Greene

Pretty much anything by Michael Dibdin

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...


And you are too, insane. Our long friendship should testify to that, if nothing else does!


Erik said...

Weirdest book I've read (I think) - Vegetable: The Man Who Transfigured Into Half Plant and Half God, by Shigeru Takeuchi. I have to admit that I don't love it, but it sure is weird.

PS - you sparked me to go off in a different direction (post here).

Charlie Cornelius said...

No. Couldn't do it. All my books are a reflection of impeccable taste and would be adored by anyone else who read them.

However, there are other uses for books for those who don't want to read them: http://www.offbeatearth.com/dont-like-reading-other-uses-for-books/

Cosette said...

You are a sick woman, hahahahaha. This is going to require some thought. Be back later.

Keith said...

Just discovered your site. I thought I was the only Quaker Pagan in the world! It's refreshing to find other souls that think like me.

I was brought up by my grandparents who were orthodox Quakers, but I just couldn't get rid of my Pagan beliefs. Now that I'm old I am personally happy with the way of life I chose as a child, although it wasn't always easy having a conflicting way of life from my grandparents. I shall certainly bookmark your page!


Karen said...

Kelman's The Bus Conductor Hines made me cry with boredom and frustration in college. I've never loathed a book so viscerally.

Winter said...

I didn't realise that Evelina is considered a bad book. I loved it!

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