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Reviews > What’s the worst book by a good writer you’ve ever read?

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Richard Sanders (RichardSanders) | 5 comments Or books? I’ve got two in mind, both so bad I can’t get them out of my mind: Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings and Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. I like both writers and had high expectations for both titles, which of course makes my disappointment even worse.

Ancient Evenings was published in 1983 and it was highly hyped as Mailer’s return to the novel after an absence of nearly 20 years. Well, based on this densely imagined recreation of Rameses, Nefertiti and life in Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, he should’ve stayed away. For every page of truly brilliant writing, there are 20 pages of the worst dreck imaginable—mawkish, embarrassing, numbing. So numbing you might lose consciousness. It’s the literary equivalent of getting hit in the head with a brick.

Years of drinking and drugging finally caught up to Waugh in 1954, when he suffered a bizarre mental breakdown marked by paranoid hallucinations and the belief that he was possessed by devils. The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957) is his semi-fictionalized account of the experience. It’s a fascinating premise, and I picked it up hoping I’d get a Waughesque version of William Styron’s Darkness Visible. It’s more like listening to a drunken friend tell you about the dream he had last night. Pinfold is repetitious, unstructured and rhythmless—and then this happened and this happened and this happened—written with one-dimensional humor and zero-dimensional insight or analysis. For a relatively short book (232 pages in paperback), it goes on forever and ever and ever.

Paul Donovan | 5 comments Earnest Hemingway "A Farewell to Arms." Just Awful!

Kasi Blake (KCBlake) | 7 comments Thinner by Stephen King.

Sheri (sszapata) | 5 comments K.C. wrote: "Thinner by Stephen King."

so agree I couldn't believe it was his

message 5: by Seb (last edited May 09, 2011 11:54AM) (new)

Seb (SebKirby) | 330 comments Mod
Stephen King, I admire his writing, yet I could not get on with his 'Under The Dome'.


Lexi Revellian (LexiRevellian) | 37 comments John le Carré's The Naive and Sentimental Lover. Several of his books I love, but not this one.

Richard Sanders (RichardSanders) | 5 comments Lexi--I never even heard of that one so I looked it up. This was the fourth novel he'd written, around the time he was deciding whether to stick with spycraft fiction or not. Based on your reaction, I guess he made the right choice. Thanks!

Lexi Revellian (LexiRevellian) | 37 comments Richard, I read it (or some of it, can't remember) long ago and have forgotten the details, but I remember a feeling of disappointment and impatience with the book.

Perhaps another reader will remind me?

Prue I guess all writers have their bad days. I've read a lot of mainstream books that have left me disappointed. Some classics too. But all titles shall remain nameless because when I'm in a Home for Bewildered Bards (fast approaching) I don't want to see that any readers found one or all of my stuff disappointing. Bound to happen of course, but I just don't want to see it.
Call me a coward!

Lexi Revellian (LexiRevellian) | 37 comments Aagh, yes, the dreaded "Not as good as her last" comment which all authors get after a time.

Why do we do this?

Wayne Smallman (waynesmallman) | 6 comments The Lost World by Michael Crichton is an astonishingly poor novel.

I had several people recommend Crichton to me, and given his pedigree, I thought a book of his would be a safe buy. Wrong, and horribly so.

A close contender is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which really does turn the whole book versus movie argument around — watch the movie, forget the book, because it is as truly forgettable as it is unrelentingly repetitive.

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