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Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Fustian Vapours

The Whitbread Book Award was announced today - another good book to read. If I were speaking to Duch, or to be precise by now, as I have done my answerphone - dialogue of grovelling to no effect, if Duch were speaking to me, I'd ring her now and rant about it. I'd rant this:

The Booker is shit. Shit books win. Shit books make the list. Good books rarely ever get nominated. The shortlist is always crappily done - they couldn't help but select DBC Pierre after leaving out any main heavyweight competitors this year.
You can tell which one's going to win, anyway, regardless of quality or readability - a Booker book is recognisably pompous and over egged, much like an Academy Best Picture is literary, epic, and has a panoply of A listers in it doing overly 'dramatic' turns.
The Whitbread should be shit. The Whitbread is patchy - a game of chance. Some years it's laughable, but increasingly, this oddly unequal popularity contest is turning out more winners than losers. I like the way children's books are left to thrash it out against adult books, poetry, anything. No boundaries. Its very inequality seems to be managing to turn out the books that *should* have won the other prizes - you know, the literary prizes not judged by a panel of bollock brained celebs.
I never notice The Pulitzer coming out, so I don't know that it's definitely shit, but I doubt it, because I've never read a Pulitzer fiction winner that wasn't life changingly good. Okay, it's restricted to American literature, but Americans have been the global artistic and intellectual masters of the novel form for the previous fifty years anyway, so there's no real loss there, surely? If you read some Nabokov instead of all that Heinlein, you'd know that.

Which all brings me back to The Big Sodding Read. I've ranted before about the dire intellectual state of a country that can only vote for children's books or Jane Thicko Austen in its list of all time favourites. But there's something more that has been bugging me. It's that even at the time, I failed to point out that The Lord of the Rings is shit.

I know I shall offend the geek nerd corner, but really - that is not decent writing. Nice picturesque films, blokes. But the writing? It's shit.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:17 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 January 2004 6:39 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 6:44 PM GMT

Name: courtenay
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the films are @#%$! too.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 6:58 PM GMT

Name: courtenay
Home Page:

and what is it with your comments?
how come i have to constantly re-enter my details?
and why cant i swear?
i want to be able to swear.

let me.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:02 PM GMT

Name: Legomen
Home Page:

You'll blow a vessel one day you will.
I believe writing these days is for instant consumption and poisoned by heaving post-modern jargon. Then again you takes your pick. The good stuff is out there, it's just difficult to locate.
I've got Wordsworth as my loo read at the moment, very stimulating (intellectually, of course)

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:07 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

You can swear like this:

Or like this:
f u c k

But you have to re-enter your personal details every time - though your browser should let you pick the stuff up from a drop down menu after the first letter.

The moral of the story is, never use a company you have fond memories of run your blog. Fond memories and decent software don't go together.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:17 PM GMT

Name: Legomen
Home Page:

How does that work then? A lesbian postmodern James Bond, is that where they turn him down all the time for Moneypenny?

Oh you classical name dropper. I'm desperately trying to track down and re-read all the old books I did at O level.
Arms and the Man, Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, 1984 and my Wordsworth! Still the Haiti Chronicle is a nice touch.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:20 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Ah. I quite like postmodernism, but, well, see, I'm reading this lesbian James Bond spoof, at this particular moment, and a library book of famous insults, right.... *blush*

But at work, I'm reading Shakespeare, Shelley, Yeats, Carol Ann Duffy, Tennessee Williams and the Haiti Chronicle. Does that count?

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:22 PM GMT

Name: billy
Home Page:

...if you viewed lord of the rings as a children's book would it make you happier?, as an adult (allegedly) I cannot read the thing but as a 13 year old I thought it was brilliant - much like most children's affection for harry potter I suppose...

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:23 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

It's cos I'm trying to work out how many people believe in zombies.... pays the rent.

Those are all great books - if you amazon books on the exam syllabi these days, they generally give you a discount.

You hit the nail on the head about 'Jane'Bond, James' lesser known twin, I'm afraid. Not turning out as good as the spoof lesbian musical Nancy Drew mysteries were at all.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:32 PM GMT

Name: ThePimpress
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when i read Lord of The Rings when i was .. maybe 8 or 9 i really enjoyed them. not they bore me to tears. i thought the movies were both accurate to the book and far less boring (now). the problem i have with the particular store is it's an awful lot like CS Lewis's Narnia chronicles which has Aslan who, in my opinion, is much cooler then Gandolf.

but i still enjoyed the hobbit last i read it, which was a couple years ago.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:34 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I can't bear either of them, and couldn't bear the former back then. I can stand Pullman, but I'm not the greatest fan. My best children's books were by Diana Wynne Jones.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:41 PM GMT

Name: Legomen
Home Page:

Monday morning at any functioning city office should show you that surely.

I got disappointed when I re-read Hamlet. All those excited notes in the margins of my study aid persuaded me to give it another go. So I did and it didn't work.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:54 PM GMT

Name: Anne
Home Page:

Moneypenny is HOT (usually)! I'm a sucker for chicks with glasses (gee I wonder why...)
As for LoTR...must you trample all over my childhood treasures? I agree, its surely not high literature, but comparing it to Harry Potter?? Blech. Someone should string up J.K. Rowlings up by her thumbs. The woman can barely string a sentence together. Ok I'm done ranting. Ok one more, take all your Harry Potter books and collect them into a neat pile. Done that? Ok, now...burn them.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 7:59 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Yeah, it's not often things live up to the idealism of youth. But reading for the first time the books from the same syllabus that your class didn't study at the time often gives almost as much pleasure. I tried that a few years back, and it was the first time in years I'd really enjoyed reading.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 8:46 PM GMT

Name: csf
Home Page: http://pelveyworld

drawn out swearing rules
f u c k
i n e e d h e l p i c a n t s t o p p u t t i n g s p a c e i n n o w c u n t.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 8:47 PM GMT

Name: csf

god, it looked so much better when i typed it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 8:55 PM GMT

Name: whitesquirrel
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I am currently trying to read all the novels which weren't on my O level syllabus. I recently read Of Mice and Men for the first time ever and enjoyed it(not something I ever thought I'd enjoy in all honesty)so going to give some more US writers a go! I've done the Jane Austens, Brontes etc to death.

JK Rawlings - which I'd thought of it. Can't be arsed to read the books though.

LOTR - wish I could read these books but lose the will to live when I try to in all honesty. Good story but sooo many words and sooo much detail.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 9:12 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

If you liked Steinbeck, you might also like To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, or my favourite one, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
It's one of my favourite things, finding out what books people read and trying to hit the button of recommending the right next one to them. Unfulfilled librarian, me.

Actually, I was a librarian once, but I used to skive allthe time.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 9:13 PM GMT

Name: Paul
Home Page:

This is why I love you Vanessa: You agree with me. I've been defending my opinion against people about classics for so long that it's amazing that so many robot people have these thoughts. The writing sucks. It really does. It's dry. It's boring. It's slow. There's no energy, it reads like a biblical tract. except more lifeless. I hate 90% of the classics, Moby Dick sucks uhh.. moby's dick. John Steinbeck may be a great writer but I'd rather poke out my eyes with a tire iron than read more of his depressing @#%$!. Very few classic writers were all that good to begin with, and even fewer that are considered good have any real talent.

I still say Louis La'Mour is the great american novelist, right after Mark Twain.

And what's wrong with Heinlein?

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 9:27 PM GMT

Name: Cyn
Home Page:

I read the LoTR trilogy after the first film came out and I bloody well wanted to know what happened next, and refused to wait a year to find out.

Though the films are eye candy, the books were a slog.

The Big Read List is rather amusing.
I've not been able to get through more than a few chapters of anything Rowling's written (and then simply because my then 9 year-old child was enjoying it so much--I wanted to be able to discuss it with him--turned out there's nothing to discuss).

Can I end just by saying that having "Poo(h)" as a name is quite apt, because it is shite? I'm happy to say that I convinced both my kids not to bother with Milne by pointing this out.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 9:36 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Erm, I think you and I have maybe different views on classics, slightly. I don't hate all classics, I hate lowbrow classics. Austen and DBC Pierre fit that category for me. I'm a literature snob.
Heinlein's fine, but he's just not that well written, except within his little genre fiction category. Personally, I like Vonnegut, but I wouldn't be touting him around as the best writing ever.

On some points I agree with you: Mark Twain is one of my favouritest writers of all time - I love Connecticut Yankee. Steinbeck I find a bit of a homoerotic whinger, but I like Faulkner. I love black american fiction - I think the way people like Morrison or Zora NEale Hurston tried to capture oral traditions and patterns was pure brilliiance.
At uni, I tried to read Bartleby, Benito Cereno and Moby Dick frequently (they're not that often read over here as we're taught from the cradle to be snobby about American Lit), and couldn't bear the tedium.
But I'd read Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Shelley, Henry James, or Jane Eyre again any day. Classix is gud stuf fella.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 9:39 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oh you gladden my heart, Cyn.

Lemme hear y'all chorus:


Wednesday, 28 January 2004 - 11:35 PM GMT

Name: Cheekysquirrel
Home Page:

All ye fear as a LoTRs supporter rears his ugly head.

The books are great, even more so when you consider the author had lived through two world wars and that much of his world view was flavoured with this. Although I find Shakespear's thee's and thou's difficult I don't with Tolkien. So it must be good.

But then I am a bloke and so just as LoTRs makes no sense to you then neither does Little Women to me.

Lord of the Flies is indeed a good read, as is Micheal Flatleys biography.

I've read about 40 of the big read's top 100. A lot of the other 60 hold no lure for me. Not a very good 100 really. Just another populist list.

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 4:17 AM GMT

Name: e
Home Page:

Unfair! LOTR is as good as any fantasy literature churned out by your average pimply geeky seventeen year-old. Only pimply seventeen year olds don't write any more, do they? They play fantasy video games instead, or watch horror movies on DVD. My, my, standards really have fallen over the last 100 years, haven't they?

I have three words for LOTR, which incidentally my father encouraged me to read, and they are: wordy, immature, phoney.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Except that The Hobbit is a much better book- sort of distillation of the other, leaving the shite out, and ending up with a 100 odd page word. Funny, that.

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 4:54 AM GMT

Name: yidaho
Home Page:

Not sure if the offer is still running, but they were selling reduced priced hardback copies of Of Mice and Men in quite a few of the larger petrol stations, as well as some other classics.

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 5:49 AM GMT

Name: emma
Home Page:

I am with you Vanessa!
LOTR sucks, I don't even like the films!

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 6:54 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

As is LOTR.

Anyway, enough of this: how did you like Ulysses?

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 6:55 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Is it as homoerotic as the others?

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 6:56 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I musta been distracted by the Jaffa cakes.

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 8:40 AM GMT

Name: csf
Home Page:

ah leopald bloom, love,loss, void.
what did that want?

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 8:57 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Lol, I'd not let a damn vile loathsome Potter book enter my doorway, fear not. You're spot on about the terrible writing. Her metaphors are like lumpy porridge. :)

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 11:25 AM GMT

Name: elbereth

how come you don't like the lotr?is it because there are so many stuff between the lines?Is it because eowyn had the freedom to choose (she was created in the 1940's) .JRR tolkien was a linguist he knew so many languages eowyn = old english for horsejoy -one who rejoices in horses.Is it because he is such a dreamer?maybe you could disregard it as a children's book cos it is not.It is an adult's book cos it deals with so many different things that no one in his time did , he dared to tackle women's freedom and enviromental disaster.

Thursday, 29 January 2004 - 12:34 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Women's freedom and environmental disaster were tackled in the 1820s, if I remember aright. Read 'Frankenstein' and see.
I don't like it because it's badly written, not because of its plotting or ambiguities. It's the style of writing, not the subject. I've yet to see a good novel about elves, but I wouldn't assume it can't be done.

Do you know what hwaet pa is Old English for? Heh.

Thanks for your comment anyway - sorry you caught me on such a snarky day!

Friday, 30 January 2004 - 9:13 AM GMT

Name: NC

Hmm you neglect to mention that said @#%$! booker winner also won Best First Novel in the Whitbread??

Friday, 30 January 2004 - 6:15 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Yeah, which it should have done. It's a good first novel. It isn't classic. And had the winning novel been allowed into the shortlist in the Booker, DBC Pierre would have been relegated in that 'league' as well.

Friday, 30 January 2004 - 7:58 PM GMT

Name: e
Home Page:

Dunno, I wasn't reading it for hidden meaning when I was 11. Maybe I need to look at it again.

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