Now and then I love to criticize people who write stupid articles about books in well-known newspapers, and I have another chance today; if you want to scoff a bit, go check out this article fromThe Times on books you shouldn’t bother to read (via). It’s by Richard Wilson, the author of Can’t Be Arsed: 101 Things Not to Do Before You Die, which is a book I’m pretty sure I don’t need to read before I die. Yes, the author is trying to be offensive and stupid in his list, but even if you enjoy that sort of thing, it’s not particularly well done — the best he can say about War and Peace is that “it’s way, way too long.” And he’s got Jane Austen on the list, complaining that he gave up on it after fifty pages because “the characters spoke in a very oblique way and it seemed to be all about hypocrisy and manners and convention.” Actually, Austen’s dialogue isn’t particularly oblique (you’d think the author would love Hemingway’s relative straightforwardness, but he doesn’t — Hemingway’s on the list too) and hypocrisy and (bad) manners can make for very good reading. Here’s what he says about The Iliad:
The Iliad is one of the most boring books ever written and it’s not just a boring book, it’s a boring epic poem; all repetitive battle scenes with a lot of reproaching and challenging and utterances escaping the barrier of one’s teeth and nostrils filling with dirt and helmet plumes nodding menacingly. There’s a big fight between Achilles and Hector and that’s about it.
Why do people like this get published? Why?