One-Minute Book Reviews

March 11, 2009

James Frey writes like this should he get a Delete Key Award on Monday Terry McMillan wrote like this too but she was only a finalist has Frey surpassed her?

There’s usually at least one Delete Key Awards finalist that reads like an entry in a Bad Hemingway Parody contest. This year that spot on the shortlist goes to this passage from James Frey’s Los Angeles novel, Bright Shiny Morning:

“He said she would have a better life the sun shining every day more free time less stress she said she would feel like she had wasted a decade trying to get to the major leagues only to demote herself once she got into them.”

Should Frey’s effort be among the winners named on Monday?

Consider this: Terry McMillan made the 2007 shortlist for the passage below. But she didnt win, because the competition from Mitch Albom and Danielle Steel was just too tough even for this jawbreaker from her The Interruption of Everything:

“We tried you on your cell but you didn’t pick up so we got a little worried since we didn’t know where your appointment was and we tried calling Leon at work but his assistant said he left early to pick up his son at the airport and against our better judgment we tried your house and Hail Mary Full of Grace answered and after she deposed us, I asked if she knew your doctor’s number and she said she had to think for a few minutes and while she was thinking I started thinking who else we could call and that’s when I remembered your GYN’s name was a hotel: Hilton!”

Should Frey win — even though McMillan didn’t — given that Bright Shiny Morning isn’t up against a novel written third-grade reading level (Albom’s For One More Day) or brimming with stereotypes of Jews (Steel’s Toxic Bachelors)? If you would like to try to tamper with the jury, you have until Saturday.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

Claire Messud Won a 2007 Delete Key Award for These Clichés. Should Barbara Walters Win One for Hers?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:22 pm
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What does it take to win a Delete Key Award for the year’s worst writing in books? Two years ago it took the clichés found in Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children. That novel was the second runner-up in 2007 Delete Key Awards competition, finishing behind Mitch Albom’s For One More Day (first runner up) and Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors (grand prize winner). Messud received her Delete Key Award for lines like:

“It filled her with despair, a literal leadening of her limbs, a glazing of the eyes, so that she could barely lift the sheets of paper around her, and certainly couldn’t decipher what was written upon them.”

Among the problems with the sentence: That “leadening” wasn’t literal but metaphorical, and the sentence is infested with clichés

Messud was also recognized for writing that one of her characters “never knew in life whether to be Pierre or Natasha, the solitary, brooding loner or the vivacious social butterfly.”

As opposed, presumably, to a loner who wasn’t solitary.

This year Barbara Walters made the Delete Key shortlist for her cliché-stuffed Audition, which brims with sentences like:

“Just before the ax fell, lightning struck and my life changed, never to be the same again.”

Has Waltters surpassed Messud? Is her sentence bad enough to win a Delete Key Award? If you’d like to try to tamper with the jury, you have until Saturday.

Read some of the comments on Messud’s Delete Key Award here.

The 2009 Delete Key Award winners will be announced on Monday, March 16, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

© 2009 Janice Harayda.
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

March 10, 2009

Should Stephenie Meyer or Jodi Picoult Win a Delete Key Award for Bad Dialogue When the Results Are Announced on March 16?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:52 pm
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You think it’s easy choosing the worst writing in books published in the U.S. in 2008? Consider the following lines by Delete Key Awards finalists Jodi Picoult and Stephenie Meyer, both from the Department of Bad Dialogue.

From Stephenie Meyer’s novel The Host:

“ ‘Well, for Pete’s sake!’ Jeb exclaimed. ‘Can’t nobody keep a secret around this place for more’n 24 hours? Gol’ durn, this burns me up!’”

From Jodi Picoult’s novel Change of Heart:

“Not that Jesus wasn’t a really cool guy – great teacher, excellent speaker, yadda yadda yadda. But … Son of God? Where’s the proof?”

and

“You don’t think it’s possible that Mr. Smythe was … well … resurrected?”

Should Meyer or Picout win a Delete Key Award for the year’s worst writing on books on Monday? Or should one of the other finalists get an award? (You can read all the shortlisted passages in 10 posts, one for each finalist, that appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews on Feb. 26 and that explain why the lines were selected.) If you would like to try to tamper with the jury for the Delete Key Awards, you have until Saturday to weigh in for Meyer or Picoult. The winners will be named starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday.

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

February 27, 2009

10 Books Named Finalists for 2009 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:07 am
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Here’s a complete list of the finalists for the 2009 Delete Key Awards, which recognize authors who don’t use their delete keys enough. Click on this link to read passages that earned these books a place on shortlist, posted on Feb. 26 in ten separate posts. More comments on these awards appear at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

1. Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid (Viking), by Denis Leary.

2. Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult’s Life — For the Better (Basic Books), by Jeanne Safer.

3. The Underneath (Atheneum, ages 8 and up), by Kathi Appelt with drawings by David Small

4. Wolf Totem (Penguin), by Jiang Rong, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt:

5. Change of Heart (Simon & Schuster/Atria), by Jodi Picoult.

6. Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias (Atlantic Monthly Press), by Andrew Blechman.

7. Read All About It! (HarperCollins, ages 4–6), a picture book by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush, illustrated by Denise Brunkus.

8. The Host (Little, Brown) by Stephenie Meyer.

9. Bright Shiny Morning (Harper), by James Frey.
10. Audition: A Memoir (Knopf), by Barbara Walters.

Randy Pausch has posthumously received the first Delete Key Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for The Last Lecture (Hyperion), in part for his unabashed acknowledgment of his love of football cliches. As long as there was still time left on the clock, he kept the drive alive.

The winners of the 2009 Delete Key Awards will be announced March 16 on the One-Minute Book Reviews blog.

Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews, a site for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

February 26, 2009

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – Denis Leary’s ‘Why We Suck’

Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 comes from Denis Leary’s Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid (Viking, 240 pp., $26.95):

The winner of the first-ever One-Minute Book Reviews visitors’ poll:
“I’ll take five Anna Nicole Smiths for every Martin Luther King.”

And the runner-up in the poll:
“The women [at the gym]? Paired off on adjacent treadmills or elliptical trainers – yak yakkety yick yak yic, yic yickety, yawbeddy jawbeddy – jic jak yick. Yicketty yacketty blah blah blah.”

Can we all agree that somebody needs to rescue the prose of the star of Rescue Me?

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #2 – Jeanne Safer’s ‘Death Benefits’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:51 pm
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Delete Key Awards finalist #2 comes from Jeanne Safer’s Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult’s Life — For the Better (Basic Books, 226 pp., $25);

The first line in the book:
“The death of your parents can be the best thing that ever happens to you.”

Unless, of course, you’re fortunate enough to get an incurable disease, to lose your house in a foreclosure sale or to have invested all your life savings with Bernie Madoff. This sentence was the most crass and tasteless I read in a 2008 book. Denis Leary is at least trying to be funny. Safer is serious.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #3 – Kathi Appelt’s ‘The Underneath’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:43 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #3 comes from Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath (Atheneum, 311 pp., $19.99, ages 8 and up), a finalist for the most recent Newbery and National Book Awards, with drawings by David Small:

“The pain she felt was palpable.”

What’s wrong with this sentence? All together now: “Palpable” means you can feel it.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #4 — Jiang Rong’s ‘Wolf Totem’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:03 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #4 comes from Jiang Rong’s novel, Wolf Totem (Penguin, 527 pp., $29.95), translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt:

“Now he understood how the great, unlettered military genius Genghis Khan, as well as the illiterate or semiliterate military leaders of peoples such as the Quanrong, the Huns, the Tungus, the Turks, the Mongols, and the Jurchens, were able to bring the Chinese (whose great military sage Sun-tzu had produced his universally acclaimed treatise The Art of War) to their knees, to run roughshod over their territory, and to interrupt their dynastic cycles.”

Now we understand how a line in a prize-winning Chinese novel can read like an excerpt from a report by the Government Accountability Office.

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #5 – Jodi Picoult’s ‘Change of Heart’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:28 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #5 comes from Jodi Picoult’s novel Change of Heart (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 447 pp., $26.95):

“Not that Jesus wasn’t a really cool guy – great teacher, excellent speaker, yadda yadda yadda. But … Son of God? Where’s the proof?”

and

“You don’t think it’s possible that Mr. Smythe was … well … resurrected?”

Not that Picoult isn’t a really popular novelist – great sales, a “terrific writer” in Stephen King’s view. But with dorky lines like these (and a plot to go with them), where’s the proof? Didn’t that “yadda yadda yadda” start to sound old before Seinfeld went off the air?

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #6 — Andrew Blechman’s ‘Leisureville’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:02 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #6 comes from Andrew Blechman’s Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias (Atlantic Monthly Press, 244 pp., $25).

“Women who once burned their bras now pay handsomely for expensive brassieres and plastic surgery.”

How long will writers keep repeating the myth that women once “burned their bras”? Feminists wanted to burn their bras during the 1968 Miss America pageant. But they didn’t, because Atlantic City officials wouldn’t give them a fire permit: They threw their bras in a garbage can instead. Even if Blechman’s statement were true — which, repeat, it isn’t — it would be a wild distortion, suggesting that all over America women who once burned their bras are having eye bobs instead. “Bra burners” became a cliché about 15 minutes after it surfaced in the New York Post. And when was the last time anybody under the age of 90 used the stilted word “brassiere”?

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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