August 2002

Jessa Crispin

features

What you said

When I asked people to e-mail me the authors that they hate, I wasn't expecting some of the answers I got. I laughed an awful lot, had my temper flare up a few times, and I noticed a few patterns. Bookslut readers tend not to be Jack Kerouac fans.

So here are the responses. I hope they make you laugh as much as they did me.

PixelFish:

I almost didn't read Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materians trilogy because of an interview where he ripped C. S. Lewis up one side and down the other for the Chronicles of Narnia. Said Lewis was a racist and a sexist and was propagating dangerous religious ideas to children. He was also thoroughly pissed off by the "demonization" of Susan's growing awareness of adulthood and sexuality, etc. etc. I didn't totally agree with him on all the points he brought up, but initially I was so put off by the interview that I almost passed on the trilogy altogether. I have since made an effort to read His Dark Materials and actually ended up enjoying it quite a bit. (I can tell which parts he wrote in response to certain of the Narnia issues though. Heh.)

Thomas DeFreitas, VI:

Oh, where to start?

Elizabeth Bishop -- Everything she writes is a doily.

G K Chesterton -- I'm Catholic & "supposed" to like him. I don't. Some prose of his, good. Poetry, for the most part, intolerably bad.

John Ashbery -- Whom I used, quite uncritically & unreasonably, to admire. His ingenious verbal concatenations little more than childishly coy references to his sexuality. The Great Satan. Still, clever guy.

Kerouac & the Beats -- I'm with you. Kerouac isn't a novelist; he's a phase that should expire around age 22, at the latest. People who admire him are the "followers" who blindly obey the Zeitgeist.

Garry Wills -- Dissenting Catholic author. Hasn't been relevant since the days of Agnew.

Laurence Olivier -- Actor, not author, but still think him grossly overrated.

Aretha Franklin -- Grossly overrated, the sequel.

Mary J. Blige -- Unendurable.

Alanis Morissette -- Why?

James Tate -- Recent Pulitzer winner in poetry. The raison d'etre for his existence escapes me.

Used to be allergic to Auden. Admire & venerate him now, but still: that "Musee des Beaux Arts" poem is an ugliness than which no greater ugliness exists. About syntactical inversion, they were never wrong, the old blighters. "Shield of Achilles" -- beauxring.

Love Wallace Stevens. Hate "Anecdote of the Jar" & "Emp of Ice Cream."

Ezra Pound -- The Seafarer's fine, & I always liked the line in "Mauberley" about Caliban casting out Ariel. But his poetry seems, if poss., a more prickly & snarly & unlovely thing than his politics. In the Cantos, he's the opposite of Fred Tuttle -- he's the Man Without a Plan. (Some late Cantos make a softer, more musical noise, Italian & chinese juxtaposed & seeming to work. But the whole thing's a bloody mess.) Cummings & Marianne Moore & Eliot can revere him if they like; we can withhold our veneration.

Michael Schaub:

i also react violently toward jack kerouac, allen ginsberg -- pretty much all the beats. also i have no use for carlos castaneda. or christina hoff sommers. michael moore and noam chomsky piss me off, too. we won't even get into donna tartt. the one writer who angers me the most is bret easton ellis. ugh...i HATE bret easton ellis. he'd be in over his head writing obituaries for the des moines register.

Josh Ellis:

I really, really hate John Irving. I read The World According To Garp and immediately wanted to spend a weekend nail-gunning Irving to a sycamore tree. Subsequent toe-dipping into his work left me with a similar feeling. What a mean-spirited bastard! Cynicism is fine, but Irving doesn't give a shit about any of his characters. He seems to write these books so that he can torture a bunch of wretched, venal, self-indulgent characters. Fuck him.

But then again, I never got the whole New England academic middle-aged writer man thing. You know, the endless run of books by people like Irving about prep school teachers who cheat on their wives with unbearably hot young students and endlessly ponder What It All Means. One suspects that this is hedonism-by-proxy for the poor sacks of shit who write it...which is fine, but I don't see why I have to be subjected to it. I've always wondered if Don DeLillo's White Noise is a parody of this school of writing (which would make it a much funnier novel). I'd rather read Neil Gaiman or Rushdie, myself, stories with some wonder in them.

Reina Hardy:

Well, there's only one I hate. The other just annoys me.

Usually, I like the book, love the book, or put it down with a shrug, unread. My first detestable author, memoirist Elizabeth Wertzel, earns her nod because I wasn't allowed to put her book down-- I needed to research modern confessionals for an essay on forgery. Prozac Nation. Euurgh. I forced myself through every flaccid, indulgent sentence, wondering when Ms. Wurtzel would next mention her thinness, her Harvard degree, or her Rolling Stone College Journalism Award (facts and titles may mercifully have been forgotten). I remember groaning "Please, please, please shut up" almost continually.

Although bad writing is crime enough, it also seems she made some extraordinarily soulless comments about September 11th. I got the feeling she didn't want attention taken away from herself. What can you do with someone like that?

Our next author I truly hate. I hate him. I HATE Henry Miller. I hate him so acutely, so viscerally, that I can't give you any decent arguments why. The blood just rises behind my eyes. While reading Tropic of Capricorn, a gift from my then-boyfriend, I kicked the volume across the room, punched my pillow, called said then-boyfriend and demanded to know if that man was still alive, as if he was, we were going hunting, first for a massive strap-on dildo and a knuckle-duster, and then for a certain literary icon.

It is important to mention that Henry Miller is not Arthur Miller, neither is he Henry James who wrote Daisy Miller. Out of all these people, Henry Miller is the only one that I hate. HATE. Like Henry James and Daisy but not Arthur Miller, he is dead. The fortunate bastard.

Nick J:

1. Nick McDonell-- Wow, a 17-year-old wrote a whole book all by himself! What, the book is actually terrible? Oh. It reads like it was written by an eighth grader trying to copy Bret Easton Ellis? I see. And what's that you say? The book was heavily edited by the author's parents and godfather, who just happens to be Morgan Entrekin, the president of thepublishing house that published and heavily promoted the book? Hmm. And the kid's father is a super-rich and influential publishing figure who is old friends with Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, and Richard Price--all of whom, coincidentally, provided hilariously gushing quotes for the book jacket?? What's that I smell? It starts with an "n"...

2. Rick Moody-- Thank you, Dale Peck (even if you did insult Nabokov's writing, which is pretty much unforgivable).

3. Nick McDonell-- Did I mention him?

Ozy:


I gotta go with Tom Robbins. EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES had me seeing flaming red stars of fury for weeks. Ironically, I loved the Van Sant movie, which many people rank among his very worst and most self-indulgent, but that may be in no small part due to my Uma fixation.

ANYWAY, I'll spare you the neuroses. After seeing the movie, and hearing rapturous reviews of Robbins (mmmm, consonance) from sources I happened to respect, I picked up COWGIRLS and that other one, the one about the frog pyjamas, I forget the title, and blasted through 'em in a week or so, all the while telling myself "oh, come on, this has GOT to get better eventually, maybe he'll stop all the navel-gazing and faux-feminist pandering eventually, gah, please, make it stop, mommy mommy just ONE MORE PAGE, ack", etc.

I then gleefully shredded both books and used them as toxic confetti for my next party. As for the Rubber Rose-induced nausea, I am recovering nicely, but I still get the night sweats from time to time as visions of The Countess appear like Jacob Marley above my bed and mock me ceaselessly with awkward prose that would do Bulwer-Lytton proud.

Aimee Morgan:

Elizabeth Wurtzel. I won't even bother to write a clever riff on the title of her latest book, _More, Now, Again_, since so many reviewers have already done it for me.

Seriously, I cannot even begin to enumerate the ways in which I hate that woman. (I suppose that as a good little former English major, I should take care to separate my opinion of her work from my opinion of her, Elizabeth Wurtzel, as a person. But that doesn't work so well for writers whose main subject and muse is themselves. Therefore, I hate Elizabeth Wurtzel.)