Slain by the Doones by R.D. Blackmore, 1/5
I love the old classic Lorna Doone, so I was very excited to spot what appeared to be its sequel on the shelves of a small, local thrift store. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be a collection of terribly-written short stories, only one of which had a connection to Blackmore’s earlier (and much better) novel. I have read a lot of late 19th-century literature with no comprehension issues, but I found some parts of this collection quite difficult to understand, presumably due to the author’s use of then-trendy references and short-lived terminology. While it’s understandable that the passage of time can be less than kind to certain writing styles, there really is no excuse for the lame plots that made these short stories a chore to get through. At least it’s pretty, though!
Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1/5
Nietzsche’s opinions are as monstrous as his ego and as depressing as his life. With supreme self-confidence, he makes sweeping statements about human nature, existence, and philosophy, while generally avoiding any in-depth analysis or reasoning that might substantiate his sensational claims. His writing is so bizarre and baseless that I felt compelled to look him up on Wikipedia and try to figure out why on earth he gained so much credibility in the philosophy world. The exercise was unreassuring. It seems that Nietzsche’s primary life experiences were academic, he was socially isolated, addicted to drugs, extremely resentful of his religious upbringing and was actually residing in a mental institute when this book was published. Not exactly the sort of person you’d want to turn to for theories about life, the universe and everything. Usually, I’d try to write more specifically about the contents of this book so that I could remember it, but in this case, I’d be more than happy to forget that this particular collection of ravings even exists.
Why I read it: Recognized the title while browsing in the thrift store.
Four Novels of the 1970s: Fifty-Two Pickup, Swag, Unknown Man No. 89 and The Switch by Elmore Leonard, 1/5
I made it most of the way through the first novel in this collection and, while I admired the film-noir mood and punchy dialogue, eventually gave up because it was just too R-rated for me. Given that I enjoy watching a lot of R-rated movies, this might seem strange, but there’s just something about books–I get a bad feeling from reading things in print that wouldn’t phase me to watch on film.
I suspect that Fifty-Two Pickup might be one of Leonard’s roughest books and I might have had better luck with some of his more comedic works, but I just don’t feel motivated to give them a try at this point.
Why I read it: Got a batch of Elmore Leonard books out of the library to read, starting with his 10 Rules of Writing.
The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: A Lexicon for Those of Us Who Are Better and Smarter Than the Rest of You by James Napoli, 1/5
If I didn’t know the definition of “sarcasm” before starting this book, I’d soon come to the conclusion that it means “cringeworthy attempts at humor by an amateur stand-up comedian as he bombs his first gig.” I suffered through the entire “A” section before coming to terms with the fact that there was no earthly reason to continue reading.
Why I read it: it was a gift from a family member years ago.
This tedious attempt to legitimize the relationship between King Charles II of England and Lucy Walter, one of his numerous mistresses, is painfully contrived. The dialogue is stilted, the characters unlikeable, the romantic scenes unbearably sappy, and the whole thing suffers from a pervasive moral ambiguity that causes painful cognitive dissonance. For example, Lucy and one of the king’s good friends have a one-night fling that results in pregnancy, but according to the author “both had the gift of a dedicated loyalty” and “were faithful to the core” (473). I guess I’m just one of those who “would not have understood, if they could have seen it made visible, the quality of the integrity that despite their failures gave such distinction to Lucy and her lover” (473). Integrity?! Is this backwards day?
Despite constant attempts to make Lucy appear the victim of malicious gossip, the political climate of the times, and her own big-hearted, “Welsh” emotionalism, I felt that even the author no longer liked the main character by the end of the book. And that was the romanticized, fictional version of her…
[Why I read it: my friend, Alison, passed it along to me, [rightly] thinking that I would enjoy the Welsh references.]