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Missed the point…

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

the reading garden

Unfortunately, there is still no worst book. Because the book I was certain was the worst, now has a different place in the ranking queue.

In the middle of explaining why I detested this book, I realized I had been blinded by my own prejudices and puritanical sensibilities. I missed appreciating the lyrical language of the book, the dimensionality of the characters and the exquisite timing of the action. I sought a conversation with one of our students, whose opinion I respect.

She gracefully recounted the reasons she valued the book. What struck me was the way she summarized the essence of the plot: “it is about what happens to people’s souls,” she remarked. Had we read the same book?

So I sat down and re-read the book.

And I discovered I had missed the point entirely. A precious gem had been cast aside for transgressions that I had imposed on it. It was good to get a second chance to appreciate this book.

I’ve enjoyed reading your posts about your worst book, talking with my co-librarians at school and to faculty, friends and family. We’ve wandered through quite a lot of territory; including psychology and philosophy. It’s been chewy, spicy, delicately fragile and richly textured. Listening to your explanations I’ve been invited into your world, and I’m grateful for your trust.

Categories: Books and Reading

The worst book I ever read . . .

February 7, 2011 5 comments

bring it . .

On the best of days, Beatle sees about 4 hours of consciousness. On most days, he listens patiently to any rants I have brewing. Today he listened to me deconstruct the appeal of literature. The next book display at our library is going to have the tag line, “the worst book I ever read.” Our Middle School Advisors are going to write a sentence or two – a mini book review – to go with their personal worst book. A little fodder for conversation about books and book genres and what constitutes worst. And, by comparison: best.

So I thought about the book that made me the maddest. And why. I was incensed by the choices the main character made: bad choices. Bad after bad, after bad. And then some. No, that wasn’t the worst book.

What about that “memoir” of a famous chef, liberally peppered with words my mother wouldn’t say? Does that even count as literature? Yet, parts of that book made me laugh out loud. Was that the worst?

I decided to ask our resident English major about worst.  The measure of a book’s appeal is its ability to resonate with the reader, Joe responded. You can hate a book because its connection with you is disturbing or too emotional, but that doesn’t make it the worst book. You can love a book that is pure fluff, that wouldn’t even vaguely be considered good literature, but you wouldn’t count that as the worst book. For Joe, the measure of worst  is a book that doesn’t connect. 

Still, I haven’t settled on a worst book.  And,  I’m mighty interested to see what our group will select. And why.