Looking for a really dull, boring, over-rated book to fall asleep over while your friends look on in wonder? Try Ulysses. Or Catcher in the Rye. Maybe Gravity’s Rainbow. In fact, anything at all by Faulkner or Hardy or Pound ought to do it.



Ulysses landed on the mat last week. As soon as I met Buck Mulligan, I thought, I’m going to like this. He reminded me of a few humorous, articulate and highly intelligent Irishmen I’ve met over the years, and whose company I’d really enjoyed.

By page 16 I’d thrown the book down umpteen times, with various combinations of, ‘Crock o’ shite’; WTF!; ‘He’s taking the piss’.

I decided to read the 36 page, six chapter, Introduction, to see if it would encourage me to continue. It did. However, by, ‘INELUCTABLE MODALITY OF THE VISIBLE’, I knew the end of our relationship was nigh.

I haven’t actually consigned it to the bag for the charity shop yet because I keep picking it up and opening it randomly, at pages that appear to be sane, sensible and funny, but before long my synapes start short circuiting again, and it’s, ‘WTF’.

Ah well, c’est la vie…eh

With great respect for the previous posters, I like everything they hate and I thought that Slate article was full of mean, uninformed opinions.

The rating game is pervasive yet little examined. Bloggers know that the easiest way to draw web traffic is to headline an article with 10 of the Most/Least/Best/Worst and–fill in the blank. So I question the value of this thread, since it encourages posters to “rate” other writers by venting about boredom or confusion. I have learned from hard experience that authors may not control reader reactions.

People object because you use two names for the same character, David and Davy, because that confuses them. They don’t like it if you write a story in a non-linear way, because they are so linear. They don’t like foreign names, because of course, they are not foreign. And so on: see Goodreads or Amazon reviews for more data.

A great trend today: in an era of global commerce, the growth of living-room ego. What ever happened to reading as a way of expanding one’s vision and values, instead of merely confirming them? Do we only want self-gratification from reading, or are we looking to grow and stretch ourselves?

Like beauty, boredom is in the beholder’s eye, not in a book. A book is only carbon particles on wood pulp, electrons on a screen. The boredom is within, stemming from a failure to engage and learn, to imagine. Henry Thoreau put it best: “It is not all books that are as dull as their readers.” Or Henry James: “Try to be one of the people upon whom nothing is lost.”

Rating is a commercial tool designed to steer consumers down the cattle-runs of life. It’s at the heart of commerce, education, media, social class systems, and all forms of corporate or institutional life. What are the Ten Best schools, ice-cream cones, banks? It creates the illusion of choice while denying it. The only advantage it brings: in time, we may “discover” artists or writers who were ignored or under-rated in their day. Sorry to rant, but I’ve quarreled with value theory (and practice) most of my life.

I’m with Druid: Ratings games are most useful for grad students, as a training exercise (“If you could save only five works of art in all of the National Gallery, which would they be?” “Quick, we’re in the Early Modern Sculpture room; what’s the best piece here? You have five seconds.”) Literature is trickier, because we are often unripe and unready, and need to come back to certain artists when we ourselves have grown to meet them, as Druid says; Hardy, Joyce, the later Shakespeare, the darker Dickinson. I still read children’s lit with real pleasure, and sci-fi/fantasy too, but a steady diet of the latter feels like Cheet-Os and Diet Coke after a while, and not real nourishment. Also, quality seems to be dropping on all fronts: the later Sookie Stackhouse novels are cotton candy, the new Jim Butcher is a narrated video game, Diana Gabaldon needs an editor stat, and don’t get me started on A Game of Thrones: clunky, junky, horribly written, repetitive. Makes the Belgariad look like…well, James Joyce.

Seen the new Woody Allen flick yet?

Talking pictures good sometimes. Especially after watching every *^%$# episode of the original Star Trek on Netflix Instant, due to in-house demand. You recommend Midnight in Paris?

If you’ve got a thing for Allen’s sense of humour, yes it’s a good ride, especially for anyone who enjoys the literature and art for what it is; rather than the culture of it. A modern day screenwriter, disillusioned by modern day life, and trying rekindle his “fire” by writing a novel and purposefully “aimlessly” strolling around Paris looking for the old spark. You know, the old procedural inspiration gambit. Stumbles into 1920 on a drunken car ride, and finds himself cavorting around Paris with the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, [size=200]D[/size][size=160]A[/size][size=120]L[/size][size=80]I[/size][size=200]![/size], and well you name it. All of this is interspersed with liberal pointy sticks being jabbed in the ribs of that aforementioned stuffy culture cloud that buzzes around galleries and antique shops; not to mention vapid anti-art commercialism. Beats grainy low-bandwidth episodes of Star Trek at any rate. :slight_smile: