The Corinthian

corinthian-georgette-heyer-paperback-cover-artby Georgette Heyer
2009 Sourcebooks, Inc.
(First published 1940)

Method of selection: Jesus gave it to me
First sentence: The company, ushered by a disapproving butler into the yellow saloon of Sir Richard Wyndam’s house in St James Square, comprised two ladies and one reluctant gentleman.
Number of perverted sexual acts I imagined doing with the babe on the cover: 4
Number of perverted sexual acts I actually did with the cover: 1
Number of states where this perverted but highly satisfying sexual act is illegal: 49
States where it is now legal: Oregon, duh
Number of states that have seen their library budgets explode since this perverted sexual act was legalized in 2007: 1
Stitches required to repair the papercuts on my scrotum: The doctor said he lost count

Other reviews: Small Review, Reading For Sanity, The Book Smugglers, AustenProse

This is the story of people of English High Society constantly attempting to avoid offending the mores of English High Society, of constantly offending the mores of English High Society, and of constantly being offended how others offend the mores of English High Society. People are offended about each others’ style of dress, of how they speak, of how they behave, of the homes they live in and the company they keep. They are offended by spoons and trains and doctors and large bodies of water. And they feel constantly sorry for themselves while simultaneously pitying others. Everyone thinks everyone else is coarse and unsavory, and they’re all just so displeased with the whole state of everything everywhere. The first three pages include:

  • the butler’s disapproval
  • a deprecating glance
  • [his] craven speech
  • a look of indulgent contempt

…and much much more. And you might say this just sounds like a Jane Austen novel, and certainly Georgette Heyer was open about that influence. But Jane Austen wrote satire and pithy commentary about social stratification. Georgette Heyer wrote historical romance, a genre which she almost single-handedly invented. In particular, she created this sub-sub-genre called Regency romance, which is set in the brief pre-Victorian Regency era.

How did the British empire manage to survive and procreate through the 19th century if they were all so disgusted about each other all the time? The answer is, of course, by raping their servants. But Georgette Heyer doesn’t talk about that, or about sex at all, because that would offend the ladies of the slightly lower class society that read this crap. So would the rampant syphilis, cholera, polio, and tuberculosis, the lack of sanitation, the dead babies everywhere all the time, the racism, and the universal domestic violence that marked all olden times. This was a time when you could actually die of diarrhea. Like, 4/5ths of the population of the 19th century died of diarrhea or an earache. Everyone else was beaten and molested. And while that may be hyperbole I didn’t actually have to stretch the truth that much. That’s why no one should ever call this kind of book “historical fiction”. It’s fantasy.

On the other hand, Georgette Heyer may have been a genius. She certainly captures the bloated, meaningless rhetoric that so entertained the masses of the 19th century. Rhetoric that says anything but what it’s actually trying to say. It is perhaps understandable that in a world without videogames or bumfight videos, decades before the invention of even the “Ball’s orb”, and with everyone swarming with parasites and venereal disease, that making complicated face noise was the only decent form of entertainment. So I give her some credit. Georgette Heyer may have written shitty books, but she crafted them, sculpted them like a gleaming shitty turd. She was known for her attention to detail and cultural accuracy. And I respect that. But I can’t read it. I can’t read it any more than I can read Latin, or Hebrew, or what girls are thinking when I’m having sex on them.

Luckily for me, she’s dead and can’t write any more of these.

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

Mistress of the Art of Death

MotAoDpbby Ariana Franklin (really Diana Norman)
Bantam Books 2007

Method of Selection: Somebody left it behind at a cafe. Broken in. Which means they read it all the way through and abandoned it like an unwanted child.
First sentence: A screaming year.
Worst sentence: At first the scream had hope in it.
New best way to open any sentence ever: The throat that issued the scream was too small…
Alternative uses for this book: really really expensive dog food that actually kills your dog, porno set soundproofing, impenetrable wall of unread Mistress of the Art of Deaths

Other reviews: Dear Author, All About Romance, Reactions to Reading

I’m pretty sure Ariana Franklin did all her research for this book at a medieval dinner theatre. But she didn’t pay attention. The Cornish game hen and Pepsi-Cola dinner is THAT GOOD. Also, there’s evidence she may have been blazed on Windex (but not quite blazed enough), and composed her narrative by writing something and chucking it under a lawnmower. She was also raised in a box and her parents were related to one another, and were sasquatches. How else can I explain the unbroken chain of blue ribbon shittyisms in the first three pages and the clear omission of basic fact-checking?

I give her credit, though: Ariana Franklin really sets the stage. She sets the stage SO HARD. In fact it’s mostly stage. There’s grateful air, come-and-get-me-I’m-frightened screams, a fox pausing mid-trot with one paw up to judge the threat to itself, and even the grunt of a badger. The rates are uncongenial to one’s rheumatism, the exclamations of hurt are bitten-off, and despite the pace he had to go AT, dominoes still tumble into the darkness (because who doesn’t like setting up dominoes for hours and then knocking them over in total darkness?).

With so much stage, though, there’s no telling which detail I’m supposed to focus on. The king? The English church? Maybe the child that keeps screaming. No, the screaming stopped. The child is dead I think. But the animals are still eating each other even though it’s an irrelevant detail. Perhaps the focus is the old man in the huge castle. (It’s a huge castle, not tiny. Not a tiny castle. Not in this book. In this book all the castles are huge.) Also in this version of history,┬áthe king of England uses words like “ain’t”, and makes jokes about a billiards table, even though the first known billiards table was owned by King Louis XI in the 15th century and this story is set in the 12th. Billiards may not have existed in 1170, but Wikipedia existed in 2007 when this book was published. So Ariana was just lazy.

It takes a special type of talent to write shittily this creatively. And at 507 pages, this book appears imposing. But that’s only because there are less words on each page than other books. The line spacing is set to WHALE. So don’t be afraid.

Unfortunately, Diana Norman (aka Ariana Franklin) died in 2011. In her honor, I’ve started a new category: Shitty But Dead

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