Author Topic: Really bad books you've read  (Read 8323 times)

Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #50 on: December 21, 2020, 10:51:12 pm »
I think it must have been in Lucky Jim, which is pretty good, but I've also read The Old Devils and Jake's Thing.


“Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”

There’s also a really good passage in Lucky Jim about greengages. And the drunken speech scene is laugh-out-loud funny.

Never read any other Kingsley Amis books though. Not sure why.

The description of the bus journey to the station is good, too.

Redlight

  • Enjoying life in the slow lane
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #51 on: December 22, 2020, 10:18:51 am »
I've recently been attempting to read some HG Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds) to my son. We gave up in the end. He had some brilliant ideas but, even by the standards of the day, his prose is execrable.

More recently, I was intrigued by the premise of Magnus Mills' 'The Forensic Records Society', partly out of annoyance that it was uncomfortable similar to something I had been working on, but that also turned out to be about as funny as the average Radio 4 sitcom.
Why should anybody steal a watch when they can steal a bicycle?

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #52 on: December 22, 2020, 10:35:07 am »
HG Wells... even by the standards of the day, his prose is execrable.

This seems an odd thing to say - the early 20th century was a bit of a golden age for prose writers.

I'm sure you're right about Wells, though - I started The Time Machine once but didn't get very far with it.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

ian

  • feat. Undead Jess & Finestre, Queen of Hell
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #53 on: December 22, 2020, 11:09:20 am »
I find that older stuff requires some mental adjustment. We have become used to the snappy short sentences, the rationing of commas and clauses, and active tenses. It's like digital versus analogue. I think we've also had our attention spans crimped, so those long meandering sentences tend to leave us standing on the bank scratching our heads midway to their destination. In fact, we don't want to take the bloody boat, we'd rather fly there. Conrad would have benefited from literal air travel. Was going to take the boat up the river, but flew there and arrived in time for lunch. Decide to do the trip in a day, will be back this evening, dear.
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Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #54 on: December 22, 2020, 11:31:28 am »
Been watching a US series - 'Justified' - on Amazon.  Then Mrs A is watching something 'Midsomer Murders'.  What a contrast.  Apart from the fact that in Justified nearly every character gets shot, often on more than one occasion.  Except for the ones that get blown up, stabbed or poisoned of course.  No one dies in their bed in Justified's Bloody Harlan.
Sic transit and all that..

Redlight

  • Enjoying life in the slow lane
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #55 on: December 22, 2020, 02:45:55 pm »
HG Wells... even by the standards of the day, his prose is execrable.

This seems an odd thing to say - the early 20th century was a bit of a golden age for prose writers.


Perhaps my own choice of words was clumsy. As Ian rightly surmises, I was referring more to the (from a modern perspective) formality of the prose rather than its quality.
Why should anybody steal a watch when they can steal a bicycle?

T42

  • *** fool in a hurry
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #56 on: December 22, 2020, 03:30:31 pm »
I think it must have been in Lucky Jim, which is pretty good, but I've also read The Old Devils and Jake's Thing.


“Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”

There’s also a really good passage in Lucky Jim about greengages. And the drunken speech scene is laugh-out-loud funny.

Never read any other Kingsley Amis books though. Not sure why.

He's a good example of my thesis. He obviously has a brilliance with words, but then mostly ran out of things to do with them (as said, his post-Lucky Jim books were a game of diminishing returns as you tried to root out a gem that shines like that above). That said, there's no reason why a good storyteller must be a good writer, they're in many ways different skills.

There's a wonderful passage in Ending Up where an aged bloke intent on evil finds himself passing a small tomato-paste tin full of scalding hot urine from hand to hand behind his back while he tries to talk normally with another aged bloke. Ending Up, though, leaves a nasty taste behind it, a bit like a Larry McMurtry after he's done his favourite trick of killing the character you like best.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #57 on: December 22, 2020, 03:38:24 pm »
Perhaps my own choice of words was clumsy. As Ian rightly surmises, I was referring more to the (from a modern perspective) formality of the prose rather than its quality.

Ah, I see! That makes sense.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

ian

  • feat. Undead Jess & Finestre, Queen of Hell
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #58 on: December 22, 2020, 04:04:59 pm »
Yeah, just picking randomly Oliver Twist, which doesn't commence the short baited hook that I'm sure every creative writing course demands but rather

Quote from: Chucky D
Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

Which I'm not sure you'd get away with these days (though it is very good, though not as good or as memorable as A Tale of Two Cities). That said Moby Dick started with a more circumspect

Quote from: The Mellifluous H
Call me Ishmael.

You had to read to the end to find out that he was actually called Derek.

I dug out the first line of Harry Potter for comparison.

Quote from: Jerky Prowlings
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

And good god, that seems an awful start to any book. It's not

Quote
Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Words which terrorized my generation's childhoods.
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Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #59 on: December 22, 2020, 04:20:02 pm »
Battlefield Earth - L. Ron Hubbard

Close the thread.

Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #60 on: December 22, 2020, 04:58:12 pm »
Opinion varies with age. I used to enjoy Hammond Innes. Now - boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets reunited with girl, plus sundry diversions.

There’s a reason I stick with (generally) current best sellers. I’ve tried to branch out, but failed miserably. And even some of them (the latest Sarah Paretsky, or Martin Walker for example) begin to pall.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #61 on: December 22, 2020, 06:11:14 pm »
I know it's famous but it lost me with the first paragraph:

-- Еh bien, mon prince. Genes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des поместья, de la famille Buonaparte. Non, je vous previens, que si vous ne me dites pas, que nous avons la guerre, si vous vous permettez encore de pallier toutes les infamies, toutes les atrocites de cet Antichrist (ma parole, j'y crois) -- je ne vous connais plus, vous n'etes plus mon ami, vous n'etes plus мой верный раб, comme vous dites. Ну, здравствуйте, здравствуйте. Je vois que je vous fais peur, садитесь и рассказывайте.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Mr Larrington

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Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #62 on: December 22, 2020, 06:42:51 pm »
Yeah, just picking randomly Oliver Twist, which doesn't commence the short baited hook that I'm sure every creative writing course demands but rather

Quote from: Chucky D
Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

Which I'm not sure you'd get away with these days (though it is very good, though not as good or as memorable as A Tale of Two Cities). That said Moby Dick started with a more circumspect

Quote from: The Mellifluous H
Call me Ishmael.

You had to read to the end to find out that he was actually called Derek.

I dug out the first line of Harry Potter for comparison.

Quote from: Jerky Prowlings
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

And good god, that seems an awful start to any book. It's not

Quote
Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Words which terrorized my generation's childhoods.

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, in the history of all things evvah, can match

Quote
It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.

though.
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Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #63 on: December 22, 2020, 07:03:29 pm »
And then the murders began  :demon:
the slower you go the more you see

Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #64 on: December 22, 2020, 07:44:54 pm »
Yeah, just picking randomly Oliver Twist, which doesn't commence the short baited hook that I'm sure every creative writing course demands but rather

Quote from: Chucky D
Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

Which I'm not sure you'd get away with these days (though it is very good, though not as good or as memorable as A Tale of Two Cities). That said Moby Dick started with a more circumspect

Quote from: The Mellifluous H
Call me Ishmael.
Yebbut neither Oliver Twist nor Moby Dick are in any way early 20th century. They're not even late 19th.
Faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person. (David Byrne)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Really bad books you've read
« Reply #65 on: December 22, 2020, 07:50:12 pm »
I dug out the first line of Harry Potter for comparison.

Quote from: Jerky Prowlings
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

And good god, that seems an awful start to any book.

I’d say it’s a very good opening line - it accurately (if somewhat stereotypically) conveys the kind of suburban middle-class mediocrity that no aspiring child wizard could fail to recognise as the life they long to escape from. You know instantly these are the bad guys. Or at least not the good guys. They’re just the guys.

Plus, from a literary point of view, it sets a very firm limit on your expectations right from the off. Carry on reading at your peril. You can’t say you weren’t warned.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

ian

  • feat. Undead Jess & Finestre, Queen of Hell
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #66 on: December 22, 2020, 07:58:56 pm »
Battlefield Earth - L. Ron Hubbard

Close the thread.

I've never been brave enough to read this. I saw the movie, belatedly, and it was awful. Some forms of awful are actually good, like a fantastic thunderclap fart with the aroma of heaven's middens, the one for which you want to graciously accept the blame because it's really quite something. Other forms of awful, on the other hand, lie there in the pan, coiled reminders of one of the worse meals of your life, a solid lump that lingers unforgettably after the third flush. You can't flush the fourth time, it's not your house, you are the guest and it would be tantamount to walking into the dining room and announcing I BLOCKED YOUR TOILET. It was that sort of movie.

While we're on sci-fi, a shout out for Heinlein's Starship Troopers which I was persuaded to read a year or two back. Deeply, deeply awful. Unironically fascistic, stodgily written, with characters you wanted to drop an asteroid on, and – worst of all – criminally dull. In the movie, they're fighting monstrous aliens, there's a nice stream of sarcasm. None of that in the book, it's a po-faced boys-own guide to fascism. Hang on, we're going to do a rundown of military ranks again.

I should mention Twilight. Firstly, let's be clear, it was research for my own creative writing project. It's toilet blockingly awful. It's on a par with being invited to tea with the Queen, having the urge to excuse oneself, and then dropping something the size of a family hatchback onto the Royal porcelain. It's not going to flush without the help of JCB. It's that bad. Basically, an immensely stupid girl falls for a boy so bad he's a vampire because he watches her sleep. I'm so dangerous, he says. You smell nice, she says. I don't think you think you need to be a card-carrying feminist to detect something deeply toxic to that plot. It's written by a grown woman too. But, there's actually something even worse in there. You want to know what it is? Sparkly vampires. Vampires that fucking sparkle in the sun. The absolute fuck of it.
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ian

  • feat. Undead Jess & Finestre, Queen of Hell
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #67 on: December 22, 2020, 08:14:57 pm »
I dug out the first line of Harry Potter for comparison.

Quote from: Jerky Prowlings
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

And good god, that seems an awful start to any book.

I’d say it’s a very good opening line - it accurately (if somewhat stereotypically) conveys the kind of suburban middle-class mediocrity that no aspiring child wizard could fail to recognise as the life they long to escape from. You know instantly these are the bad guys. Or at least not the good guys. They’re just the guys.

Plus, from a literary point of view, it sets a very firm limit on your expectations right from the off. Carry on reading at your peril. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

Yes, I'm probably layering my own views onto that, I wouldn't want to read any more. But I'm an adult with sensibilities.
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Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #68 on: December 22, 2020, 08:50:56 pm »

While we're on sci-fi, a shout out for Heinlein's Starship Troopers which I was persuaded to read a year or two back. Deeply, deeply awful. Unironically fascistic, stodgily written, with characters you wanted to drop an asteroid on, and – worst of all – criminally dull. In the movie, they're fighting monstrous aliens, there's a nice stream of sarcasm. None of that in the book, it's a po-faced boys-own guide to fascism. Hang on, we're going to do a rundown of military ranks again.


If you think Starship Troopers was bad, you have obviously never read The Number of the Beast. To be fair, all of Heinlein's later books were pretty awful, but The Number of the Beast stands head and shoulders above the rest. Apart from his usual political and sexual fantasies, it contains what is arguably the worst line in the whole of SF: Our teeth grated and her nipples went spung.

I rest my case.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #69 on: December 22, 2020, 09:00:37 pm »
it contains what is arguably the worst line in the whole of SF: Our teeth grated and her nipples went spung.

I must read this.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

ian

  • feat. Undead Jess & Finestre, Queen of Hell
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #70 on: December 22, 2020, 09:20:36 pm »
I'm trying to imagine it. And failing, despite some expertise in the literal matters bodily.

Will anyone lay claim to Fifty Shades? I've not. I once sat there on a plane next to a geriatric who was reading it in 50pt large print on his Kindle, so I got a gist of it. And the horrific thought that I'd be spending the next five hours sat next to an old man with an unaccompanied erection.

Or possibly given his age, not. Points for trying though.
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Cudzoziemiec

  • Eating all the pies and drinking all the tea.
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #71 on: December 22, 2020, 09:22:22 pm »
I was wondering how we'd got to page 3 without Dan Brown.
Faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person. (David Byrne)

Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #72 on: December 22, 2020, 09:26:10 pm »
I was wondering how we'd got to page 3 without Dan Brown.

Got a mention by T42 on page 1:

https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=117827.msg2571454#msg2571454
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #73 on: December 22, 2020, 09:30:43 pm »
Now I liked Battlefield Earth. Enough that I've read it three or four times. Not that I can claim it's a good book but I found it fun. The film I only liked from nostalgia for the book I think - it's been years since I've seen it. And actually rather a while since reading it. I must dig it out and see how a nominally adult me views it.

But I also liked The Number of the Beast so that might tell you something about my lack of taste.
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Miles cycled 2013 = 6141.4
Miles cycled 2012 = 4038.1

ian

  • feat. Undead Jess & Finestre, Queen of Hell
Re: Really bad books you've read
« Reply #74 on: December 22, 2020, 09:42:08 pm »
In the spirit of awful and because I was thinking about poo, I did browse the bookshelves of my wife's literary cave and recover a weighty hardback copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone.

It's not as bad as I feared, but still a double flusher. I can't imagine why anyone over the age of eight would want to continue, it reads like Peter and Jane do Wizardry.

For the record, and there should be one, Stephenie Meyer (no she can't spell her own name) is in many ways worse than Dan Brown.

But honestly, I can't get past the sparkly vampires. The absolute fucking fuck of it.
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