Scathing Book Reviews of The Glass Menagerie, by Tennesee Williams

The Glass Menagerie by Tennesee Williams isn’t a book per se, but a play, but on the other hand, I had to read it in Mrs. Williams English III Class, so there.  It’s most famous as New York Stage Production, but was originally written as a screenplay, and filmed twice, once in 1950, and again in 1987.  

I remember that after we finished reading the play we watched the movie during class in High School.  I came away profoundly depressed by the message.   “The movie says that you just can’t win!” I thought, and then “What if that happens to me?”.  I also remember wondering how Tennesee Ernie Ford, who I had mixed up with Tennesee Williams in my mind, could seem like such nice guy on TV and write such a bitter play.  Honest! 

Now with more adult context, and a better understanding of which Tennesee is which, I have greater appreciation of the play and its characters, but I’m not convinced that its the most encouraging required reading for High School.  I do recommend The Glass Menagerie as a play, book and movie, but these Book Reviews of The Glass Menagerie think its cracked:

Why is it that in order for a book, play, or piece of literature to be considered “Great” it has to make you feel like you just walked through an emotional meat-grinder and rolled around in broken glass for a few hours? …This play should be issued with a bottle of St. John’s Wort. Thanks Tennessee!

…and:

This play can stand right beside “Death of a Salesman” as a depressing, pessimistic propaganda on how to deal with life’s challenges.

…and:

I am an action man so I really didn’t dig it to much. If your into drama and like sad stories about a drunk or a crippled depressed girl who’s mom keeps pressuring her to get out and find a man.Or if you like drunks that lie.This is the book for you.

…and:

I found Laura, Tom, Amanda and Jim to be terrible characters added to an already terribly boring and predictable plot that was excruciatingly difficult to bear. Concurrently, Tennesse Williams struggled hardcore so I am not surprised. Peace out.

…and:

A Tragedy to Literature…This play is filled with symbols, metaphores, and all that jazz, expecting you to feel for the characters and Tom. No, his unenthusiastic approaches at life, and depressed facade turn down any simpathy you feel for him. Amanda the mother is obnoxious, end of story. And Laura the sister is SO helpless you can’t help from stopping to want to end her life now. Don’t buy the play DON’T DO NOT watch it and never think about it again. Horrible.

…and a review by a High Schooler in need of some remedial spelling classes:

i am a frechman in highschool. i have read a varity of books such as A seperate peace, romeo and juliet, the odessey, and a bunch of other hard books. BUT THIS ONE I hated!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scathing Book Reviews of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut is a book that I read by choice, and after I read it, I had two reactions.  The first was “huh?” and the second was, “I’m only 18.  I guess I’m not mature enough to appreciate it.  Well, I reread it recently, and while my first reaction was still “huh”, my second reaction was instead “The sixties were as weird as they say they were.”  While you’ve got to love a book with any character named “Montana Wildhack”, how they adapted this into a Slaughterhouse Five Movieis beyond me, but any movie with Valerie Perrine in it (Miss Tessmacher!!!!!) is worth a look.

Look, Kurt Vonnegutseemed like a really sweet guy when he was alive, and how can you not appreciate an author who cameoed as himself in the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School?  However, as much as I appreciate the art and creativity that went into Slaughterhouse Five, I can’t appreciate it as a “good read”.  

Leave out the stuff about the aliens and stick to Dresden and the POW stuff and I can hang with it, but Billy Pilgrim as a middle-aged guy having a nervous breakdown and maybe or maybe not being sent to a different world as the male pair of humans on exhibit at an Alien Zoo?  As they say in Mandarin – “Ay yuh!”  In Yiddish that would be “Oy Vey”.  In the “Dark Hunter” series “Holy Guacamole!” and where I come from “You gotta’ be sh*tting me”.

Here are some Scathing Book Reviews of Slaughterhouse Five that indicate the real slaughter was of Vonnegut’s reputation:

It is a novel that is ripe for discussion in a high school or college lit class that will excite the professor and utterly confuse and bore the student.

…and:

…With all due respects to the author, this is the WORST book I have ever read in my life. It is disjointed and hops all over the place. There’s no continuity at all. The prose is terrible. The back cover says it is funny without laughing, splendid art, a book without tears. Wrong! I am actually crying: that I paid so much money for this. I gritted my teeth to finish reading this book.

…and:

I finally got around to reading it recently. It is appalling that this is considered a classic and that it is studied as an example of American literature. I am especially amazed that this book is studied in English courses across America. Message to students: Question the judgment of any teacher who presents this as an example of anything other than worthless …that should have never been published.

…and:

Slaughterhouse-Five is one of those rare sorts of books whose total lack of any merit whatsoever is inexplicable in the face of its generally agreed upon status as a world classic. Had this fatalistic, dewy-eyed tripe not been written during the escalation of ‘Nam and the sudden moral ambiguity pervading American letters at the time, it would, honestly, never have made it close. This is sad. The literati have doubtless showered numerous accolades at its feet, though what, for instance, is there to celebrate in this pure dreck?

 

…and:

I’d like to tell anyone who thought it was overly strange and disjointed, I agree! So it goes… some enjoy classics like this, some do not. My english teacher told me I took it too seriously. All I have to say to him is, “Po-tee-weet!”

…and:

I might have liked it better in college when being cynical and blase was cool.

…and this review, which seem familiar from other reviews of “classics”:

I prefer Daniele Steele, and there’s no basis for telling me I’m wrong. Vonnegut is no better or worse than Daniele Steele!

…and, finally the true explanation Slaughterhouse Five’s unique style:

I’m a freshman in high school, and I was relieved when my English G/T (Lyceum) teacher confirmed my suspiciouns that Kurt Vonnegut was, in fact, high.

Scathing Reviews of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is the kind of book you hear about in the general culture even before High School, when most of us read it. I heard about in Elementary School and thought, for the longest time, that it was about baseball (no joke.)
Then in High School, it didn’t get assigned to us. (Got lucky and read To Kill a Mockingbird). Then, when I was in the Army and had lots of time for reading, I decided to read it and frankly, didn’t see what was all the fuss about.

Holden Caulfield seems like a nice enough kid for being as screwed up as he is, but the thing I remember years later is the visit to his favorite teacher where the guy was trying to make it look like he was pinching his nose when he was actually picking it (yeah I know, disgusting). I’ll avoid any similes to these reviews and that particular image, though, oh how it tempts me:

This book is found in just about every maniacs glove compartment after they blow up a building or something. So i decided to give it a shot and see what the hell was so special about it. Well, the answer is nothing…

…and:

Yeah, he makes the occasional intelligent comment, but the book doesn’t even have a plot, okay?

…and:

A quick summary? “An emo pity party”;

…and:

Who decides books are classic? What school board comprised of ancient individuals so out of touch with children decided that this book was literature, and therefore had to be forced down the throats of every teenager? This book is TERRIBLE.

…and:

I quickly tired of the protagonist’s well-heeled puerile whining . I kept thinking, “Grow up, for God’s sake.”

…and:

Old Holden kid is about as interesting as a toothache. Personally, I’ve read cereal boxes that were more compelling and enlightening than this novel.

…and:

This book is pathetic. Many people called it a “classic.” It’s the book that killed John Lennon. Oswald had a copy. [sic] So I thought “What the heck?” I then embarked on four hours of my life spent reading this complete testacle [also sic!] sack of a book; four hours I will not get back, I might add.

…and, this review, written from the point of view of Beaver Cleaver as Holden Caulfield:

Hi, I’m Holden Caulfield, but I come off more like the great lost episode from the last year of Leave it to Beaver. They cancelled my crumby show, even if it was phony, and now I’m forced to write this god*** book about the aftermath because I went from a cute kid to an ugly monster who still bats my eyes.

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 Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a book that we’re all familiar with, and has become something of a cultural touchstone. It’s not quite Science Fiction, though its set in “the future”, and unlike most Dystopian works in that it has a semi-happy and hopeful ending. Nevertheless, Fahrenheit 451 left these reviewers feeling burned:

All books begin with a premise and this one also ended there. Compared to Orwell’s 1984 and similar works, this novel is teen romance…. With all respect to the esteemed Mr. Bradbury, it reads more like Futurama.

…and:

If Bradbury wanted us to realize the importance of books, the LEAST he could do was make this book SEMI-interesting!

…and:
The author has a good idea. We should read instead of watching TV, but if this book is one of the choices you had better turn the TV back on.

…and:
who cares about a firefighter who burns book. now come on, i could write a book, about books,ten times better then that. maybe if the books had names and talked then maybe it would of caught my attention.

…and:

I have infinite patience when I am personally pretentious, self-absorbed, and dull. I don’t have the same patience when I read books that are that way, though.

…and:

This book is read is really depressing, but if you like that feeling, please feel free to read it.

…and this, from a reviewer who “took a shot at writing”:
I took this book with me to rifle practice and i shot at this instead of the target. I got busted but hey it was worth it. Mail me if you want a picture of my shooting.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald summons up images of the Roaring 20s, doomed ambition, and for students at Southern Illinois University, an infamous bar. An American Classic? Well, not according to these reviewers:

i personally had no desire to read about spoiled rich people who had problems. omg i really had no sympathy for any of the characters, especially Gatsby. honestly, he had it coming. i’m sure a lot of older people will enjoy this book but if your under 21 i’d stay far far away

…and:

Hey everyone! Lookit me! I’m a rich little snot and I can throw a big party in my mansion! What’s “great” about this Gabsty fellow exactly? Write something about people who work for a living, not this junk.

…and:

Excellent substitute for valium… The most artificially inflated phenomenon since the 1929 stock market, and likewise this book seems like a worthy instigator of a great depression.

…and:

The Great Gatsby contained nothing more than can be found in a TV soap opera.

…and:

Don’t bother with it, and read Douglas Adams instead.

…and this review, which finds a heretofore unseen tie between The Great Gatsby and Seinfeld:

It is the story of a man who, basically, talks about nothing. The plot is nonexistent, just the ramblings of a man who’s confused about society.

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is a curious little book, and one that I found fairly off-putting when I first read it. As most know, it deals with the story of a young Union Soldier and his experiences during a few days of battle. If you’re looking for the Glory of War, you won’t find it here, but you will find some very vivid storytelling. Even so, these reviewers walked away from “Badge of Courage” feeling wounded:

It is time to say it loud and clear: STEPHEN CRANE STINKS. Let his literary heritage rot and stop torturing innocent people with his books.

…and:

I’ve gained nothing by reading it, except hatred towards Crane’s writing style.

…and:

If you want to read about war, then I suggest that you pick up a Tom Clancy novel, and enjoy that than reading this crap!

…and:

I think the writers who raved about this book had to be drunk when they wrote those positive reviews.

…and:

I don’t know why anyone would want to read a book like this. My teacher made us read it. If you would like to read a good book, I would suggest something by Carol Matas, Gary Paulsun, Phillip Pullman, or J.R.R. Tolkein (which my teacher prounounces INcorrectely, and that just makes me MAD!)

…and:

THIS BOOK WAS SO BAD I HAD TO RENT THE MOVIE TO FINISH IT

…and:

Overall, the book was so horrendously bad that it may have ruptured the very fabric of space and time with the sheer uncontrollable force of its filth.

…and this, from a younger reader who advises that the book is best suited for “mature readers”:

I do recommend this book to people over 50 years of age and people who can’t take to much of anything at one time. But I do not reccomend this book to any one who is younger than 50 and likes some action and a book that keeps you reading.