Giving Up, Let’s be Unafraid

I’m not one to let things to defeat me, but today I gave up on a book. I tried, oh how I tried, but the novel 2030 by Albert Brooks was the worst thing I’ve read in a long time. Read is a strong word, because it was quite unreadable. I remember seeing Brooks on late night talk shows and all the hosts made a huge deal about it. It was such a big deal that Brooks was even forced to make a Twitter account that I will never ever follow because his book is unoriginal and without style and I wouldn’t expect his tweets to be any better.

The other egregious example of this that I’ve recently come across is I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron, which is really just a shallow book of essays. I want a memoir to have glaring bits of vulnerability and not be about how unhappy they were with their namesake meatloaf at a restaurant I will never be able to afford. OMG, I don’t care. I also can’t follow Ephron on Twitter, because you know, she’s dead.

This is a call to critics and the media to not give kiss butt book reviews to authors who make movies. Let’s only award work if it’s actually good, otherwise your reviews don’t really mean anything at all.  Maybe it’s that these critics themselves want to write for movies, or television and are hoping that a positive review will give than “in” with the “author” because I don’t think you go into arts criticism without having a solid lens of art. The only logical explanation I can think of is that they are jaded arts critics who want to branch out by sucking up.

Critics were not afraid to slam Snooki’s autobiography, but let’s not pretend that the aforementioned books were any better. At least Snooki has more Twitter followers than Albert Brooks, because let’s be frank, she deserves it. To be clear, I don’t necessarily agree with her lifestyle, but I do respect that she knows who she is and is not afraid to share it with the world. She’s also more interesting than fancy meatloaf.

——–

Things I’ve learned while writing this post: Albert Brook’s real name is Albert Einstein and his wife has an artist’s studio in my neighborhood. Awkward.

Please comment with books that are awful, you know, so we can spare each other some pain.

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50 thoughts on “Giving Up, Let’s be Unafraid

  1. Well, all things with Fifty in the title get my vote as most overrated and awful of 2012. I read Joan Didion’s memoir a few years ago and critics raved about it and while the writing quality was good, it didn’t really live up to all the hype. I was very happy to donate it. I guess she has written another memoir (who the hell needs two?) and I think I will pass on that one.

  2. I enjoyed this.

    I think critics like to praise themselves, so they treat their aspirational peers – the pseudo-intellectual set they want to be theirs – as if they were actually good.

  3. Being a celebrity doesn’t make you a good writer. So far, I haven’t even been curious to check out a celebrity’s fiction novel. A bio, maybe, but fiction? Lately, all I’ve seen are far-right Fox News whackadoodles putting out fiction novels like Bill O-Reilly and Glenn Beck. I’ve heard of other celebrities like Albert Brooks taking a crack at fiction but totally forgot about Brooks until you just mentioned it. Well… I assume it’s fiction? Not interested anyway. If they were an aspiring author before they became a celebrity maybe they have some chops but I haven’t run across that yet, or am not aware enough of them at the moment. Maybe one day…

    Memoirs can be great or really suck. I could care less about most essay collections if they’re “artistic.” If they actually tell stories and have a point and aren’t esoteric, maybe. Call them short stories or blogs like what we do! Then again, put them on a web site where they’re free! Put them in an anthology and call them that. Plots anyone? Now I’m just rambling.

  4. I agree with you about the fact that a work should merit the reviews that it receives. I was listening to Rewind on CBC the other day and they reviewed a novel that I immediately downloaded. It is called The Watch and is written by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. It is set at an outpost in Kandahar province in Afghanistan and while completely fictional in its content has makes some powerful parallels to real events and poses some thought provoking questions. Each chapter is basically written through the eyes of one of the characters. I would recommend it. It is available on iTunes for a paltry 1.99 so in the event that it is not your cup of tea it is not a huge investment financially. Just my two cents worth….

  5. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. I’ve tried reading this book a couple times, but around 40 pages in I give up. Lot’s of great reviews and I love the concept, but I coud not get past his writing style. It’s ok to use punctuation, I promise.

    I eventually just rented the movie instead.

  6. My list, from India.

    ‘The Middleman’ by Sankar (translated into English)
    All books by Chetan Bhagat, Shiv Khera, Deepak Chopra.

    On the other hand, if you want good, brisk reads on India, try ‘Train to Pakistan’ by Khushwant Singh, ‘The Idea of India’ by Sunil Khilnani and ‘Curfewed Night’ by Basharat Peer.

  7. The only book I could never finish was Blindness by José Saramago. It was written so oddly and I couldn’t tell when a character was speaking or not because it didn’t have any symbols. Your website is so cute by the way!

  8. Ashley, your latest post is hilarious and true. I’m completely unafraid. Maybe because I’m 82, and still adorable; maybe because I had a near-death experience 45 years ago and chose to live; and maybe because I survived cancer. Who knows and who cares. I say speak the truth, like you Ashley, and a sense of humor will help you through most hurdles. Meanwhile I wrte romance/suspense and love my life.
    Happy New Year, my friend.

  9. I don’t know about bad books disguised as good books, but how about the other way around? Brain Death Capital by Molly Guy. I bought it for 50 cents at a reject shop. How bad do you feel if your book winds up in a reject shop? But that book, it was good. It had a lot of truth. I’ve never forgotten it.
    What we want to hear when people talk about themselves, is the ugliness and the tragedy of life as well as the beauty and the good times. To talk about meatloaf is… just deceiving yourself.

  10. I’m not a book snob and have no problem reading a book that’s on a bestseller list. But for the life of me, I could’t get past the first 50 pages of The Da Vinci Code. I even broke my 100 page rule – if a book doesn’t grab you after about 100 pages, it’s probably a lost cause.

  11. About the Albert Brooks book, I had EXACTLY your reaction. Quite strange, in fact, because he is an interesting actor and talker, and screenwriter too. I was looking forward to reading it and then when I did could not believe how dreadful the story and the writing was. It was as if a six-grader had written in drunk. One book that was really disappointing to me was Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Unbelievably boring and insipid. But Hey, not supposed to say it, because he is considered a writer’s writer. So much bullshit by the so-called lit. establishment. Good job!

  12. Although I would hardly classify myself as a professional writer, I know that some of my posts are far better than others. Giving Mr. Brooks credit, I have to say that his screenplay and movie, “Defending Your Life” is one of my favorite feel good pictures – his latest effort, notwithstanding.

  13. The balloons are pretty, but it is the setting and the color scheme that really make them attention-grabbing in a good way. It’s the kind of graphic that makes me want to explore….

    So good book? Keith Johnstone’s IMPRO is a keeper. It’s really four essays. They build on one another but they are also distinctly different. Read the second one, about status, and it will change the way you view human interaction for all time. Plus, it is so funny.

    • I’ve been meaning to read that. I feel like all this improv books would be so magical in places where there isn’t a lot of improv training available. It could be so raw and beautiful.

  14. Loved this post! I have read some really amazing stuff that is completely impossible to put down – such as anything by Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson. Then again, there have been so me books that I could not even get through two pages in – the only two that I can instantly recall are “Turn of the Screw” and “Bless Me, Ultima.”

    Then there’s that nagging voice that tells you that you have to finish it since you started it, but the other, clearer voice of reason that tells you life is too short to spend time on things you absolutely despise… :)

  15. I gave up on the 50 Shades of Grey books…..meaning, i was driving to the Barnes n Noble to get them for my wife and then said “fuck it” and turned around and got some Burger King instead. So, yeah, i gave up on those books.

  16. All I can say about 50 Shades is that is 30 minutes of my life I can never get back! And for stuff impossible to put down, my most recently read is ‘Major Pettigrew’s last stand’ by Helen Simonson. It’s a delightful story.

  17. Enjoyed your post. Gone Girl, IQ84, The Night Circus are a few I can think of. All drivel. Right now I’m reading Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, fascinating stuff.

  18. i was not aware Albert Brooks had book-writing in his genes. And apparently I was right. haha. Love the new format of the page, btw. :)

  19. Not everyone is born to write a book, or act, or be a stunt man. I worked at an LA ad agency that was founded by Cliff Einstein (Albert’s brother) and his other brother was Super Dave Osborne. Look him up. Note: I don’t believe Cliff can act, nor can Albert run an award winning agency.

  20. There is nothing worse than a bad book. I used to power through till the end just to see if it got better. Now If the first few chapters don’t grab me, it’s gone. Life is too short and there’s too much to read!

  21. I’ve enjoyed reading through ever thought on this. I find it really hard to stop reading and give up, something in the way we learn to respect books and are taught to read them… As you get older though you not only realise it is okay to put the book down, sometimes it is essential. That’s hours of your life you have wasted.
    I wonder if books are like food? Will our tastes change as we grow older. Will I ever read War & Peace? I tried twice, maybe I just don’t want to read it.
    Books, like all things in life are trash or treasure – just depends who you are!
    Happy reading

  22. It is completely unfair that these celebs or so-called celebs get book deals, while talented unknowns beg to just get recognized as breathing the same air. The works is an unfair, unjust place. I know, but bad writing is bad. Thanks for calling it out when you see it. I can’t think of anything terrible off-hand right now. I’m just proud of you for speaking up.

  23. Lol. I have stumbled across a few books in my day i could not finish because of boredom. Actually i have also been bored with a movie or two….but this is rare.

  24. Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full. I only read it because I live in Atlanta, and I only finished it becuase I live in Atlanta (so it’s like the Peachtree Road Race–at least I can say I’ve done it). But–UGH! The race was easier to get through.

  25. Bad books? Well, I’ve read a few. One that really turned me off was one I had to do a review on. It was supposedly for 14-16 year olds, but I only made it about 2/3 of the way through. Up to that point, it had 258 instances of swearing, blasphemy, nudity, rape, sexual innuendo and full on sex scenes described in detail.

    Another trend that irks me is celebrities who publish books for children. To quote the NYT, “A handful of celebrities, like John Lithgow and Jamie Lee Curtis, actually have a gift for writing for children: they know how to tell a story and how to tell it with words and pictures and whimsical wit. For others, children’s books are just another way to merchandise themselves, another vanity production: Britney books, along with Britney dolls, Britney cellphones and Britney mouse pads.
    Instead of creating imaginary worlds or engaging fictional characters, many celebrities just riff about themselves.” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/23/books/critic-s-notebook-to-stars-writing-books-looks-like-child-s-play.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm )

  26. gosh, how much I feel what you have written in here! every time I got the book I cannot possibly go through I am thinking that maybe another time, some things need to grow in me, some other things need to grow up and in few months time or a year I’ll take this book of my dusty shelf and read. happened only once. in over 30 years- once!
    so, yes please, tell them critics to not waste our time as we care about what we read, about how it’s written and even sometimes I care about the book cover which gives totally wrong idea about the content…

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