Jason Pettus's Reviews > The Pesthouse

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
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's review
Jun 28, 2007

did not like it
Read in June, 2007

(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].)

Longtime followers of my creative projects know that in general I don't like publishing bad reviews; that for the most part I see it as a waste of both my time and yours, in that I could be spending that time instead pointing out great artists you may have never heard of. However, since one of the things this website is dedicated to is honest artistic criticism, I also feel it's important to acknowledge books that I found just too bad to bother finishing, as well as give you an idea of why I found them that bad to begin with. Hence, this new series of short essays.

The Accused: The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace

How far I got: 80 pages (first third), plus the ending

1) Nakedly and shamelessly stealing concepts and plot points from Tatyana Tolstaya's far superior The Slynx, only in an American setting this time and without any of the humor or witty wordplay of the original.

2) Positing a world where a nuclear holocaust for some reason causes the survivors to revert to a hokey "Little House on the Prairie" style vernacular and lifestyle. ("And then Ma, she done told us about the Magic Steel Silos in the East, where they done say that the Wise Short-Haired Ones once used to live, my Ma done told me..." Sheesh, Crace, enough.)

3) Creating the ultimate post-apocalyptic wet dream for snotty east-coast liberal intellectuals; a United States where everything west of the Mississippi has become a series of heathen backwards rural villages, where the only "civilization" left is found on the Atlantic Seaboard (of course), where the mouth-breathing ultra-religious Heartland swarm are causing their own destruction through superstition and a lack of education, and where ultimate salvation can only come by getting on a boat and sailing permanently to Europe (of course!).

4) Being liked by John Updike.

Verdict: Guilty!

Sentence: Six months detention in the Midwest, to perhaps give the author an inkling of how not to horribly insult us. And no, not at the Iowa Writers Workshop.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Hierholzer I had this book on my to read list, but no more. Thanks for saving me time and money. I can't stand John Updike.

Anna I just want to inform other readers that Jason Pettus' review clearly shows that he has not finished the book or, at best, has skimmed it very casually.

I can't comment on "crime 1" as I haven't read The Slynx, but "crime 2" is nonsense. There is no "Little House on the Prairie vernacular" and Pettus just made that quote up. People say "ma" and "pa" and that's about it.

As for "crime 3" it seems that Pettus missed the entire point of the book. I won't reveal the ending here, but if you read the book you will see that the author's intention is basically the opposite of what Pettus claims it to be here. This is a book about loving your country, building a family and learning to survive in difficult times. Does that sound like a wet dream for a snotty east-coast liberal? Not to me.

As for "crime 4" if you really want to base your reading on what other writers have said, that's your choice, but I have to voice my opinion that a comment like that has no place in a serious review. Especially when it isn't even supported by a quote or a source.

Xerodog I agree with Anna. Clearly the reviewer reviewed the novel without having read it - somewhat ironic since one of his charges is that the writer is lazy. I wondered why the review was so defensive, too. The last sentence of the review gives the game away, though.

Lauren1012 I agree with Anna as well. It's actually almost amusing, considering the book is basically the exact opposite of "crime 3". It's not about the east coast or Europe being perfect. It's about people going on nothing more than hearsay, and what happens when they discover the reality. I think I'll leave it at that lest I spoil anything. But yes, he clearly didn't read the end, and there's clearly some kind of knee-jerk reaction there. Making up quotes is also a bit suspect, even if the intent was for heavy handed exaggeration.

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