One-Minute Book Reviews

February 26, 2009

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #7– ‘Read All About It!’ by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush

Delete Key Awards Finalist #7 comes from Read All About It (HarperCollins, 32 pp., $17.99, ages 4–6), a picture book by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush, illustrated by Denise Brunkus:

“I say, ‘The library is a boring place! All I will meet there are stinky pages.’”

and

“Miss Toadskin thinks she can gross us out with her science experiments. But I live for that stuff!”

It happens every year! Delete Key Awards finalists try to strengthen weak sentences by adding manic exclamation points! And bad puns! How many 4-year-olds will know that a “page” is someone who reshelves books!

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

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #8 — Stephenie Meyer’s ‘The Host’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:52 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Delete Key Awards Finalist #8 comes from Stephenie Meyer’s novel of alien abduction, The Host (Little, Brown, 619 pp., $25.99), a three-way tie:

“It’s a voluntary choice.”

and

“He nuzzled his face against mine until he found my lips, then he kissed me, slow and gentle, the flow of molten rock swelling languidly in the dark at the center of the earth, until my shaking slowed.”

and

“ ‘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!’”

The Host is a novel for adults written at a fourth-grade (9-year-old) reading level, according to the readability statistics that come with the spell-checker on Microsoft Word. But even 9-year-olds deserve better than the redundancy of the first example, the purple prose of the second, and the cornball dialogue of the third. The Jan. 5, 2009, post on One-Minute Book Reviews tells more about the fourth-grade reading level of The Host.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #9 — James Frey’s ‘Bright Shiny Morning’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:39 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Delete Key Awards Finalist #9 comes from James Frey’s novel of Los Angeles, Bright Shiny Morning (Harper, 510 pp., $26.95).

“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.”

He got scolded by Oprah A Million Little Pieces blasted he needed to redeem himself with some critics a novel with many sentences like this not the best way to do that.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved

Follow the 2009 Delete Key Awards on Twitter

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:28 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The ten finalists for the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books are being announced today on One-Minute Book Reviews at roughly 30 minute intervals. You can follow them here (with the shortlisted passages cited in full) or on Twitter (author, title, publisher only) www.twitter.com/janiceharayda. The next finalist follows within five minutes. The finalists will be announced here first and on Twitter immediately afterward.

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalist #10 — Barbara Walters’s ‘Audition’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:58 am
Tags: , ,

Delete Key Awards Finalist #10 comes from Barbara Walters’s Audition: A Memoir (Knopf, 624 pp., $29.95):

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

Did it change because Walters had never before used so many clichés in a sentence?

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

February 25, 2009

How Badly Can You Write and Get a Book Published in America? Find Out Thursday, Feb. 26, When the Shortlist for the 2009 Delete Key Awards Is Posted

Are you tired of reading about what a hard time publishers are having? Do you wish that somebody would write about what a hard time we, the readers, are having with some of the clinkers they’ve thrown at us?

Stay right here. Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will post the shortlist for the Third Annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books for adults or children. The finalists will be named in random order and numbered in reverse order, from No. 10 through No. 1, at roughly half hour intervals, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The full shortlist will be posted by 5 p.m.

Last year John Brockman said on the blog for the Powell’s Books:

“Arguably the second-best online literary award after the TOB’s Rooster [co-sponsored by Powell’s] is the 2008 Delete Key Awards for ‘the year’s worst writing in books,’ awarded by the One-Minute Book Reviews blog.”

Please check back tomorrow to learn the finalists for this year’s booby prizes for clichés, bad grammar, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, incoherence, dumbing-down and more.

One-Minute Book Reviews does not accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, authors, agents or others with ties to the industry.

© 2009 Janice Harayda
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

Randy Pausch Wins First Delete Key Award for Lifetime Achievement – Author of ‘The Last Lecture’ Is Gone, But His Football Clichés Live

Filed under: Book Awards,Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

You know how the Academy Awards people often give a special award announced before the ceremony? This year the tradition comes to the Delete Key Awards, which recognize authors who don’t use their delete keys enough.

The first Delete Key Award for Lifetime Achievement goes to Randy Pausch (1960–2008), the computer science professor who wrote The Last Lecture after learning that he had pancreatic cancer.

Like many books considered for tomorrow’s Delete Key Awards shortlist, Pausch’s bestseller shows his love of clichés. Unlike the authors of other candidates, Pausch admitted in his book that he loved well-worn phrases. He also explained why: He taught students who didn’t know the clichés and for whom they seemed fresh.

Pausch’s honesty was unique among the authors considered for Delete Key Awards since their inception in 2007. It sets him apart from the many writers who pretend – or really believe – that their clichés offer startling insights. And Pausch used his clichés with enough wit and charm to endear him to legions and make him the star of a YouTube video that more than 9 million people have watched and that led to a book contract.

For these reasons, Randy Pausch receives the first special Delete Key Award for Lifetime Achievement for the line:

“I liked my students to win one for the Gipper, to go out and execute, to keep the drive alive, to march down the field, to avoid costly turnovers and to win games in the trenches even if they were gonna feel it on Monday.”

A review of and reading group guide to The Last Lecture (Hyperion, 224, $21.95) appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews on May 30, 2008.

The finalists for the 2009 Delete Key Awards will be announced tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, at roughly 30–minute intervals, that will include samples of their bad writing. The full shortlist will be posted by 5 p.m. and the winners named on March 16.

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

Questions and Answers About the 2009 Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:33 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

UPDATE: The finalists for Fourth Annual Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 25. Please nominate your candidates by Feb. 15, 2010.

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for the Third Annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books tomorrow, Feb. 26. The first book to make the shortlist will be named at about 10 a.m. Eastern Time with other titles released throughout the day. The full list of finalists will be posted by 5 p.m.

Here are some questions and answers about the awards:

Why do we need the Delete Key Awards?
When you go bed with a book, you should be able to respect yourself in the morning. Unfortunately, too many publishers don’t realize this.

Who is eligible for a Delete Key Award?
Any book for children or adults published in hardcover or paperback in the U.S. in 2008, including reprints and books in translation.

Why are the awards for “the worst writing in books” instead of “the worst books”?
The overall quality of a book involves subjective issues such as taste and judgment. The Delete Key Awards recognize more clear-cut sins. They call attention to such things as clichés, bad grammar or writing at a statistically verifiable third-grade level. The listing for each finalist will give an example of the bad writing in the book and comment on what’s wrong with it.

What kind of bad writing qualifies for an award?
Anything that would make an intelligent reader cringe. The sins that may qualify a passage in a book for a Delete Key Award include clichés, bad grammar, dumbing down, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, stilted dialogue, unintentionally comic sex scenes, and overall tastelessness (the “that’s just sick” factor).

This is the third year Delete Key Awards have been given. What’s new in 2009?

First, visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews are choosing one of the finalists through a poll posted on Feb. 21 oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/. The poll remains open until 5 p.m. Eastern Time Feb. 25. Second, for the first time a special posthumous Delete Key Award will be given out before the shortlist appears.

Who are some past winners of the Delete Key Awards? Where can I read the bad writing that won them their awars?
The 2007 winners were Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors, grand prize; Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, first runner-up; and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, second runner-up, all of whose winning passages were posted on March 15, 2007. The 2008 winners were Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, grand prize; Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon, first runner-up; and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, second runner-up, all of whose winning passages were posted on March 14, 2008.
How do you select the finalists?

At the end of each review on One-Minute Book Reviews, you’ll find the best and worst lines in the book. The finalists usually come from the “worst” lines. But all of the selected examples of bad writing are typical of what you’ll find in the book that made the shortlist. No author became a finalist because of one or two bad lines.

Why are you picking on struggling authors?
First, “struggling authors” is a cliché. Strike it from your vocabulary. Second, I’m not picking on those people. Most of the Delete Key Awards finalists are rich. Those who aren’t rich are generally influential or representative of a strong trend in publishing.

When will you announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards?
Visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews will be able to comment on the finalists for two weeks, and the winners will be named on March 16. The winners are usually named on the Ides of March because Julius Caesar was assassinated then, and at least in spots, these books assassinate the English language. But March 15 falls on Sunday this year, so the awards are being announced on March 16.

Why are you announcing the finalists one at a time instead of all at once?
It will provide more entertainment for people who are bored at work. And there are so many bad writers published in the U.S., my site might crash if they all rushed over at once to see if I’d recognized their contributions to literature.

Why are you qualified to pick the winner of the Delete Key Awards?
One-Minute Book Reviews doesn’t accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or authors whose books may be reviewed on the site. So the reviews aren’t affected by the marketing considerations that sometimes affect the decisions of others.

I also received more than 400 books a week during my 11 years as the book editor of the Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. These included Knitting With Dog Hair, which is still in print. Critics laughed when the book was published. But Knitting With Dog Hair looks like Madame Bovary compared with some Delete Key Awards fianlsits.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It was created by Janice Harayda, a novelist and award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor and critic for the Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Thanks so much for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 24, 2009

Improve Your Writing in Minutes – Kill a Portmanteau Sentence

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:18 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Portmanteau sentences often help a book qualify for a Delete Key Award for bad writing, the shortlist for which will appear Thursday. What’s wrong with them? Portmanteau lines are those jawbreakers that contain so many phrases or clauses, you get lost in the middle. They aren’t the same as run-on sentences (two complete sentences joined by a comma or by no punctuation instead of conjunction). And length alone doesn’t make a sentence a portmanteau (French for “trunk” or “chest”). Long sentences can read smoothly. Too often, they don’t.

Take the portmanteau sentence that the columnist James J. Kilpatrick found in Timothy Noah’s review of Robert Shrum’s No Excuses in the New York Times Book Review:

“Now retired from consulting, Shrum has produced a lively and indiscreet memoir about his three decades at the center of Democratic presidential politics, from Edmund Muskie’s failed primary bid in 1972 (in one memorably chilly scene, Muskie’s wife asks whether he likes the painting she’s just given him for their wedding anniversary and he replies, ‘No’) to John Kerry’s general election defeat in 2004 (Shrum relates the campaign’s collective sigh of relief when the networks declined to show footage of Kerry at an Iowa party jokingly miming a toke while Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary sang ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’).”

Or try the first line of Christopher Lehmann-Haupt’s more recent New York Times obituary for John Updike:

“John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors, died on Tuesday in Danvers, Mass.”

Lehmann-Haupt’s sentence is a model of brevity and clarity compared with Noah’s. But you still have to come up for air in the middle. And what’s the point? Why try to shoehorn all of the achievements of a writer as accomplished as Updike into one line? Nobody speaks in portmanteau sentences, so they are inherently pretentious and tend to sound pompous. If people did speak in them, you would have trouble following them. (Try reading that line about Updike aloud.) And good writing is, above all, clear.

The practice of overstuffing first sentences relates to the traditional newspaper practice of cutting stories from the bottom if they are too long. But the custom has little relevance to the Updike obituary. The Times clearly wasn’t going to amputate everything but the first sentence or two of that one.

Overstuffing even less relevance to books, where authors can make their own rules. So you’ll see some portmanteau sentences on the Delete Key shortlist. Which authors are the worst offenders?

See you Thursday!

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

February 23, 2009

2009 Delete Key Awards Finalists to Be Announced Feb. 26, Beginning at 10 a.m. – The Year’s Worst Writing in Books for Children and Adults

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:27 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

You think the books you read this year were bad? Find out Thursday how they compare to some of the worst writing publishers have flung at us in the past twelve months. The 2009 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books for children and adults will be announced beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time on Feb. 26 with the full list posted by the end of the day.

This year for the first time visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews can choose one of the finalists – the worst of four lines from Denis Leary’s Why We Suck, all included in a recent poll on this site. You can vote anonymously until 5 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday on the Feb. 21 post.

The winners will be named on March 16 (usually on March 15, which falls on a Sunday this year).  To read other posts about the awards, given to authors who don’t use delete keys enough, click on “Delete Key Awards” in the list of categories at right. Thanks for visiting this site.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

« Previous PageNext Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 370 other followers

%d bloggers like this: