Phil Rambles
   


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    Mon, 19 Jan 2004

    Fiction: Notable American Women, by Ben Marcus
    This is the worst book I ever read. Previously, if I started to read any book remotely close to this bad, I would toss it aside without a second thought. Unfortunately, this was the selection of my book discussion group, so I felt obligated to read it...especially since I recently chided people for being too picky about the book selection, saying "I'll read anything. I'm going to read several thousand more books in my life, I don't really care if this one is in the top 10." So, I read the whole thing, every pretentious, ridiculous, irritating word.

    The plot, such as it is, concerns a boy raised by a sort of cult that believes that silence is blessed, that depriving the kid of emotional sustenance will make him stronger, and a bunch of other claptrap. The kid grows up completely screwed up, of course, but since he doesn't know what "normal" is, he doesn't know this. To the extent that the book has "characters", they're all hateful and unsympathetic. The book's language is at times nonsensical, at times pretentious, at times opaque, but is always irritating. Here's a sample:

    "It would be foolish to simplify the role of the skin in reading, thinking, and eating. Nearly everything that can be said about the skin can be disproved or at least convincingly denied. For the purposes of this book, once the fast is completed, the arm should be wrapped in the cloth you had stashed in your mouth."

    If you would like to read 240 pages of stuff like that, this is the book for you!

    It is only fair to acknowledge, I suppose, that lots of people absolutely love this book, and the web is strewn with reviews that claim that this book is insightful, life-changing, yada yada. This is, of course, utter nonsense.

    [/Books/Fiction] permanent link