Bad books.

I don’t usually like to post reviews of books or movies here because there are professionals out there who do a much better job than me, and I always feel just a little pretentious and pompous when I do it. But I have read and watched some really disappointing things lately that have inspired me to review (read rantn about) some of them.

Firstly a book I was really looking forward to reading: The Bone People by Keri Hulme. It won the Booker prize, it had millions of rave reviews. It’s about New Zealand and child abuse. I had never read any New Zealand authors. I was amped.

Oh my god it was a terrible terrible book. I feel betrayed by the publishing industry. They allowed this thing to be published unedited. Now by editing I am not just referring to punctuation and grammar, although those were pretty bad in this book. Sometimes she changed tense within sentences.

Editing also refers to the overall structure of the book, the beginning flowing to the middle and the end, removing needless scenes etc. This book sure could have done with some of that. I realised after reading the thing that I had skipped out nearly three chapters by mistake. I hadn’t noticed. I went back and read them. They did not contribute anything to the book, not one tiny thing.

The author seems to be proud of the lack of editing, because she claims in her forward that she likes to do twee things with words like writing bluegreen instead of blue-green. She felt that the “voice of the artist” won through. She is right about that, but her voice is painfully self indulgent. To not edit is to believe you are above other people. Everyone needs to edit. You owe it to your readers. Some of the book is so badly written it is embarrassing. It was embarrassing to read.

Some of it was ok though, strangely enough the bits with the violence were quite convincingly written. But the rest, oh and the end, the end. Someone ends up as the guardian of the soul of New Zealand. Oh help me.

Sorry if you liked this book. I am aware that I am in a tiny minority who thought it abominable. If you look at Amazon people wax lyrical about it by the dozen. Personally I feel cheated of time and money. It was a loooong book. It makes me want to write something just because I know I could do better.

Showeee rant over. But yeesh it really got my goat, this book.


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tiah
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 08:30:45

    Have not read it. Playing with language is always going to tick people off, but it should be done with consistency. Editors rock.


  2. Po
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 08:49:08

    I am all for experiments with language, but 3 chapters worth of unnecessary writing, and just plain incorrect use of language is another story altogether!


  3. Tara
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 08:50:36

    You see your first mistake was picking up a book about child abuse… :P

    Sounds like its one of those situations where they want to maintain the authenticity of the writing for the subject matter blah blah blah.


  4. Po
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 10:38:06

    Tara: I think you are right actually. She is a New Zealander with some Maori genes and she wrote about abuse. The thing that really creeps me out about the book is the way she seems to excuse the abusive character. Sure he nearly killed his kid, but his wife died, and its not actually his kid and he had a really hard childhood. She expects the reader to somehow see the abuse as a bit of a mistake along the road to redemption. Weird.


  5. Damaria Senne
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 14:12:50

    How did you end up picking such a weird book/author?

    I also agree that writers need editors to make sure that their words express their concepts and ideas in the best possible way. Not using one to the best of one’s ability is very self-indulgent. Maybe even stupid, in my view. And quite frankly, readers don’t care what my idiosyncracies are; they just want an interesting story told well.


  6. sonnyvsdan
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 14:16:59

    nothing worse than a book you have hyped yourself into reading and then coming to a conclusion in the first chapter that’s it’s got no stick. actually, the one thing worse is finishing it just to make a point…lol


  7. Po
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 14:44:48

    Damaria: I like your writer’s ethos a LOT. Wish all writers thought like that. I chose the book because of all the good reviews and because it won the Booker prize. Now I have lost all faith in the Booker prize.
    sonnyvsdan: haha I had heard “great” things about the end. Well, even the people who loved the book thought the end was bad, so I had to know what was so bad. It wasn’t so bad though. I mean, considering the rest of the book it was kind of expected.


  8. Helen
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 08:57:51

    I try to avoid Booker prize books. I always just get the feeling is that the prize is for being contraversial and ‘literary’ rather than being a good book.

    Because I know so much about these things of course!


  9. Po
    Jul 28, 2010 @ 09:15:38

    Helen: I think you are right there. Now I have learned my lesson.


  10. Tamara
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 13:13:43

    Sounds like a bucket full of sunshine. I can’t tolerate self-indulgent “I’m so different to everyone else” authors who think being artistic gives them licence to torture the English language along with their readers.

    Guess I’ll skip this one ;-)


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