TalkThe Literati

Join LibraryThing to post.


This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

May 17, 2007, 1:02 am

Anyone read anything recently that was really disappointingly bad (in their opinion)?

I didn't enjoy The Bell Jar at all - I found it clinical and emotionless and got very little out of it. Didn't like Plath's writing style at all. I've only ever had people raving about her to me in the past, saying that her work changed their lives or at least profoundly affected them. Not being into poetry, I'd never really bothered with her, but The Bell Jar was chosen as the Posh Club reading circle book for May, so I thought I'd give it a go. There haven't been many chosen for Posh Club that I haven't enjoyed much, but this was one of them, and I get the feeling that when I go the the meet at the end of the month, I'll be in the minority - from all I've heard, it doesn't seem to be the "done thing" to disparage Plath's work ;) ...

I'm also currently not really enjoying much Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I'm listening to it on my iPod and it's read by the very talented and very expressive Michael York, but I'm finding much of it very silly, but not in a funny-ha-ha way. I only have about 1.5 hours left (of an 8.5 hour recording), so I'll see it through to the end, but I'm utterly failing to identify with any of the characters or their predicament, which is pretty much essential for me for proper enjoyment.

Such a shame - I had rather expected to enjoy both as they are both considered "greats" by many people, but I just can't see why. :(

May 17, 2007, 5:05 pm

Finally, someone else decided to start a thread!

Out of all my books, only two have really disappointed me: Nestlé: The Secrets of Food, Trust and Globalization & Stonedial. Both books were translated over into English, and I think the translations are what caused my displeasure.

With Nestlé: The Secrets of Food, Trust and Globalization, the writing was rather basic and you could tell that English was not the primary language of the translator. On top of that, the book was essentially a business report, telling how much money which department made when, and I had been expecting more back story and discussion rather than just a bunch of numbers. I finished the book and felt bad for all the time I had just wasted.

Stonedial I could not finish, it was just that hard to understand. I don't know if it's because Hungarian doesn't translate well, or if its the fault of the translator, but it's so bad you have to force yourself to keep reading, and even after a few chapters it still makes no sense. I've tried a few times to read it, and failed miserably; so I've given up on it until I have absolutely nothing else to read. I mean NOTHING else.

Coincidentally, both were bought from a Cole's "Sidewalk Sale" and were only a couple bucks each, once again proving that the books in the cheap bin are there for a reason.

Jul 3, 2007, 2:36 pm

To Kell - I loved The Bell Jar, but maybe it was because I was feeling very much like her at the time I was reading it. I think it is meant to allow "normies" to understand what it is like to go on a downward spiral.

Edited: Aug 24, 2007, 3:45 pm

Disappointing, eh? Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It was the first book I picked up on recommendation of other LTers and I don't think I'll be doing that again without more research of my own. I think my tastes are just too divergently varied and quirky to go solely on the ravings of others.

Edited: Aug 24, 2007, 3:52 pm

The Susanna Clarke novel would be a pick of mine as well. I found the faux Jane Austen voice too annoying to go past page 100 -- I kept waiting for Susanna Clarke to show up. I went to her site and found that (one of) her favourite authors was...guess who?

Tiresome thing. I find Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy to be a wonderful answer to Clarke's tedious use of footnotes.

Edit: Oh, I'm not even in this group. (My preference for "my groups" wasn't set in Talk for some reason). I was wondering where this group came from. :)

Aug 25, 2007, 6:13 pm

I was very disappointed by Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton. I had high hopes, the girl is from the same town I am, Minneapolis. There's so much of this book that is weird. It is an adult choose-your-own-adventure, and almost every seemingly successful long life and happiness is a result of finding a man and having a lot of money.
A lot of it comes off as snarky to me, but other than my friends, who know my fascintation with the strangeness of this book, I really haven't found any discussion on it. Has anyone else picked up this atrocity? It is worth a look at, that is if you are curious about calamities.

7sinclair6 First Message
Aug 30, 2007, 5:36 pm

I LOVED Pretty Little Mistakes. I can't believe anyone wouldn't. It's a feminist book - the whole point of the book (If you read more than one thread) is that you DON'T need money or a man to be happy. Maybe you didn't read through enough threads, or got too many bad lives in a row? Some people are unlucky like that, but there are really goosd lives. I suggest you keep reading. Anyway, my disapointment book would be THE SCARLET LETTER. I just read it for the first time and hated it.

Aug 30, 2007, 5:56 pm

I found Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie absolutely un-finishable - SOOOOOOO disappointing. Incredibly fragmented, jumping back and forth between the early and late 60s, as well as being divided, chapter by chapter, between three different characters. I just couldn't get into it at all. It actually took me 5 days to read less than 300 pages (I'd usually finish a book of this length in about 2 days on average). I won't be reading any more books by Adichie in the future.

Aug 30, 2007, 6:26 pm

My biggest disappointment this year has been "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith. The reviews were so overwhelmingly glowing that it seemed like a no-brainer. While the writing is excellent, the story is one long snore.

Sep 8, 2007, 8:37 pm

In the last few months, my big disappointments have been The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth, The Stranger by Albert Camus, and Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut.

With the Roth, I had wanted to read this book for so long and, after many false starts with it, finally got going on it. It was an intriguing premise and presented a perspective on how American anti-Semitism could have spiraled into something more deadly than it was, but ultimately I was just disappointed.

Camus was a re-read of a book that I remembered being disappointed with when I read it in high school, but figured I would give another shot to, since we all know how high school English class can kill a book for the reader. :) 10+ years of perspective did not change my opinion that the book is simply an intellectual exercise in constructing an embodiment of existentialist philosophy and is far inferior to The Plague, which I also read in high school and LOVED because it seemed like it was really about the human experience and not just an intellectual exercise.

The Vonnegut was just kind of dull. I appreciated his perspectives on machines vs. humans and I understand that the novel was his first and was written in the immediate post-WW2 context when mass production really went nuts. But I didn't understand how society in which so many people responsible for maintaining the status quo were so fundamentally dissatisfied with the thing they were working to maintain could survive, if that sentence makes any sense.

Need dinner, now...

Sep 9, 2007, 12:22 am

Agreed on The Plot Against America. The ending felt like he was halfway done and his publisher called on Monday and said, "We need the book on Wednesday."

Sep 9, 2007, 12:42 am

Hah, good call!

Edited: Sep 9, 2007, 11:24 am

I believe fannyprice hit the nail on the head when she said, ". . . my opinion that the book {The Stranger}is simply an intellectual exercise in constructing an embodiment of existentialist philosophy. . . ". But in a way I think The Stranger and The Plague are two sides of the existentialist coin. Camus and Sartre understood existentialism differently and I believe these two books illustrate the differences in their existentialisms. Both have to do with engaging the world, one negatively from a fully material nihilism, the other is a positive approach to the world, not just being immersed in life, but seizing what life gives us and creating a better world.

I don't think Camus wanted the reader to take anything positive out of the Stranger, while the Plague is about positive action in the world.

Sep 9, 2007, 1:05 pm

The Stranger is a continuation of the idea of the Absurd that Camus had already outlined in The Myth of Sisyphus and fictionalised in the play 'Caligula'. Much reduced, absurdism is the opposition between the human search for meaning in their lives and a cold uncaring universe. For Camus people can pursue three possible outcomes - suicide, a leap of faith (an illogical grasping for a diety), or acceptance.
The end of the book is not nihilist, Meersault pursues suicide (killing the arab and admitting it), then rejects the possibility of God (the visit of the preist) before he finally accepts the indifference of the world - by accepting this Meersault is freed from it and he accepts his truth - that is why he calls for a crowd that should greet him with cheers of hate.

Re The Plot Against America - the main problem with the novel is technical, Roth is incapable of melding the two strands of the novel together successfully. Too often the affectionate portrayal of Roth's own upbringing is brought to a clunking end by a "and then the govt did this bad thing which meant this and this and this". It is especially bad at the end when Roth has to a chapter which is all "and then the govt did this...", and at the same time attempts to whitewash most of the characters who has said were responsible for the neo-Fascist govt. (The stems from Roth wanting to tell an alternative history story and at the same time end up with the real history).

Edited: Sep 9, 2007, 2:53 pm

I hated Plot Against America, and gave up 3/4 through. His portrayal of the Jewish family in mid century Brooklyn was like watching and episode of "The Goldbergs" on televsion. I doubt many of you know who the Goldbergs were, but that's the only image that comes to my mind; the shrill, shrieking Jewish mother kind of a thing. I am a Jewish woman from Brooklyn a little younger than the characters in Plot... but I recognized the caricature that came flying out at me. This was Philip Roth writing, for crying out loud, not me... The story had so much promise, but it was poorly written, poorly exectuted, and to me, downright insulting. Feh! as they say.

Sep 10, 2007, 2:20 am

This is going to be waaay off topic, but do you remember the Goldbergs? Who was the leading lady? Molly Berg? Wow! Early, early, TV. I always thought the Goldbergs lived next door to Mr. Wizard. Can you imagine what would happen if a 10 year old boy and his 9 year old sister visited the apartment of a mid to late 30's single man unescorted or chaperoned now? Wow. The guy would never get out of jail.

Sep 10, 2007, 2:45 am

I cant seem to force myself to finish any of Philip Roth works.

Sep 10, 2007, 12:22 pm

I couldn't get into Battle Royale despite the wave of positive reviews I've read. The idea sounded like a winner and who doesn't like a good cautionary tale? I think maybe it was the translation or the mood I was in at the time. Maybe I should give it another chance.

I also remember not getting much out of On The Road, though I admit that I probably read that one before I was ready.

Sep 10, 2007, 12:37 pm

I agree about the Bell Jar. I too read it because it was supposed to be such a classic and obviously just didn't get it. I was in my late teens at the time and hadn't been exposed to people with mental health issues. Since then regretably I've met more than my share, so maybe I should go back and re-read it.

We had to read Brave New World in high school. I don't remember it being a big disappointment, just not terribly interesting.

I too bought into the reviews pre-LT about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. All the papers and magazines raved so I thought it might just be the thing for me. Snooze-fest. If she had chopped it down to about a third it might have been something. Are there no editors who do their jobs any more?

Dec 17, 2008, 5:33 am

I loved Pretty Little Mistakes too. I've found that people who only read one or three threads and if those happened to be negative, hate the book...but you really have to read more. The book (according to website) is 50% good endings, 50% bad, so mathmatically speaking, you could get 50 bad endings in a row. SOme of them are wonderful!

Jan 20, 2009, 5:34 pm

I have to say that the books that have most disappointed me so far were The Collection by Bentley Little and The Fog by James Herbert. I'd heard that both Herbert and Little were extremely capable horror writers with entirely original ideas. Sadly, this was not the case. While some of their ideas could potentially have been great, the writing just didn't do them justice. I might as well just have read King or Koontz, for all the fright I took away from reading them.

Nov 19, 2018, 4:26 am

I was so disappointed with Norwegian Wood.

I had read and liked a few of Murakami's other novels. The storytelling was more straightforward than the other ones, no weird things like fish falling out of the sky or evil sheep, but that was not the problem. The main problem for me was that suicide was handled so casually, like "oh, yes, that happened around that time, people would kill themselves." The book as a whole really left a bad taste in my mouth - if I could unread it, I would.