The Good Daughter

by Karin Slaughter
2017 Harper Collins

Method of selection: Titles that rhyme with the author’s name (other possibilities include Edgar Allen Poe’s Go Dog Go, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Grande Poopery)
First sentence: Samantha Quinn felt the stinging of a thousand hornets inside her legs as she ran down the long, forlorn driveway toward the farmhouse.
Worst sentence: She moved more slowly toward the house on rubbery legs, because she wasn’t the moron who couldn’t reach back and wait for a baton to be slapped into her hand.

Karin Slaughter likes adjectives. And metaphor. In fact she asphyxiates her stories with them like a baby choking on its own spittle (which is a simile). The driveway is “forlorn”. There were “a thousand hornets inside her legs” and she had “skin as pale as an envelope”. “The hornets moved into her lungs” before sweat “turned her ponytail into a thick rope” and her “tendons sent out a high-pitched wail”.

Metaphors and adjectives are the special sauces shitty book writers use to dress up their shitty storytelling burgers, which are mostly lettuce and contain neither meat nor bun. They are the shitty icing on the cake of a big floury cakeformed nothingness that is shitty icing top to bottom and also you keep finding tiny bugs in the icing and the bugs are anti-Semitic. These authors use metaphors and adjectives like a man at the county fair runs the ferris wheel a little too fast to cover up that he has genital warts. And I realize I’m using metaphors and adjectives (very deftly) to make this point. However, if you removed all the gratuitous adjectives and metaphors from this book, all that would be left is a tiny pamphlet, its corners and edges worn, given to you perhaps by the young misguided shaven follower of a weird culty Hindu sect you’ve never heard of but which has been around for like 300 years. But, way less interesting than that.

For comparison, if you removed all the gratuitous adjectives and metaphors from my reviews, you would just be left with my sadness.

Here’s a tip for aspiring writers: when writing a frantic or suspenseful opening sequence, refrain, as much as possible, from using the word “bongoed”. It kind of wrecks the ambiance of the thing. Unless it is the story of the world’s greatest bongo artist, murdered mid-bongo while taking a car ride just days before his upcoming wedding.

Also “higgledy-piggledy” is a word unfunny people use in an attempt to be funny. It’s okay if you’re not a funny person. Nobody hates you for it. I mean nobody is ever going to love you but by using “higgledy-piggeledy” you also ensure nobody will ever touch your naked body either.

The only thing I liked about this book was the puff quote from James Patterson on the back of the dust cover: “The Good Daughter is Karin Slaughter’s most ambitious, most emotional, and best novel. So far, anyway.” That is funny both for how backhanded his compliment is, and also because our best evidence indicates that James Patterson doesn’t know how to read. It’s possible his puff quote had a less well-known co-author.

The Horse Dancer

by Jojo Moyes
2009 Penguin Books

First sentence: The six forty-seven to Liverpool Street was heaving.
Number of books I have reviewed so far for this site that were about horses and the women who love them: 3
Of those, number that were not shitty: 0
New Shitty Books rule: Horses guarantee shittiness.

Other reviews of this book: Rhapsody in Books, Equestrian Ink, Riding the Unicorn

Remember a few weeks ago when I said I could identify a shitty book not just in three pages, but in three clauses? Jojo Moyes has raised the bar. By which I mean lowered the bar. By which I mean she buried it. In the Earth’s mantle, which is over 900°C and 136 gigapascals. So the bar is probably made of some new tungsten-carbonfiber-nanotube-Batman-jism-hyperfuture alloy thing invented by Raytheon. It has to be that fancy. And deadly. That’s how shitty this book is.

The six forty-seven…

Those are the first three words of this book (not counting the 15 page prologue which I ignored). I’m convinced writers are so desperate to pad their page count they will write numbers as words just for that tiny little extra bump. Here’s what would have been better:

The 6:47…

Doesn’t that look nicer? It’s tidy. And also, that’s how train times are displayed. No train station I know writes their numbers out as words. Here’s the rest of the sentence:

The six forty-seven to Liverpool Street was heaving.

How does a train heave? I looked up the definition of heave, and I ran out of attention span by the fourth definition, but I think she means the train was swelling or bulging maybe? But that’s impossible, because trains are made of metal! (I checked.) Unless it’s a hyperfuture Batman-jism Raytheon nanotube train. Maybe British trains heave more than American trains? Do the British make their trains out of a super-stretchy hyperfuture latex-nanotube-Harry Potter-jism-alloy? Is that how they heave so much?

Maybe heave is just a universal verb or something in British English, like the words “go” and “get”. For example, perhaps I might say, “I heaved my waffles this morning before heaving to work, at which point I heaved my boss in the balls and spine, heaving him to the hospital, where doctors performed emergency heaving surgery but he died. The CEO of the company heaved him too so instead of being heaved he commended me with the Silver Cross Medal of Heaving. My mom heaved all over the place.”

Reading Jojo Moyes makes me think a lot about heaving, as you can see. Speaking of Jojo Moyes, we should heave back to the book review.

The main character in this book is really stressed out. Presumably a horse is going to save her or something but I didn’t get that far before I heaved this book into the furnace. She’s a lawyer working on child custody cases in divorces. That sounds stressful!

They say to “write what you know” but what if all you know is a boring, anxiety-ridden, heaving existence of trains and lists and pantsuits and binge-watching Netflix? If that’s the case, at least give the book a better title, like “The Pantsuit Anxiety” or “To Heave a Train” or “The Six Forty-Seven”. Or, even less than that at least, don’t write a shitty book at all. Just fix your life. I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU, JOJO.

(I’m just pretending to be worried. I actually don’t care about Jojo at all.)

The sad thing is that Jojo Moyes writes at least well enough to potentially complete an inexpensive two-year master’s program in creative writing. It’s just that it’s clear she doesn’t have a lot to say. Or perhaps she does but she’s being held captive by the Haqqani Network (who are the parent company to Penguin Books, I checked), and they are forcing her against her will to publish book after book to fund their mafia-style reign of terror over Afghanistan, and in silent protest she only writes shitty books. Once she is liberated by Navy Seals, the President will give her a Silver Cross Medal of Heaving.



Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman
2017 W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

First Sentence
: Before the beginning there was nothing—no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning.
Phrase Neil Gaiman lifted from his own high school creative writing class diary when he got stuck for real ideas: the murky mist that cloaked everything hung heavily
Book in reality he probably stole that line from: Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem
#1 Reason why this book is superior to Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem: better for your young son to stand on when learning to potty big-boy-style
The most fascinating part of this book: contains custom-designed em dashes.

Do you know how many fucks I give about Neil Gaiman? There is a number, the square root of negative f, which has been proposed by mathematicians, but it is purely theoretical. Mathematicians have debated for decades whether it should even be classified as a NUMBER, it’s so arcane and unfathomable. That’s how many fucks.

But other people keep bringing him into my life, forcing me to pay attention. Neil Gaiman is the type of author that people read because he makes them feel smart, because he talks about mythology and funny brainy thinky metaphysic-y stuff. Well I have some good news: you know he else wrote a great book like that?


I cannot fathom why Neil Gaiman is even famous. He wrote a mediocre comic book series thirty years ago called The Sandman and a pile of shit novel called American Gods which is, at best, a bad fantasy novel. If 9/11 hadn’t happened the same year it was published, that book would have been America’s 9/11. Can you think of anything else he’s written? Oh, that ONE episode of Doctor Who you keep having a fucking orgasm over?

Do the math. He wrote one comic book series thirty years ago that was influential thanks to a lot of clever moody artwork that carried his mediocre writing, and he’s been coasting on that shit and his shitty British accent ever since, because Americans are morons and think British people are smarter than us, when all along the British are the people, remember, who invented Americans. You want to know why there’s never been a Sandman movie? Because no scriptwriter wants to beach his career on the shores of New Shitania, which is the continent where Neil Gaiman’s writing ability went to die.

NOW, Norse Mythology. What a piece of shit.

First, instead of the traditional prologue, which is like a skid mark in the soiled diaper that is every shitty book, he has an introduction that is mostly about him and his boyhood fascination with Norse gods, and how very sad he is that there is not a better record of these rich ancient legends. Remember the square root of negative f? That divided by the Sun is this section.

Then he introduces “The Players”, which is 4½ pages about the Norse gods Odin, Thor, and Loki. I kid you not, the written-by-the-whole-internet Wikipedia pages for these gods were more exciting AND more informative. So, to give you sense of scale, if the Wikipedia entry for “Norse mythology” was an 8/10, this section was irritable bowel syndrome.

So finally, 29 pages and three power naps later, the story finally begins. Except, not really. First we have to learn about the void world, Ginnungagap, and the fire world, Muspell. We learn about the dark world, Niflheim (which is “colder than cold” wow!). Then we learn about the living seas, the world of motion, Exxon’s Universe of Energy, and Journey Into the Imagination.

No wait, I’m thinking of EPCOT.

Next it’s on to the Norse legends of Surtr and Buri and Bor and the three sons Odin, Vili, and Ve, who kill Ymir and use his flesh to make the earth (can we PLEASE start the story now?). Gaiman didn’t make any of this stuff up. He just took what we know of old Norse legends and filled in the gaps. It’s like a reverse Cliffs Notes of pre-literate history. The chapters aren’t very long either, and they don’t seem to tell any kind of linear story, but rather a “narrative arc”, which is a term writers use when they can’t think of a story. The chapters, from what I can tell, always seem to be setting the stage for a story that never comes. Slowly it dawned on me what was happening: this book is 100% prologues. This is something I predicted would happen last year in the review for James Patterson’s Truth or Die. I knew it would happen, but I’m just shocked it happened so soon. I thought we had another few years.

I know probably 90% of you who read this review are overwhelmed by the urge to shove a darning needle into my pee-hole, but I only have this to say in reply: have you ever stopped to wonder why you have to keep telling all your friends how great that Doctor Who episode was, but none of them want to watch it with you?

Razor Girl

by Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House) 2016

Method of selection: my horoscope said I would find a shitty book today
First sentence: see below. I couldn’t bear write it twice.
Things I wanted to burn after reading three pages of this shitty book: other copies of Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen while still in the readers’ hands, the readers of Razor Girl, their girlfriends and mothers, some hefty ash tree logs for a campfire so I can make s’mores while roasting all those people. It’s a LOT of people.

Other reviews (all positive): Robert McGrath’s Blog, Curtis Brown, The Grandstander

I read a review somewhere that calls Carl Hiassen’s writing “black humor”. That is an insult to black people. And even though the term “black humor” has nothing to do with black people, it’s still insulting. It might even be racist. This book is so shitty it’s a Nazi.

My goal at is to only read the first three pages of a book and then review the whole thing—the philosophy being that the first few pages are the most important part of a book, and that a good writer is good from the very beginning, and a shitty writer is always shitty.

Sometimes, I don’t need to read three pages to make up my mind. Sometimes it only takes three sentences. Sometimes, three clauses. Please observe the opening of this book:

On the first day of February, sunny but cold as a frog’s balls, a man named Lane Coolman stepped off a flight at Miami International, rented a mainstream Buick, and headed south to meet a man in Key West.

Mr. Hiaasen, delirious and drowning in shitty book money, thought he could coin a quaint colloquial southernism without asking my permission. And I don’t care if he wrote the book that they turned into the movie Striptease (the book ruined Elizabeth Berkley’s career before the movie did). I don’t care that he wrote some songs for Warren Zevon (Warren Zevon wrote TWO songs???). Zora Neale Hurston sure as hell never used “cold as a frog’s balls” and neither did Faulkner. And by the way, nobody in Florida ever said that. I’m from Florida and that’s not a thing we say. We say things like, “da gaiduhr godduhm!” and, “I gots tha HONGRY!” and, “I will gladly trade you some bathsalts Tuesday for one Fentanyl today.”

Also, did you catch the protagonist’s name? Or were you too shocked by the zaniness of frog balls? It was LANE COOLMAN (emphasis added). Lane Coolman falls in love with Deb Hotchick and is then robbed by Bradley Snarldude while driving his Buick Fastcar. He carries a Smith & Wesson .38 Killgun and contracts a bad case of oozing dickburn after sleeping with Sally Mudslut. I made those last six up. It was easy. But Hiaasen made up Lane Coolman. Or maybe his 11-year-old son made it up and dad thought including it in this book would be easier than spending time with him.

Like all modern novels that take place in Florida, everything is wild and crazy all the time and the wildness and craziness is nonstop and never-ending and it’s also off-the-wall and zany. Did I say nutso and bonkers and wacky? It’s all those thing too. Just get a thesaurus and type in “unpredictable”. For example, a lady is shaving her pubic hair while driving a Firebird when she rear-ends Lane Coolman in his Buick. THAT IS SO ZANY I GOT A FUCKING BRAIN TUMOR AND DIED. THEN THE PARAMEDIC RAPED MY CORPSE AND A NURSE RAPED THE PARAMEDIC AND THE CORONER RAPED US ALL AND DIED. What other crazy thing will happen next, Carl? Ooh something with alligators, maybe? Anything can happen in Florida!

This book starts with a car ride, which is one-third of the Tripartite Shitty Book Triumvirate (car rides, upcoming weddings, murders). Starting a book with a car ride is so common to shitty books I’m beginning to suspect all shitty book authors must be composing the beginnings of their books while sitting in traffic, possibly on the way to their publisher, after blowing their $50,000 advance on donor eggs for their feral mudsluts, and having written nothing by their first deadline thanks to side effects from all the Fentanyl, scrawling whatever bullshit they can think of on the highway while waiting in I-95 traffic, dipping their broken pen in bloody cum stuck to their pant legs because they were masturbating in their car to relieve a bad case of oozing dickburn, which they blamed on the mudsluts but they actually got it while rafting in Canada.

The amazing thing about this book is that, after three shitty pages, I kept reading. But not because it was compelling. It was so shitty it needed to be investigated—carefully scraped from the pages word-by-word with a tiny word trowel like it was shitty book archaeology. I threw the whole thing in formaldehyde and the formaldehyde exploded and died.

Honky Tonk Samurai

Honky Tonk Samuraiby Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books (Little Brown & Co) 2016

Method of selection: Required textbook at my local honky-tonk samurai class. I’m trying to earn my Shitty Belt
First sentence
: I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard.
Worst sentence: In less than a half an hour, about noon, my butt crack would be completely filled with sweat and breathing air would be like swallowing fishhooks.
Awards Joe R. Lansdale has won for his writing: Edgar Award, eleven Bram Stoker Awards, American Mystery Award, British Fantasy Award, Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, the Sugarprize, Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award, Spur Award.
Martial Arts Halls of Fame he is a member of: United States, International

Before I start my review, watch this:

That’s the author, Joe R. Lansdale, teaching a martial art he made up called Shen Chuan, which is Chinese for “Shitty Book”. I’m not saying he couldn’t kick my ass, all I’m saying is that Joe R. Lansdale invented a martial art to beat up anyone who calls him out for writing shitty books. The student he’s abusing here gave him two stars on Amazon.

Honky Tonk Samurai is crap. Like, it’s not just shitty. It’s also just lousy. It’s a barnstorm of lousiness. And I don’t feel bad saying that because Joe R. Lansdale has written something like 40 novels, some of which have won prestigious awards, such as the Grinzane Cavour Prize, which no longer exists but when it did, the award was handed out in an Italian Castle, possibly haunted by shitty ghosts. And you don’t get bigger than that unless it’s an award handed out in a bigger castle.

This book doesn’t start with a car ride or an upcoming wedding or a murder like most shitty books but it does start with two guys in a truck and an unhappy marriage. Lansdale tries to make his writing funny

holding a whitebread fart out of courtesy

and he tries to make it edgy

a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh

and he tries to make it meaningful

By the time you’re fifty you start to realize just how much of your time on earth you’ve wasted.

He tries to make it quaint and lowbrow, in a shit-kicking southwestern kind of way, but he doesn’t manage to kick the shittiness out of his own writing. Yet, it must have impressed somebody somewhere, perhaps an Italian ghost with a lot of that Old Ghost Money to burn because Sundance has been making a show out of it. The acting has been described as “shit-kicking” and overall the show has been reviewed as “Wednesdays on Sundance.”

You can usually tell how shitty a book is by how overblown and impossible the puff quotes are. Like the Austin Chronicle, which calls Joe R. Lansdale

…the new Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner gone madder, and the last surviving splatterpunk…

The New York Times Book Review says Joe R. Lansdale has

…a folklorist’s eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur’s sense of pace.

What the fuck is a front-porch raconteur? Have you even met one? Does he work in the New York Times Book Review office? weaving tales of bygone shitty books through his missing front teeth and corncob pipe while eating pone and tack whatever pone and tack are?

I wonder if all those awards Joe R. Lansdale has received were really for the books he DIDN’T write. Like, “thanks for not shitting in our pool this year, Joe. The world of novels is better off. Here’s your trophy, sir. Please don’t Shen Chuan my puppy.”

Other reviews: Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, and Creased, Milo’s Rambles, Written By Sime

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)


pegasusby Danielle Steel
Delacorte Press (Random House) 2014

Method of selection: Brought down a Malaysian jetliner with its shittiness. Found floating in the South China Sea, bone dry and in perfect condition. Possibly the world’s most evil shitty book.
First sentence: It was already nightfall when the stable boys heard the horses approaching.
Final sentence: Pegasus had come home.
Plot that happens in between which I made up: A cybernetic clan of hive-mind horses is sent from the future to exterminate the human race, in retribution for the years they spent enslaved to the circus. But, unable to find the cybernetic future oats they need to power their fusion bobsleds, and with their visionary horse leader, Pegasus, perishing ignominiously in a glue factory, they are ironically reduced to performing in a horse circus to survive, forced to prance around for the rest of their cybernetic lives, which is the one thing horses hate the most.
Books that are still worse than this: the Bible, James Patterson’s autobiography, Lady Chaddiwickington’s Horse-Fancier’s Guide to Horse Prancing

Other reviews: Momzinga, Always Me

This is a book about horses. Pretty pretty white fancy horses prancing prettily and doing cartwheels page after page after pretty white page. Did I mention they’re fancy? Also white. And pretty. And possibly Nazi horses. I know this because horses are referred to 14 times in the first three pages. If you include horse-related words like “stable boys” and “sidesaddle” and “riding school” and “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DERP)” it’s more like 30-35. Also, the horses’ bloodlines are pure. This is a book about the horse master race and the donkey genocide. Supposedly it’s also about an aristocratic German family and the Nazis, but seriously, this is a book about horses. It’s horse porn. And thank god all the gay marriage prohibitions have been repealed in America because after the public reads this there will be an unstoppable wave of horse marriages. Which means I can finally do the right thing and marry your mom.

The writing itself is full of words which say things, but I’m not sure what. There’s a fox hunt, some detail about horse dancing, and something about somebody’s mother dying in childbirth, but it was glossed over so it must not be important. Little happens, except for the riders returning from the fox hunt, with ladies riding sidesaddle (of course, because this is a fancy book about fanciness and fancy horses shooting horse cum everywhere) and horses prancing. There is no shortage of prancing in the first three pages.

The synopsis also claims this is a book of “hope and sacrifice, tragedy, challenge, and rebirth”. This is accurate. I hoped it wouldn’t be shitty, but it was, so I sacrificed my dignity to read it, reflecting on the tragedy of the life of a grown man who pecks out unread words for a virtual world that gives nothing back to him, challenging myself to do something more meaningful with my life, and ultimately being reborn as an angrier, more cynical shitty book reviewer.

Fuck this book. And fuck you. And fuck every horse that ever lived and the people who make them prance.

Also, fuck Danielle Steel’s kids. She has nine of them, and dedicates this book to them, an act tantamount to pony punching, and there’s nothing lower than punching a pony. Look:

Beatie, Trevor, Todd, Nick, Sam, Victoria, Vanessa, Maxx, and Zara,
To history, magic, survival, and new lives,
To the Pegasus in each of our lives, to carry us forward,
And the courage to pursue him bravely and embrace him.
I love you so very much

I’m not sure what “d.s.” stands for. Maybe “duck slavery” or “dog shoving”? What a mean lady. She really hates animals.

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)


doomedby Chuck Palahniuk
Doubleday (Random House) 2013

First sentence: Good and evil have always existed.
First too-snarky sentence: I’m a piggy-pig-pig, oink-oink, real porker.
Another too-snarky sentence: I would not be stuck here on the stony Galapagos that is Earth, drinking the warm tortoise urine that is human companionship, were it not for the Halloween caper cutting of a certain three Miss Slutty O’Slutnicks.
Still more snark: …on All Hallow’s Eve the entire population of Hades returns to Earth to forage for salted nut clusters and Raisinettes from dusk until midnight.
But the worst is still to come: To you predead people, like it or not, postalive people are not your bitches.
Number of pterodactyls I saw while reading the first three pages: 4 (perhaps 3, might have seen the same one twice)
Benzodiazepines I took in order to finish three pages: Ativan, Serax, plus some Benadryl for my shitty book allergies
Side effects of these medications may include: pterodactyl sightings

Other reviews: iamjanesheart, 3 guys 1 book, Life in 64 Square Feet, Bookhounds

That’s come, right? On the cover? That was intentional, right? A bukkake scene on the cover of one of Random House’s most respected imprints? Somebody spoke up, right? RIGHT? Well, if it was intentional, consider me…not that shocked really.

I loved Fight Club. I’ve read it and reread it. I have disliked everything else Chuck Palahniuk has published. He usually manages to catch my attention early on, but it never lasts and there is a wake of barely-read Palahniuks trailing behind me. Is he, therefore, a shitty author?

One thing shitty book authors do frequently is take an otherwise uninteresting scene, in this case a Lincoln Town Car (Ford must be paying authors to mention them) leaving a gated estate in the hills above Los Angeles, and transform it into epic, supreme holy business, in this case the fulfillment of a prophecy sung by ancient Egyptian oracles. It is too hard to write two or three sentences describing a car driving, and all the ugly shit that comes along behind it in simple terms, including lights being extinguished and rats being crushed. The author wants you to believe it’s important. It isn’t. It’s a prologue.

Shitty authors also like using odd devices they think clever to unfurl the narrative. In this case, each chapter is a timestamped “post” to an unnamed “web log” by the main character Madison Spencer, from her email address on the afterlife.hell server. It was in this way Chuck Palahniuk tricked me into reading that prologue, which I usually try to skip because it’s always shitty and useless and this one was no different. It’s no wonder, then, that I felt sick to my stomach after reading this flash-fiction-pulp-fiction irrelevant piece of shit that is the prologue, like eating a piece of cake dragged across some smelly dicks.

So then I read the first three pages of the real book and it it actually got worse. Madison Spencer is a ghost. A snarky ghost. A fat snarky ghost. Who escaped Hell. It feels like bad science fiction. It feels like tongue-in-cheek chick-lit. It feels like young adult fiction. It feels amateurish.

This is a blog about shitty books, not about shitty authors. Chuck Palahniuk wrote a great book that was important to me when I was 19, but he can’t write anything anymore that isn’t shitty. This book is shitty. And I think I’m ready to call Chuck Palahniuk a competent but shitty author who had two or three really good ideas once, and put them all into one book. Now he goes for shock value but he leaves us with nothing shocking or valuable.

And also, “Palahniuk” is extraordinarily difficult to type on a Dvorak keyboard. I don’t know why. Just thought it was interesting.

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)

Started Early, Took My Dog

started-early-took-my-dogby Kate Atkinson
Reagan Arthur Books (Little, Brown) 2011

Selection method: Wanted a book with “dog” in the title.
First sentence (sort of)
: Leeds: “Motorway City of the Seventies.” A proud slogan.
Worst sentence: Ken Arkwright had seen more than most but remained avuncular and sanguine, a good copper for a green girl to be beneath the wing of.
SAT words in that sentence: avuncular, sanguine
Animals I would rather be eaten by than read this book: shark, zebra, lamprey, parrot

Other reviews: Booking Mama, The Review Broads

On the inside flap of this book is praise from a critic from Time magazine. He calls Kate Atkinson “uncategorizable”. I feel sorry for him not to have this category checkbox I have here on my WordPress site. The category is “Shitty”. It’s not “Super Shitty” or “Not Shitty” and certainly not as shitty as books by James Patterson. But it’s definitely shitty.

There are a lot of references to 1970’s British news and pop culture here. A lot. The Black and White Minstrel Show, John Poulson, Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye, Donald Neilson (“the Black Panther”, but not the cool American kind), Harold Shipman, The Dick Emery Show, Steptoe and Son, Mike Yarwood. That’s just the first two pages. I don’t know what any of those things or people are. I’m guessing a bunch of British pensioners do (in America, “retirees”). And I’m guessing minstrel1British people are actually more racist than their American counterparts. The Black and White Minstrel Show, pictured at left, ran for twenty years, ending in 1978. These people needed some fucking Sesame Street.

Getting back to the book, the first chapter opens “1975: April 9“. So all the references were not necessary. I remember 1975. I was dead.

With all these unfamiliar references, and all the cheeky Britspeak (like “PC” and “bloke” and “Jesus H. Christ” and “cheeky”) you might think it difficult for an American to decode its shittiness. Not so. A shitty book is shitty in every argot (in America, “dialect”. In Georgia and north Florida, “funny talkin'”). Kate Atkinson is crafty enough with her sentences, but a book with so many news and pop references can only appeal to one small segment of the population: racist British news junkie pensioners. In 20 years, they’ll all be dead and this book will be useless. Even if the writing were spectacular it gets completely lost in this mud of bollocks you once watched on BBC One.

My Pro Tip of the Day: if you’re going to write a period novel, keep the references to the fewest necessary to tell the story. Don’t tell us about the shows on TV unless someone is actually watching that show and then gets stabbed or has their mother kidnapped and made to watch The Dick Emery Show  while being stabbed by a pensioner in blackface. Something with stabs.

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)

The Lost Symbol

lost-symbolby Dan Brown
Doubleday 2009

Method of selecton: Ripped out the beating heart of a young man dressed as Tezcatlipoca in traditional Aztec ritual sacrifice, then took a stroll to the library
First sentence
: The Otis elevator climbing the south pillar of the Eiffel Tower was overflowing with tourists.
Worst sentence: To this day, this ancient battle garb was donned by modern office warriors hoping to intimidate their enemies in daily boardroom battles.
Number of Dan Brown books in the world: 200 million
Number of stacked Dan Brown books it would take to knock the International Space Station out of orbit: 7,286,400
People who could actually afford to do this: Dan Brown, Scrooge McDuck, Carlos Slim
Number of people who would enjoy this spectacle more than actually reading a Dan Brown novel: 200 million + me

Other reviews: Pajiba, Amina Black, Bookfox, All About Romance

Before I begin my review, I’d like to share a few facts about the author: Dan Brown was raised Episcopalian by a mathematician father and choir organist mother in Exeter, New Hampshire. He went to Philips Exeter Academy, then to Amherst college. He was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity, played squash, sang in the Amherst glee club, and spent a year abroad in Spain. Dan Brown is the whitest man in America. Perhaps then he can be forgiven for also writing such shitty books. “Brown” is obviously a pen name.

For this entry, I did some research on prologues. Because shitty book authors exist only to write prologues. And prologues exist to make authors shitty. They are short, shitty chapters that slow us down so we can’t get to the rest of the book to find out how shitty it is. According to Wikipedia, the first prologue of the variety Dan Brown uses was written by the Greek playwright Euripides, the first shitty book author, who employed it “almost perversely, as a medium for his ironic rationalismo.” I don’t know what that means, but whoever wrote that copy is a genius and more talented than Dan Brown and his shitty prologues. And only in shitty books do people “beam”. Nobody I know has ever beamed. Nobody I know has ever described a situation to me in which someone “beamed”. If I saw someone “beam” I would call a fucking paramedic.

I did not know when I picked up this book that Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code. Not that it matters, because it turns out Dan Brown writes shitty books and shitty people pay to read shitty books and there will always be millions of shitty people who want shitty books. Books where the author uses stupid devices such as using italics so you can hear the narrator’s boring thoughts. Because the writer’s terrible writing can’t actually tell you what’s going on.

Dan Brown also wants you to know that everything in this book is really real. It says so on the first page, before the prologue, in some kind of super-duper-shitty pre-prologue I will call a “supralogue”, where he claims that

All organizations in this novel exist, including the Freemasons, the Invisible College, the Office of Security, the SMSC, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. All rituals, science, artwork, and monuments in this novel are real.

harris-tweed-jacket-lHe makes sure to use REAL things in his book so you know just how really real it really is. Things such as Otis Elevators, the Eiffel Tower, a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet (superseded by the longer-range 2000LX in 2009), the Washington Monument, Dulles International Airport, a Harris Tweed jacket (pictured left), Phillips Exeter Academy, a Lincoln Town Car, Beltway Limousine, and Windsock Drive. With so many real places and real companies and real products, it feels really real! And also like paid product positioning. If Dan Brown ISN’T being paid by at least some of these real companies to promote their real products in the first three pages, he is not only a shitty book author, but a DUMB shitty book author, because clearly all the shitty readers are dumb enough to pay him to promote someone else’s shitty products, so he should at least cash in. With all that money, he could pay for writing lessons. Shit, with that much money, he could pay to reanimate Ernest Hemingway and force him to write his next novel, Inferno, at the point of a gun that shoots diamonds.

In a 2009 interview Dan Brown told Matt Lauer that some people “get” the way he blends fact with fiction, while others “should probably just read somebody else”.

Yes. What he said.

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)

In Sunlight and In Shadow

insunlightandinshadowby Mark Helprin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012

Method of Selection: A gypsy gave me a shittybook divining rod. I don’t know how it works but it just works.
First Sentence: If a New York doorman is not contemplative by nature, he becomes so as he stands all day dressed like an Albanian general and doing mostly nothing.
What the Fuck Is an: Albanian general
You Mean Like: one of those really white white guys
No, That’s: an albino general
Oh: I see
Maybe He Means: Albanian generals and doormen both wear funny hats, they are both often mustachioed, they both develop syphilitic chancres from constant whoring
Who Told Me That: it was on 60 Minutes I think

Other Reviews: The Literary Outpost, Songs of Sirens, The Gilmore Guide to Books

I’m conflicted. It is clear Mark Helprin is a talented and thoughtful writer. He can put together a colorful sentence for sure. But I think this book may be shitty. It reminds me of masturbating. It feels good, and maybe for a few moments you can suspend reality and enjoy it, bearing down and stroking it hard and free and throbbing into the naked inscrutable air, until you reach the boiling knife-edge of that shattering glass avalanche, but it’s just not the real thing and never will be. Then there you are, standing alone with your pants around your ankles in the produce section next to the grapes, which are in season and very VERY ripe, and everyone is giving you that look. Except for that one confused little boy who’s never seen a man do this before, and even if he has, then not to grapes, and he has this huge grin on his face like he wants you to do that to HIM.

What I’m saying is I feel like the grapes in this scenario: violated and clumpy, but inanimate, and possibly kind of purple but also red maybe. Mark Helprin has a tendency to write in a high or aristocratic language, adding words that don’t need to be there and using long words when a short word would suffice.

  • one Harry Copeland (instead of, “Harry Copeland”)
  • as a result of this stress (instead of, “so”)
  • began to increase his velocity (instead of, “sped”)
  • which he had not the ability to (instead of, “which he couldn’t”)
  • his exactitude in summoning texture (instead of, “but, you know, whatever. Stuff.”)

Maybe some people like this pandering language. Maybe they also like the onions in the produce section (perverts), but despite what seems the beginnings of an interesting story, about a guy in New York who seems to believe he can fly, and finds ways to fake it, the writing is just too much work to get through, and then not much is happening. And there’s 701 pages of this. Plus a prologue AND an epilogue. I’m BUSY.

So it’s shitty. But I feel bad saying it because on some level this book seems to be a real accomplishment. For other people to read, not me. It’s as if Mark Helprin was a master bricklayer and went to build you a house but instead you got three perfect walls and no roof and there’s a grape rapist (a grapist) outside.


I also feel bad because Mark Helprin looks like such a NICE GUY. He even works on his own farm in Virginia. But he’s also a senior fellow at the super-hawkish glorified book club that is the conservative think-tank The Claremont Institute, so maybe I’ll try to fight him at the signing.

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)