Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Makes a Good Book

So I just finished this book. It was a surprisingly quick read. I was expecting this brilliantly written, witty story. It was a Times Bestseller and got rave reviews, with everyone calling it "hilarious."

I was disappointed. He's not a very strong writer. He talks about how he was never really educated and resented learning the basics of writing. You can tell. He doesn't have any style. He just tells stories, doing nothing unique with the language. The hook is that the stories are so bizarre, you hardly believe them.

And the book isn't hilarious to's incredibly sad. His upbringing was so f*cked up, I had a hard time finding the humor in the stories. There was a horrible truth revealed at the end of the book and I could tell by the way he wrote it, he had a hard time finding the humor in it as well.

Also, whenever I read stories of extremely dysfunctional families that are supposed to be funny...especially if they are Caucasian families...I never find them so. I actually have a difficult time understanding how anyone could consider them funny. I had the same reaction to The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. That was page after page of a family of completely broken people. It was incredibly difficult to read...when I finished it, I felt like it was a huge accomplishment. This book wasn't as difficult to read, but I didn't enjoy as much as the reviews on the back of the book told me to. Now I'm morbidly fascinated to see how they put this on the big screen.


The Rover said...

I haven't read that one, but I found Dry oddly compelling. Burroughs is one fucked-up dude.

tuckergurl said...

I enjoyed Running with Scissors but I agree that he is not the greatest writer in the world. I did think it was funny and sad. I'm not so into the cast. I have this strange thing with Annette Bening. She kind of urks me. And don't get me started about the fact that Evan Rachel Wood is playing the overweight girl. Geez!

You know how I feel about The Corrections. I could not ever finish it and thought everyone was so damn miserable. But I think Jonathan Franzen is a fantastic writer!

m. said...

I'm so curious.

What is it about miserable "caucasion" families that it NOT funny?

maybe I should rephrase that...

L. Britt said...

Good question, M.

It's just a cultural divide that I can't seem to bridge. The AFAM literature I've read deals with family dysfunction on a greater, historic level. Problems within a family are written as indicative of problems within the community. I guess "Running with Scissors" could be making a statement about the greater community, but I don't think so. Also, the fact that everyone in this book treats everyone like shit just isn't funny to me. The main character totally shrugs off a "relationship" that began with a statutory rape...and we're supposed to laugh about how disturbed his lover is. I just don't get it...and I don't see an black writer approaching the subject in this way.

If there is a black writer out there doing this, please let me know. I'd be fascinated to read it!

Of course, a great deal of this comes from the fact that Burroughs isn't a very good writer. David Sedaris treats his dysfunction with humor, too, but he's brilliant.