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Your Classic Book Sucks!

Posted by Josh Rothman  August 28, 2012 01:50 PM

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Over at The Morning News, Matthew Baldwin has gathered up some of his favorite one-star reviews for classic novels on Amazon. My top three, from among his selections:

Lolita: “1) I’m bored. 2) He uses too many allusions to other novels, so that if you’re not well read, this book makes no sense. 3) Most American readers are not fluent in French, so to have conversations or interjections in French with no translation is plain dumb. 4) Did I mention I was bored? 5) As with another reviewer, I agree, he uses a lot of huge words that just slow a person down. And it’s not for theatrics either, it’s just huge words mid-sentence when describing something simple. Nothing in the sense of imagery is gained. 6) Also, to sum it up, it’s a story about a pedophile.”

The Sound and the Fury: “This book is like an ungrateful girlfriend. You do your best to understand her and get nothing back in return.”

The Sun Also Rises: “Here’s the first half of the book: ‘We had dinner and a few drinks. We went to a cafe and talked and had some drinks. We ate dinner and had a few drinks. Dinner. Drinks. More dinner. More drinks. We took a cab here (or there) in Paris and had some drinks, and maybe we danced and flirted and talked sh*t about somebody. More dinner. More drinks. I love you, I hate you, maybe you should come up to my room, no you can’t’… I flipped through the second half of the book a day or two later and saw the words ‘dinner’ and ‘drinks’ on nearly every page and figured it wasn’t worth the risk.”

That’s not to say that all the reviews are wrong, necessarily – I, for one, happen to agree with the reviewer who wrote that On the Road is "trite, saccharine and false. But that’s just me. Related: Is online literary culture too nice?

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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