Scathing Book Reviews of Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is a book that I never plan to read. Why? Well, I find his NPR stuff a bit too smug, which I know is like complaining about finding books in a bookstore. I was not surprised, although a bit dismayed, to find David Sedaris #25 on the list of What White People Like. (It’s a joke, folks). What do Amazonians think of Sedaris? These reviewers find “Me Talk Pretty” a bit ugly:

Reading is my passion. This was like the worst lover ever.

…and:

I didn’t need to find a private place to read it since I didn’t laugh out loud once… To compare this to the writings of Mark Twain is to gravely insult Mr. Twain.

…and:

There is nothing humorous about this book. I find it rather distrubing and disgusting. Sick might be a better discription.

…and:

He reminds me of a cynical, sarcastic Woody Allen. Using humor to basically say “See how smart I am? I’m making fun of YOU, the AVERAGE person, and you don’t even know it!” Bitterness is not funny – it’s just plain ugly.

…and:

If this is what my friends call a good book, it’s obvious I’ve got to get new friends.

…and:

You may like Sedaris only if you watch network television sitcoms religiously.

…and this, from the Department of Memorable Similies:

It’s like eating chewing gum off the sidewalk — something novel, but not something you want to have inside your body. I’m embarassed that I gave it as a gift and I am writing an apology letter;

Scathing Reviews of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

My first introduction to Hamlet by William Shakespeare was, like millions of other kids, from that redoubtable source of literary insight, Gilligan’s Island.
No, I’m serious… There was an episode guest starring Phil Silvers as a Hollywood Producer who came to the Island to get away from it all. The castaways put on a musical version of Hamlet to “sell” Silvers on the concept, and to get him to get everyone rescued as soon as possible. Naturally, he stole the idea and left the castaways on the island. Lucky for all of us, the music for the Hamlet Musical has been enshrined on the web.

With an introduction like that, let’s face it, the REAL Hamlet can only be a letdown. These critical reviews of Hamlet find the Dane not quite so great:

I don’t know what Willy Shakespeare was thinking when he wrote this one play tragedy, but I thought this sure was boring! Hamlet does too much talking and not enough stuff. He needs to shape up and show them who’s boss.

…and:

This has to be one of the worst plays ever written, Shakespeare or no Shakespeare. While the Bard was the master of English drama, he really slipped up here. The plot makes no sense, the characters motivations are contrived, and the jokes fall flat.

…and:

All and all this play is atrocious. Though it is acclaimed as the greatest work of drama ever, it is hardly that. People who say such things, have absolutely no credibility. Hamlet’s only purpose is to confuse the reader. Any intelligent person can see through his character and realize that he is little more than a feeble mind with a large vocabulary.

…and:

In my opinion all of Shakespeare’s writings are long winded, drawn out words with no possibility of ever coming close to being remotly interesting. Hamlet was actually one of the most terribly boring, predictable, useless book ever written. The plot had no vital juices.

…and:

Simply boring, with lifelessly dull characters that can never seem to figure out what they want. It follows the standard Shakespearean tragedy plotline (Guy has stuff happen to him that’s either really good or really bad, two little subplots, and then everybody dies)

…and this reviewer, who percieveth a conspiracy, methinks:

Willy is acclaimed as the best writer of all time, but this is only because of British Media hyping the man, after 400 years.

Scathing Book Reviews of The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has shaped the way that generations have thought about the Great Depression. The book itself is a classic, but the 1939 film adaptation by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda, solidified its position in American culture. Some have questioned the book’s veracity in portraying the actual conditions of the “Okies” in California. Nevertheless, these critical reviews of “The Grapes of Wrath” show a good deal of wrath themselves:

I should have known that a book you can buy togehter with Cliff’s Notes is going to be boring.

…and:

I would recommend gum surgery over this book.

…and:

People have called this book propaganda, but that doesn’t even begin to cover it. Nowhere else will you find such schmaltzy dialogue, or such a laborious, falsely deep message. But I recommend everyone read this book, just to get a taste of what absolute tripe millions of people are capable of swallowing.

…and:

I’ve read books on genetics, i.e. no plot, no characters, that held my attention far better and used words more economically than The Grapes of Wrath. Perhaps if the novel had ended 400 pages or so before it actually did, I could have stomached it better.

…and:

I take comfort in knowing I will never be forced to read it agian. A school can only torture you once.

…and:

The Grapes of Hooey: Unless you’re a high school teacher who is hell-bent on warping young minds into America-haters, this book is not worth the time, money, or energy to read.

…and:

Steinbeck managed to kill off the two best characters in the entire book: Grandma and Grandpa, while Rose of Sharon, possibly the most annoying character I have ever read about, remains alive and whining till the dreadful end.

…and:

When you reach page 300 of a book and it’s still boring, STOP. NOT ONE WORD MORE. Any optimism won’t change the unread content. Unless money has been tucked as a bookmark later on, you won’t miss a thing.

…and this review, which is appropriately “thirtiesesque”:

I normally don’t support book burning, but for this book I’ll make an exception!

Scathing Book Reviews of No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

After the 2008 Oscars, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy will forever be associated with the Coen Brothers, Javier Bardem, and one bad haircut. The books stands on its own, however, and friends of mine tell me its even better than the movie. However, these critical reviews of No Country for Old Men find no good in “No Country”:

OK, who kidnapped Cormac McCarthy and then submitted a manuscript apparently written by George W. Bush in his name? This is the most disappointed I have ever been with a book.

…and:

I thought ‘The Road’ was overrated but enjoyable, so I gave this one a try. I am now convinced that Cormac McCarthy is the most overrated writer in the US right now.
…and:

McCarthy’s writing style is painful to read. He is too cool for quotation marks–what is the point of that? Is it the IMPACT?

…and:

This is the story of Sheriff Bell, an insufferable dullard who won’t shut up about how criminals these days are really evil (as opposed to all the lovely ones he knew of when growing up?). He’s also a world-class boaster, never going more than a few pages without telling us how fantastic is wife Loretta is. The same Loretta who spends most of her time baking for or writing to evil criminals — which tells me all I need to know about that marriage.

…and:

The dialogue is horrendous and very confusing. I can’t remember any book with such cheesy and unremarkable characters – I wish that they could have all been killed sooner just to shorten the miserable reading experience. I barely passed English 102 and I think that I could do better than Cormac McCarthy.

…and:

McCarthy’s “spare” language is an affectation as tiresome as the voluminous silks of Aubrey Beardsley. “Ahhhh yep” is not my idea of great prose.

…and:

Total crap and a waste of money; if the author showed up on my doorstep I would not only my money back, but bill him for my time.

…and this review, which seems to have been written by one of the book’s characters:

I am an old man. Lived in Texas for 24 years. Too bad the lowest rating is one star … this book deserves less.

Scathing Book Reviews of Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard is a book that I confess, I read back in High School, lo these many moons ago. I recall thinking of it as “entertaining pulp”. At that time, Scientology had yet to make any headway in Hollywood, so buying the book had no undertones of furthering a fringe “religion” or contributing to the humiliation of Katie Holmes, or damage to Oprah’s couch. Would I recommend it to anyone? It has its entertaining qualities, but these reviewers think this glorified Pulp Novel should have remained pure paper pulp:

How in the world did this become a science fiction “classic”? This is drivel, junk, crap! Is it only Scientologist propoganda that keeps this book in print?… The writing is plain bad, written in the style of a high school student. I still gag thinking about it.

…and:

Afterwards I felt bloated, regretful, and more than a little embarrassed; the same bundle of shame and discomfort that might come from an overindulgence in ice-cream. Several years later I was diagnosed with biochemical depression and I can say that finishing this book was one of my first symptoms.

…and:

What makes this book so bad? [Everything.] It contains rifts of reasoning that would defy Evel Knievel.

…and:

The amount of 5 star reviews here [at Amazon] had me at first expectant that the book would be good, but after the first page of this… monstrosity… I have no doubt that every positive review on this site is written by one of Hubbard’s brainwashed followers.

…and:

*My God*. This book should be used as an example of what happens when the author is trying to fill pages rather then minds.

…and:

I’m not sure what kept me turning pages. I guess there must be some sort of literary masochist at the center of my soul. Maybe it was disbelief that something this bad could make it to print, and people would buy it; I was searching for enlightenment…. Didn’t find it.

…and:

Hubbard’s self-agrandizing introduction is much more entertaining than the book itself, so do yourself a favor and stop there.

…and they say you can’t judge a book by its cover? This Battlefield Earth review begs to differ:

…look at the latest cover art. It shows a burly man with a mullet and eight-pack abs. I’m guessing it’s the main protagonist. He is looking straight at you while paying absolutely no attention to the lasers he’s firing in random directions for no reason whatsoever. It is almost as ambitiously corny as the story itself. They say to never judge a book by its cover. Battlefield Earth may very well be one of those rare exceptions.

Scathing Book Reviews of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is probably the most famous book that the fewest have ever read. To rephrase, we’ve all heard of it. Most of us haven’t read it.

Why? Its reputation for complexity and for length (although it’s 2 places behind Atlas Shrugged in the list of longest novels.) I remember, of all things, a Get Smart gag in which an assassin tried to kill Max with a sword, only for Max to block it with a copy of War and Peace. Max’s line? “No one ever gets through War and Peace!” Well to me it was funny… For these reviewers, “War” never seemed to end:

Let me start by acknowledging that Leo Tolstoy is often regarded as one of the preeminent authors of all time. Let me follow that with the acknowledgement that many consider “War and Peace” to be the greatest triumph in human literature… Let me follow that by saying that I don’t get it.

…and:

If you don’t have time to read this book then read the cliff notes and skip to the last 80 pages of the book. They’re all that really matter.

…and:

I always look for myself in a book. As I read the endless but addictive pages of Tolstoy’s classic masterpiece, I found myriads and myriads of characters. I did not find one that was courageous, loving, bashful, angry, shy, ticklish, confused, clear-thinking, beautiful, handsome, tall, big-boned, wonderful, life-of-the-party, interesting, creative, and desirable. These are all qualities that I identify as my own.

…and:

This type of literature is not going to hold an audience anymore. So many people have the opportunity to live interesting lives nowadays why would they stop to read a novel of this length about a bunch of fictional charaters when they could be spending the time actually LIVING their own lives? It was a real drag.

…and:

Tolstoy was such self-important, disrespectful, intolerant, bum!

…and:

I have been struggling to get through it for 20 years (true story… I started reading this dreck in 1984) and I’m just now 1/2 way through. How this long-winded pointless book became known as one of the great novels is beyond me.

…and:

Im 11, thatas probably why i really dont like the book, but my point made is, my mom grounded me and made me read war and peace, and it was the worst punistment i have ever been through, i asked my family to read a page of it, and they all fell asleep, sorry to all the people that liked it

…and this review, in which Bret Easton Ellis is associated with Leo Tolstoy for perhaps the first and last time:

I am sure Bret Easton Ellis would have a field day with the social elite that inhabit War and Peace, for they are the most shallow, self-destructive people of that time… it all boils down to this: If you like watching people swoon over and fight one another while the more important issues , like defending one’s country, are placed as a backdrop for their pathetic lives, than this is the book for you.

Scathing Book Reviews of The Davinci Code, by Dan Brown

The Davinci Code by Dan Brown is one of those books that jumps the literary fence into “pop culture phenomenon”, with the requisite movie adaptation and Cryptex for sale in Skymall. and was for a time, the only thing that people on airplanes seemed to read.

While it’s hard to take The Davinci Code’s premise seriously (and if you do, open up some history books please) to me it was a blasphemously fun read with enough plot twists to be enjoyable while without so many as to be annoying. However, these Book Reviews of The Davinci Code think it isn’t worth cracking open:

I can’t remember when I last read such awful prose. If you can stomache sentences like the following – “Everyone in the reception area gasped in wonderment at the sight of the half-naked albino offering the bleeding clergyman.” – then be my guest.

…and:

You know a book is bad when you can put it down with only 10 pages left.

…and:

Watch out Michael Crichton, you’ve got competition. With “Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown rivals you for one-dimensional characters, preposterous plot and misogynistic flourishes. However, he does you one better with his crypto-paranoid conspiracy theories centering around the Catholic church and forays into third-rate art criticism.

…and:

I must say I am – what’s the word? Flabbergasted. Forty million copies sold and counting? This book is simply mediocre. The story is formulaic, the characters are cliches, and the prose is workmanlike at best…

…and:

The Da Vinci Code is really two different books pushed together. One of the books is awful and the other is unbelievable.

…and:

O, Draconian Devil, why on earth did I read this book? I also figured out why it’s a page turner–you can’t wait to turn the page to see whether the writing will improve. Really, the whole thing sounds like the Hardy Boys and the Keystone Copts, or Abbott and Costello Meet a Big Dumb Albino.

…and this review, which somehow makes me hungry for Mall food:

when I sat down to read it, I was ready to devour it. And I did. However, rather than the fine feast, the rarified treat, that I’d been promised, I found instead a food court that offered m.s.g. laden Lo Mein, soggy buns wilting beneath ketchupy barbeque:a grotesque, sloppy affair that left me feeling bloated, tricked and saddened