Thursday, June 22, 2006

On bad writing. On very, very bad writing.

Do I need to tell you how much horrible prose has passed by my eyes and poisoned my brain? If I do, you're new here. Boy, there are some untalented writers out there. Am I perfect? Hardly. I ain't be no Sue Monk Kidd. But at least I can conjugate a verb.

Anyway, I've been whining about this to some of my literary friends recently, only because I've had a much harder time this year (call it a bad streak) finding good POD books to recommend. I'm burning out on trite, labored writing. Well, one of my gal pals (a published writer with Warner), apparently tiring of my invective, tried to convince me that just as many bad books get published as good. I used to think that way, until I became a bottom-feeder. I objected: "No way. I'd like you to show me one book that comes even near the garbage I've read, yet was still published by a major house."

My friend went over to her bookshelf (filled with thousands (!) of books), pulled off a paperback, ripped off the cover and the front matter and handed it to me.

I read the first pages of chapter one . . .

[Ben] graduated from a small Eastern college on a day in June. Then he flew home. The following evening a party was given for him by his parents. By eight o'clock most of the guests had arrived but Benjamin had not yet come down from his room. His father called up from the foot of the stairs but there was no answer. Finally he hurried up the stairs and to the end of the hall.

"Ben?" he said, opening his son's door.

"I'll be down later," Benjamin said.

"Ben, the guests are all here," his father said. "They're all waiting."

"I said I'll be down later."

Mr. Braddock closed the door behind him. "What is it," he said.

Benjamin shook his head and walked to the window.

"What is it, Ben."


"Then why don't you come on down and see your guests."

Benjamin didn't answer.


"Dad," he said, turning around, "I have some things on my mind right now."

"What things."

"Just some things."

"Well can't you tell me what they are?"


If Noah Lukeman read this, he'd probably have a heart attack.

That was as far as I got before closing the book. Is this supposed to be compelling? Holy cow. Is it just me or is this the stuff slush piles are made of?

Apparently, it's just me.

The New York Times wrote this: "Brilliant...sardonic, ludicrously funny."
The Chicago Tribune wrote this: "A highly gifted and accomplished writer."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote this: "His novel makes you want to laugh and it makes you want to cry."

It makes we want to cry, all right--cry for all those brilliant authors who never got published because they had to make way for this mediocre effort. Sadder still, this book was turned into a blockbuster movie.

The pages I excerpted are from this book.

Once I closed the novel, my friend turned to me and said, "When you're done, you can toss it in the garbage."

I did.