One-Minute Book Reviews

March 15, 2010

Grand Prize Winner in the 2010 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books — Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:33 pm
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Yes, the hero teaches courses in the nonexistent field of “symbology” at Harvard University. But too many lines in The Lost Symbol (Doubleday)  flunk English, logic, history, or other subjects. Dan Brown wins the Grand Prize in the 2010 Delete Key awards for these lines:

“The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck.”

Yes, a screwdriver sticking out of your neck is always something of a wrinkle.

“It was no coincidence that Christians were taught that Jesus was crucified at age thirty-three …”
Just as it’s no coincidence that people were taught that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

“Thankfully, this particular crypt contained no bodies. … The entourage hurried through, without even a glance at the four-pointed marble compass in the center of the floor where the Eternal Flame had once burned.”
As opposed to one of those three-pointed compasses you usually see.

“His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway [sic], his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.”
That “archways of mystical power” helps to make this passage read like a cross between The Secret and recruitment brochure for McDonald’s.

“According to Nola’s spec sheet, the UH-60 had a chassis-mounted, laser-sighted, six-gigahertz magnetron with a fifty-dB-gain horn that yielded a ten-gigawatt pulse.”
Did Tom Clancy send in a play from the sidelines here?

Tom Chivers of the Telegraph collected 20 of the worst lines from Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and other books.

Read the shortlisted passages from all the finalists here.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

First Runner-Up in the 2010 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books — Seth Grahame-Smith’s ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:39 pm
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Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend turns into a Regency zombie and appears to channel Mammy in Gone With the Wind in a passage from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk), the second runner-up in the 2010 Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books. Jane Austen weeps as author Seth Grahame-Smith has Charlotte Lucas say:

“‘What can be da meaning of dis?’ howled Charlotte, as soon as he was gone. ‘Mah dear Ewiza, he muss be love you, aw he never wuh have called in dis famiwiar way.’”

Read all the shortlisted passages from all the finalists here. You can also follow Janice Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Second Runner-Up in the 2010 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books — Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Pygmy’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:59 pm
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Ever thought it would be fun to read an entire novel written in Pig Latin? No? Then you may want to avoid Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Pygmy, written in a pidgin English so relentless it almost makes the idea of reading a novel in Pig Latin sound like fun. The author of The Fight Club is this year’s Delete Key Awards second runner-up for for:

“Succulent barrier much thrusting mammary glands shield operative me, swinging lady buttocks further thwart attacks.”

“Tongue of operative me lick, licking, touching back tooth on bottom, molar where planted inside forms cyanide hollow, touching not biting.”

“In greater afraid … within thinking machine operative me, this agent ponder if entire being operative me pitted for destroy American, annihilate homosexual, crackpot Methodist religion, Lutheran and Baptist cult, extinguish all decadent bourgeoisie – subsequent successful total such destruction: Render this agent obsolete? Of no worth?”

Read the shortlisted passages from all the finalists here. You can also follow Janice Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 12, 2010

Winners of the Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books –Coming Monday

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:42 pm
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Which authors wrote the most memorably bad prose in 2009? Find out Monday when One-Minute Book Reviews announces the winners of the Fourth Annual Delete Key Awards for writers who don’t use their delete keys enough. You can read the shortlisted passages here, all from bestselling or otherwise well-known books published last year in hardcover or paperback.

February 25, 2010

Complete List of 2010 Delete Key Awards Finalists

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:59 pm
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The finalists for the 2010 Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books are:

THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES (Doubleday) by Ben Mezrich.

BIG MAN (Grand Central) by Clarence Clemons and Don Reo.

FINGER LICKIN’ FIFTEEN (St. Martin’s) by Janet Evanovich.

GOING ROGUE (Harper) by Sarah Palin.

IT SUCKED AND THEN I CRIED (Simon Spotlight) by Heather Armstrong.

THE LOST SYMBOL (Doubleday) by Dan Brown. 

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Quirk) by Seth Grahame-Smith.

PYGMY (Doubleday) by Chuck Palahniuk.

STORIES FROM CANDYLAND (St. Martin’s) by Candy Spelling, and MOMMYWOOD (Simon Spotlight) by Tori Spelling (tie).

THE WHOLE TRUTH (Vision/Hachette) by David Baldacci.

Honorable Mention: MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS (Holt) by Rhoda Janzen.

You can read the shortlisted passage from  a book by clicking on the title on the list above. The Delete Key Awards winner and runners-up will be announced on March 15. If you would like to try to lobby for or against a title, please leave a comment on this post or any of the posts linked to on the shortlist.

2010 Delete Key Awards Finalist #1 – ‘Pygmy’ by Chuck Palahniuk

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:17 pm
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From Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Pygmy (Doubleday):
“Succulent barrier much thrusting mammary glands shield operative me, swinging lady buttocks further thwart attacks.”

“Tongue of operative me lick, licking, touching back tooth on bottom, molar where planted inside forms cyanide hollow, touching not biting.”

“In greater afraid … within thinking machine operative me, this agent ponder if entire being operative me pitted for destroy American, annihilate homosexual, crackpot Methodist religion, Lutheran and Baptist cult, extinguish all decadent bourgeoisie – subsequent successful total such destruction: Render this agent obsolete? Of no worth?”

Yes, all 241 pages of Pygmy are this dorky. The novel reads as though Palahniuk had cut up a dictionary, put the pieces in a food processor, and pushed, “Spin.”

Read the full review of Pygmy.

You can also read about the Delete Key Awards on Janice Harayda’s page on Twitter. The 10 Delete Key Awards are being named in random order, beginning with No. 10, but numbered for convenience. This is finalist No. 1. The winner and runners-up will be announced March 15 on One-Minute Book Reviews and on Twitter.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 10, 2010

A Review of the ‘The Appointment,’ a Novel by Herta Müller, Winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:37 pm
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A Romanian-born laureate evokes the terrors of the Ceauşescu regime

The Appointment: A Novel. By Herta Müller. Translated by Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm. Picador, 214 pp., $15, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Herta Müller might seem to have little except her birthplace in common with the Romanian-born playwright Eugène Ionesco. But The Appointment shares some of its literary DNA with Rhinocéros, Ionesco’s haunting allegory of conformity, built on the life of a man who watches in horror as the people around him turn into rhinoceroses. In that absurdist play, the hero fights to retain his individuality as others devolve into beasts. In Müller’s novel, the characters have all but lost the battle for their humanity. They are crushed, driven mad, or killed by the tyranny of Nicolae Ceauşescu and his secret police.

The Appointment takes the form of an interior monologue by a young seamstress who was fired from her factory job for slipping notes that said “Marry me” into the pockets of men’s white linen suits bound for Italy and signing each slip with her name and address. She intended, or so she says, to wed the first man who answered, and she undergoes repeated and dehumanizing interrogations by the secret police about the matter. Were her notes to unknown men a sign of insanity or a reasonable approach to the crushing realities of life in postwar Romania?

That question is one of many that go unanswered. As she rides a tram to her latest interrogation, the young narrator drifts mentally back and forth between her fellow passengers and the torturous events of her life and that of her family and friends under the brutal Ceauşescu regime. The plot has little suspense, narrative thrust, and, at times, coherence. And Müller’s writing resembles that of Joyce Carol Oates: You read it for virtues other than elegantly turned phrases.

But The Appointment offers sharp glimpses of a world few Americans know and fewer still know well. In Müller’s Romania, residents can trust no one. They risk death if they try to flee to Hungary. And they must live without necessities such adequate food or clothing if they stay. Adults borrow children so they can claim extra rations of meat or milk. Factory seamstresses make elegant dresses for export but may buy only the rejects, stained by oil from sewing machines, twice a year — before International Labor Day and the Day of Liberation From the Yoke of Fascism.

Against such bleakness, you question whether putting notes in pockets of strangers’ suits was as depraved as it at first seems. The narrator of The Appointment appears perfectly lucid when she reflects, in a poignant observation late in the book, “As long as I was still young, I wanted to go to the kind of beautiful country the clothes were exported to.” Müller’s achievement is to make you see why, in some circumstances, it might be an act consummate sanity to slip into strangers’ suit pockets notes that say, “Marry me.”

Best line: “You don’t have to be particularly bad off to think: This can’t be all the life I get.”

Worst line: ”A breeze was rustling in the ash trees, I listened to the leaves, perhaps Paul was listening to the water.”

Published: 2001 (first U.S. edition), September 2002 (Picador paperback 2002)

Reading-group recommendation? The Appointment would be a tough sell to many book clubs. But it has barely 200 pages that, if lacking in high-octane narrative drive, are tautly written. It might appeal most to clubs that enjoy books in translation or on social-justice issues, including reading groups based at universities or in churches or synagogues.

Furthermore: Muller, a Romanian-born resident of Germany, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in literatureThe Complete Review has biographical facts about Müller and links to other reviews.

Janice Harayda satirizes American literary culture and the publishing industry at www.twitter.com/FakeBookNews.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Last Call for Nominations for the 2010 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:43 pm
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Which recent books should appear a TV show called CSI: Grammar Cop? Or Law & Order: Psychobabble Unit? Finalists for the Fourth Annual Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books will be announced on Feb. 25, 2010, on One-Minute Book Reviews and on Jan Harayda’s Twitter page (@janiceharayda). The prizes recognize literary sins such as clichés, dumbing-down, bad grammar, pomposity and overall incoherence.

To nominate one or more lines from a book published in hardcover or paperback in 2009, please leave a comment by Feb. 17, or send an e-mail message to the address on the “Contact” page. You can learn more about the prizes from Questions and Answers about the Delete Key Awards. To read past winners, click on “Delete Key Awards” at the top of this post.

January 12, 2010

Fake Book News #2 — National Book Critics Circle

Filed under: Fake Book News,Humor,Late Night With Jan Harayda,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:32 pm
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National Book Critics Circle changes its name to National Association of Unemployed Former Book Editors.

Fake Book News is new category on this site that satirizes American literary culture, including the publishing industry, in posts after 10 p.m. Eastern Time. All posts consist of made-up news items that are intended to be entertaining — not taken seriously — and many will also appear on the FakeBookNews page (@fakebooknews) on Twitter (www.twitter.com/fakebooknews). Some Fake Book News may appear on One-Minute Book Reviews but not on Twitter and vice versa.

November 30, 2009

Great Books About Scotland — A St. Andrew’s Day Celebration

Filed under: Biography,Fiction,Memoirs,News,Nonfiction,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:03 am
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The Scots — who gave us classics that range from Treasure Island to James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson — celebrate their heritage on St. Andrew’s Day, Nov. 30, the feast day of the patron saint of Scotland. Here, in its honor, are some of my favorite books about the land of my maternal ancestors:

The Crofter and the Laird (FSG, 1992), by John McPhee. More than three decades ago, McPhee moved with his wife and four young daughters to a small island in the inner Hebrides, just off the Scottish mainland, which had fewer than 200 residents. He tells the story of that visit to the land of his ancestors in The Crofter and the Laird, a fascinating of study of a place that refracts the history of Colonsay through his family’s experiences. The book is especially noteworthy for its portrait of changing relations between crofters or tenant farmers and their English laird (then, a glorified landlord who owned the island) long before the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. McPhee won a Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World. First published in 1969.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (HarperPerennial, 2009), by Muriel Spark. This great novella is a brilliant psychological study of female power as deployed by a teacher at an Edinburgh girls’ school in the early 1930s. The 1969 movie version had a memorable star turn by Maggie Smith but didn’t capture the most remarkable aspect of the book: It is a masterpiece of tone. Spark neither sentimentalizes nor demonizes her heroine, but describes her with the kind of cool detachment rarely found in novels about the sexually overheated world of girls’ and boys’ schools.  First published in 1961.

The Thirty-Nine Steps (Oxford University Press, 2009),by John Buchan. This slender, classic spy thriller is the first of Buchan’s five novels about Richard Hannay, a 37-year-old Scottish-born engineer who became a prototype for generations of adventurous patriots. In The Thirty-Nine Steps Hannary shelters a spy who has learned of a secret German plan to invade England. When the man is murdered, Hannay flees to the Scotland, where he hopes to lie low amid remote glens and moors. He soon finds himself hunted both by the British police who consider him a suspect and by the Germans who have killed the spy. After being spotted from an airplane, Hannay tries to elude his pursuers by adopting disguises and traveling by foot, bicycle and train through Scotland. This story is better known today for its movie version by Alfred Hitchcock. But Hitchcock changed so much of the plot that no matter often you’ve seen the film, you can enjoy the book. First published in 1915.

Other good books about Scotland include Israel Shenker’s In the Footsteps of Johnson and Boswell : A Modern Day Journey through Scotland, a re-tracing of one of the most famous literary excursions in history, and the two books that inspired it: Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and James Boswell’s A Tour to the Hebrides. You can find them together in one edition.

A fine golf book for serious readers (as opposed to serious picture-gazers) is A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands, the journalist Lorne Rubenstein’s account of a summer of playing on the Royal Dornoch Golf Course. And Liza Campbell writes of her life as the daughter of a Thane of Cawdor in A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth’s Castle, a memoir that offers a stars-without-makeup view of 20th-century Scottish aristocrats. Campbell’s book isn’t perfect, but the British class system is dissolving fast enough that her story may be one of the last of its kind.

You can also follow Jan Harayda on Twitter (@janiceharayda) www.Twitter.com/janiceharayda, where you’ll find others’ favorite books on Scotland by reading her home page or searching Twitter for the hashtag #scots.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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