One-Minute Book Reviews

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

July 21, 2008

Jodi Picoult’s ‘Change of Heart’ – Looking for Jesus in All the Wrong Places

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:04 am
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Miracles occur in a New Hampshire prison after a man ends up on death row for crimes that occurred when he was a 33-year-old carpenter

Change of Heart: A Novel. By Jodi Picoult. Simon & Schuster/Atria, 447 pp., $26.95.

By Janice Harayda

Change of Heart is the best novel I’ve read in a long time about religious gobbledygook. After 15 books, Jodi Picoult still cares enough about her craft to leave most of the Da Vinci Code knockoffs behind in a cloud of incense. She’s a more careful and interesting writer than Dan Brown and at times shows an appealingly droll wit. And she has more substantive concerns than off-the-wall ecclesiastical conspiracies, including the case for abolishing the death penalty. Picoult is also a conscientious researcher. For this book she visited a lethal-injection chamber and, when she needed to learn about the Gnostic Gospels, got private tutorials from Elaine Pagels, one of the country’s foremost scholars on the subject.

But in Change of Heart Picoult serves up characters with some peculiar traits or, rather, non-traits. They live in New Hampshire, but none has a credible New Hampshire accent or other characteristics that reflect the state or even New England — they might as well live in Nebraska. The oddest character is a 33-year-old carpenter who is sentenced to death for murdering a young girl and a policeman, then performs apparent miracles in a state prison. Shay Bourne cures the sick, brings a dead bird to life and feeds seven men with one piece of Bazooka bubble gum. Halfway through the book, you’re wondering what he could do it they ever ran low on the spelt bread and tilapia at Whole Foods. Bourne also wants to donate his heart after his execution to the gravely ill sister of the girl he killed. To do this, he needs to persuade a court that his religion requires such an action. And that effort pits him at different times against the mother of the dead child, a priest who has a crisis of faith, and a female lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union whose only recent dates have been court dates. All of them run a footrace against time his scheduled execution approaches.

Behind all of this lies a larger question than whether Bourne will be able donate his heart to a girl who needs it: What is a religion? Picoult treats traditional faiths respectfully. But one of her themes surfaces in the words of an inmate with AIDS: “Religion was supposed to be a blanket drawn up to your chin to keep you warm, a promise that when it came to the end, you wouldn’t die alone – but it could just as easily leave you shivering out in the cold if what you believed became more important than the fact that you believed.”

Change of Heart has many lines that one that are so vague that they could be used to justify almost any kind of religious hokum. And in age of anything-goes spirituality, that may help to explain why the book sped to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Picoult has cross-bred three popular genres — the courtroom drama, the religious thriller and the romance novel — in package much easier to digest than the arcana of The Da Vinci Code as long as you don’t expect too much plausibility from the plot. A telling scene occurs near the end of the book when a doctor suggests to the priest and the civil-liberties lawyer that they call the governor in an effort to break an impasse in Bourne’s case. When they don’t respond, he says, “Well, isn’t that what happens on TV? And in John Grisham novels?” You might think that Picoult is engaging in bit of self-satire here, signaling her intention to take her plot in a direction Grisham wouldn’t, but two pages later, her characters are breezing through the metal detectors at the statehouse.

Best line: Maggie Bloom notes that having a body wrap requires her to disrobe and pay a stranger to handle her body: “Was it just me, or was there a great deal that spa treatments had in common with prostitution?” Then why have the wrap? “The problem was, you never heard anyone say, ‘Wow, check out the brain on that babe.’”

Worst line: Convicted murderer Shay Bourne explains why he doesn’t go to church: “Not that Jesus wasn’t a really cool guy – great teacher, excellent speaker, yadda yadda yadda. But … Son of God? Where’s the proof?” Later, after a correctional officer survives a deadly assault by an inmate, a priest asks a doctor: “You don’t think it’s possible that Mr. Smythe was … well … resurrected?”

Published: March 2008 www.jodipicoult.com

One-Minute book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

twitter.com/janiceharayda

March 25, 2008

Has Jodi Picoult Taken an Early Lead in the 2009 Delete Key Awards Competition for Bad Writing in Books?

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:08 am
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I haven’t read Jodi Picoult’s new Change of Heart (Atria, $26.95) www.jodipicoult.com but a review in yesterday’s New York Times made me wonder if the novel had jumped to an early lead in the 2009 Delete Key Awards contest. Janet Maslin said that Picoult “seems to have written her latest tear-jerker on authorial autopilot.” And she quoted lines like this one from a condemned prisoner known as “the Death Row Messiah” who is a central figure in the book:

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

Sort of makes you wonder if this guy is going to have his last meal catered by the Soup Nazi, doesn’t it?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

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