One-Minute Book Reviews

March 15, 2007

Steel, Albom and Messud Win Top Awards for the Worst Writing in Books

Toxic Bachelors, For One More Day and The Emperor’s Children finish win, place, and show in the first annual bad-writing contest sponsored by One-Minute Book Reviews, www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

Three novelists have won top honors in the 2007 Delete Key Awards competition for the worst writing published in books in the preceding year. Danielle Steel won the Grand Prize for Toxic Bachelors. Mitch Albom was first runner-up for For One More Day and Claire Messud second runner-up for The Emperor’s Children.

The blog One-Minute Book Reviews announced the winners earlier today. Steel, Albom and Messud defeated seven other books, including Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Rising, James McGreevey’s The Confession (with David France) and Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval’s The Power of Nice. Each winning book received a separate post on March 15 that described the reasons for its selection. The March 16 post will explain why some of the also-rans didn’t win the competition, the results for which were announced only on the Internet.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Grand Prize Winner 2007 Delete Key Awards: ‘Toxic Bachelors’ by Danielle Steel

The grand prize winner of the 2007 Delete Key Awards competition for the year’s worst writing in books is …

Toxic Bachelors by Danielle Steel

C’mon, you’re probably saying, this one was too easy. Sure, Danielle Steel writes at a fourth-grade level (technically, grade 4. 8), according to the readability statistics that are part of the spell-checker on Microsoft Word. But don’t we all know how bad her writing is? Not if you haven’t read Toxic Bachelors. You may not be surprised to hear that this novel has plenty of unintentionally comic lines like: “‘Yes,’ he said succinctly.” But it’s worse than you think.

Nobody expects social realism from Steel, but it’s still shocking to find Jews portrayed as monsters in this novel. Toxic Bachelors is about three men single men, each of whom represents a spiritual as well as social type. Charlie is WASP-y, Gray makes a religion of art, and Adam is Jewish. Guess which one has a weak father, a mother who is “a nagging bitch” and a spoiled sister? That’s right, Adam. His parents are cruel enough to make the Portnoys look like candidates for a lifetime achievement award from Parents magazine. And he has a special contempt for a sister who committed the ultimate sin: “She had never done anything with her life except get married and have children.”

Steel gets away with this because most critics have written her off and no longer review her. Why review somebody, the thinking goes, who writes only mindless romances? Toxic Bachelors presents an answer: If nobody holds her accountable, she’ll keep serving up nasty stereotypes, masquerading as a fairy tale.

Original review on One-Minute Book Reviews: Oct. 28, 2007, “Danielle Steel Gets Toxic,” archived with the October posts and in the “Novels” category.

The first and second runners-up were announced earlier today. The full short list appeared on Feb. 28 and the titles of books that received Honorable Mentions for the list on March 2. A list of questions and answers about the Delete Key Awards appeared on Feb. 27. All of these posts are archived with those of the month in which they appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews. Thank you for visiting this site.

Visit www.janiceharayda.com for information about the creator of the Delete Key Awards, Janice Harayda, a novelist and award-winning journalist has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

First Runner-up for the 2007 Delete Key Award: ‘For One More Day’ by Mitch Albom

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:57 am
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The first runner-up for the 2007 Delete Key Award for the year’s worst writing in books is …

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

Yes, it may seem unfair to give an award to a novel that’s already been named one of the five worst books of 2006 by Entertainment Weekly www.ew.com. Why not spread the embarrassment around? First, because most other bad books aren’t written at a third-grade level, according to the readability statistics on Microsoft Word. (You can learn how to find the grade level of Albom’s and other books, or your own writing, in the Nov. 16 review of For One More Day, “Does Mitch Albom Think He’s Jesus?”, archived with the Nov. 2006 posts.) Second, the bad writing in other books at least makes sense. For One More Day teems with inane lines like: “A funeral is no place for secrets.” At no time do secrets have a more respected – and needed – place than at funerals, where common decency requires us to withhold the truth to avoid causing further pain to the mourners. Bury this one with all those classics of pseudoprofundity like The Bridges of Madison County and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Original review on One-Minute Book Reviews: Nov. 16, 2006, “Does Mitch Albom Think He’s Jesus?”, archived with the November posts and in the “Novels” category.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Second Runner-up for the 2007 Delete Key Award: ‘The Emperor’s Children’ by Claire Messud

The second runner-up for the 2007 Delete Key Award for the year’s worst writing in books is …

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud

How did this pretentious novel end up on so many best-of-the-year lists? Who knows? Every year there’s at least one book that earns praise far out of proportion to its merits. (Remember the great reviews Mitch Albom got when he started writing books? How hollow does some of the praise seem now?) The most overrated book of 2006 was The Emperor’s Children, a windy and cliché-infested novel full of repulsive characters who move in eddies around an aging New York journalist.

So why didn’t it win top honors in the Delete Key Awards competition for the year’s worst writing in books? Tedious as much of this novel is, The Emperor’s Children picks up steam in the last one hundred or so pages, when it borrows some drama from the events of Sept. 11, 2001. How many readers will stick with it until then?

Original review on One-Minute Book Reviews: Oct. 4, 2006, “The Emperor’s Children Wear Clichés,” Oct. 4, 2006, archived with the October posts and in the “Novels” category.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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