Book Reports

You can tell things are looking up, time, sleep and parenting-wise, because I read an entire book and a half in two weeks. Wow. I remember a time, not long ago, when it would take me a full month to finish one book.

Slightly, yes, the pressure was on because these were two new books that I could only have for 14 days (though, you know, I have spent so much of my life being afraid of libraries, of their fines, of their je ne sais quoi will happen if I don’t bring these books back on time / at all; since having kids I have tried to be a good patron but my library habits are just not what they used to be and guess what? Turns out no one cares! The library keeps letting me take things out and saying I can pay my fines “whenever” and I’m all, what do you mean? You have no teeth? I have spent 3/4 of my life fearing something with NO TEETH? No poison spines, nothing? I guess I am a better person because I respect the library, right? Right, librarian reader types of which I have many? OK then) and I was determined I would finish them within that time.

The first book was called Please Step Back by Ben Greenman and I loved it. It was the story of a fictional ’60s funk / rock star and his rise to fame and then slide back down to not-fame. Classic story but it was written so elegantly, so like an extended song lyric; I would be reading along and enjoying and then stop in my tracks and have to go back a page and read that beautiful sentence / paragraph / page again. I have returned the book (on time, bitches) so I can’t quote it but I really enjoyed it. Except for the ending, which I did not enjoy, not in an “I enjoy it but it’s depressing like Canadian dysfunctional family literature” way but more in a “I don’t enjoy it, it’s a cop-out and I saw it coming three pages ago” way.

I even finished it within 10 days, which, if you only have 15 minutes a night, is like some kind of miracle. I was high on life, high on great writing, happy to move on to the second book, Boldface Names by Shinan Govani, which had been sitting right next to Please Step Back in the “new fiction” section.

Have you heard of Shinan Govani? He has. He has heard of him. He is wonderful, he is. So wonderful he wrote a book about himself. He calls himself something else but he, Shinan, is a gossip columnist and he wrote a book about a gossip columnist and then he filled it with lots of gossip and then more veiled references to gossip and then bam! it got published! The country is all a-flutter and a-titter and madly trying to guess who is who in this madcap book! What a clever romp!

Oh, sigh.

Govani is a society pages guy for the National Post. By all accounts, he is good at his job. He gets around, he sees famous people doing stuff, he is snarky about it. And let me be clear. I do not have a problem with gossip, gossip columnists or gossipy books – hell, I watch Gossip Girl and I read Star by Pamela Anderson and I even enjoyed it – enough to finish it – because for one thing she let someone help her write it and for another, it was funny, as in, clever. But also? It did not make a mockery of the following tradition: WORDS MEAN THINGS. A tradition I cherish.

As the Winnipeg Free Press put it, so succinctly, he can gossip but not write. (And PS, Winnipeg Free Press, yours is the only negative review I could find after at least ten minutes of searching, and so I will be kissing you with lots of tongue post-haste because MAN OH MAN was this a bad book. Just fucking awful. Worse than The DaVinci Code.) Their review quotes the following sentence as an example and I am sad to say it is not even the worst example, where [our hero spots] “…a woman who looked like local neo-hippie songbird Feist but was actually a woman with bangs who only looked like Feist.”

I went looking for reviews because I thought there was something I was missing. I thought surely there was a joke I wasn’t getting, a reference I hadn’t come across. But no.

Again, I do not have the book here because I set it on fire and then returned the ashes to the library in a charred, smoking envelope (no, no I didn’t, not really) so I can’t quote more, but I must have read half of it to SA while he tried to concentrate on his book about the Restoration or Reformation or whatever.

This is just a re-enactment, but a damn good one:

“Just listen: ‘She walked with her jewel-spackled glory-holed two-point-oh’d Manolos clicking on the dirty zeitgeist pavement like an escaped polo pony with nothing to lose but her self-respecting neo-hipstered harness.”
“Just put the book down. Stop reading it.”
“No! I can’t! I have to see if it gets better!”

It doesn’t. Just in case you are out there now, reading this piece of shit book, know that it does not get better. It gets worse and worse and worse and then the book is due at the library and you’re halfway done but you don’t care, you’d rather read a back issue of Good Housekeeping magazine than go one page further.

The man verbs all his nouns. He hyphenates everything else. The book reads like a gossip column gone through a translator to Serbian and back to English. And then the typos. Holy shit. People are publishing badly written, badly spelled SHIT and killing TREES for it and the first ten reviews I read were glowing, I guess because he might gossip about you and ruin your career? Sorry, I don’t have a career and I am not afraid to say that book should not have been published.

On the bright side: it makes me want to work on my novel because I know my novel is better than Boldface Names.

On the dark side: now I can never go on a press tour for my (uh, yeah, unpublished, not even into its 2nd draft yet) novel because I’ll be immediately slaughtered by the society pages.

On the bright side again: I did not incur any fines at the library.

On the dark side again: I seem to have more to say about the book I hated and didn’t finish than the book I loved. Except one more thing: you can hear a recording of one of the songs from the book I loved (Please Step Back,) as interpreted by Swamp Dogg, if you go here.

There. Leaving you on the bright side, I am.

Trombone pinches my nose for me after I complain about the smell of bad writing

Trombone pinches my nose for me after I complain about the smell of bad writing

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11 Responses to Book Reports

  1. kyooty says:

    LOL love the picture

  2. Arwen says:

    Distressingly, I want to read the society writer one now, just so that I can torture John with it.

  3. elswhere says:

    Mostly there’s a fine threshold [shouldn’t there be two H’s in threshold? This comment box thinks not] of $10 or so, and as long as you stay under it you can rack up fines galore and not pay them till you feel like it. This is a by-product of the Computer Age; back in the old days it used to be different.

    Here is the other secret-er secret: most librarians are TERRIBLE about returning books on time. Also, mostly library employees don’t have to pay fines unless they lose the book. You might think that this lack of consequences is why librarians are not good book-returners, but actually it’s the other way around and people like me and other librarians have to find jobs at libraries or go bankrupt from the overdue fines.

    • cheesefairy says:

      I am shocked. SHOCKED! But you know, librarians put up with a lot from the general public. I think you deserve your perks.

  4. miranda says:

    awesome review of the horrifyingly hilarious bad book. so funny i almost want to read it to make fun of it but i’m already trying to get back to figuring out which day of the week antm is on so i can make fun of that, so i’m busy, you see.

    plus i just re-re-renewed my library books over again so i could avoid walking a few blocks to return them and gloriously stall the moment when i will owe the library another wad of cash.

    • cheesefairy says:

      PVR! If I watch previously recorded ANTM, I can get through the whole thing in 25 minutes, which allows more time for reading bad books (or, in your case, making awesome crafts and clothes for your etsy shop).

  5. MonkeyPants says:

    As an erstwhile library worker, I have a terrible confession. This week, I lost a collection of essays about Pride and Prejudice. Tomorrow I am going to have to go confess that to the library people. I already feel really nervous.

    I would probably have been shouting at the gossip columnist and woken E up. I think I’ll stay away from it.

    • cheesefairy says:

      You just reminded me that in grade 7 I was the special library helper. This explains my guilt. I was such a good helper I got an engraved calculator from the school librarian at the end of the year.

      I would kind of like you to read the bad book just to hear you shout about it. I think that would be so gratifying. But it’s not worth destroying E’s sleep.

  6. eva says:

    I loved your book review! And have a guilty need to read the book and then trash it some more! Right after I return my library books.

    Here’s another over-rated book that I’d love to hear your opinion of: Book of Negroes. My summary: plucky plucky chick defies the odds, lives through horrific slavery times and travels. Does not develop as a character but remains plucky even though saddened by the many many tragic events in her fictional life. Has the same name as the author’s daughter, which is probably why she was only raped once out of her decades of horrible life. An author who I always enjoyed reading in the Globe & Mail but who has written for the masses and CLEARLY I AM NOT THE MASSES.
    That felt good.

    • cheesefairy says:

      Hmmm, sounds interesting. The title rings a bell. Your summary reads like a Danielle Steele novel summary. Will check it out.