Writing: October 2006 Archives

[The scene: The Oval Office. The President is addressing the nation -- and the wider world.]

"My fellow Americans:

"I'd like to start by confessing to a minor, but necessary, deception. My published biography has up to now listed my highest academic achievement as being an MBA. I'd like to take this opportunity to correct the record by revealing that in actual fact it was a Masters' degree in social psychology. In addition, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize for dissembling about my intelligence to you, over the past decade. Believe me, it has been hard work pretending to be stupid. However, I am sure that those of you who have spent the past six years disparaging my lack of insight will be relieved to learn that your President is in fact a former member of MENSA, and has a higher IQ than Richard Feynman.

"And now, for the key issue I'd like to talk about today. For the past six years, in addition to occupying the office of President of the United States, I have been working on my doctoral thesis — a large-scale empirical verification of the pioneering studies of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo. After consulting with my supervisors, Professors Cheney and bin Laden, I have concluded that the control phase of the largest ever experiment in applied social psychology has achieved its intended goals. We are therefore terminating the so-called 'War on Terror' with immediate effect. Thank you for you co-operation, which has been deeply appreciated. Those of you who have found yourself assigned to the 'reality based community' for the past six years will doubtless be relieved to learn that your performance has been excellent. I'd also like to ask for a warm round of applause for your 'winger' opponents, who have given sterling service in following their thankless (albeit lucrative) script.

"Finally, I'm very pleased to announce that the next phase of the experiment will commence shortly. Good night, and sleep well."

(This is Jay Lake's fault. He's been challenging SF writers to come up with their scariest short horror story for the season ...)

What do the public really think of literature?

Here are some examples, in the form of reviews culled from the reader comments on Amazon.com.

1984 by George Orwell:

Caitlyn from Atlanta, GA, wrote: "1984 is the worst book I have ever read. I would advise anyone who is thinking about reading this book to reconcider! George Orwell is not a bad writer, however, this book he does not do evry well on, as some of his others. Prehaps he was getting old and lost his touch. Animal Farm was okay, but 1984 was horrible. It took him forever, it seemed like, to get into the accual book. If someone were to take out all of the useless part of 1984, it would be half as long. Why would he wirte so much about nothing? I havent ever meet someone who could wirte such a boring book about the goverment. I have meet many people who have loved this book, but i dispised it. I am not at all intrested in the goverment. This may be part of the reason that I didnt like it. I would advise you not to read this book."

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

R. Vanderhoof wrote: "I spent several weeks slogging through this book and found it to be very repetitive and tedious in the extreme. Keeping track of the family tree is a constant effort. At best, Marquez reveals an egalitarian attitude that seems to pervade the Americas south of the Rio Grande (no wonder those countries are in constant economic trouble). Marquez should study supply side economics as described by Milton Friedman, another Nobel Prize winner, in order to give his book better balance."

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:

Ashley Lue wrote: "This was the worst book that I have ever read! The way that Huxley wrote the book was awful. He was writing about something that could never happen to our society. Back then he thought that our world would pretty much go to hell and the book portrayed the world that we should be living in today. Nothing that he said made sense. I don't understand why he would want anyone to live in that weird world that those people had to live in. People should have emotions and actual relationships. No one should be punished like that. I advise you not to read this book, unless you want to fall asleep!! :)"

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

goosedog 69 (New York) wrote: "if you don't like reading books with way too much detail than don't buy this book. when i was reading it i couldn't understand anything it said. if you are older maybe you wouldn't think it's boring, or if you like this author's books, but i thought it was very boring and it took me forever and a half to read."

A reader wrote: "I found this book difficult to follow and hard to hold my interest. I am an English teacher so I don't think it's me. I was revved about the book and started it immediately unpon receipt. I didn't even finish it--which is something I can say about few books..."

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer:

[A — presumably — different] A reader wrote: "his book has potential but fails to deliver the goods. too much time is invested for the pay off. i hated the time machine sequences they were a total waste of time, eventually i just skiped them to help get the book over. this is a shame because there were some very good parts to the book a good editor could have improved it by trimming a few hundred pages."

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:

Son of Sammy wrote: "i just read this book. everybody like always talks about how great it is and everything. but i don't think so. like, it's been done before, right?? soooo cliched. omg."

The Quiet American by Graham Greene:

Jorge Frid (in Mexico City) wrote: "AT first you think that you are going to read about some secret agent in Vietnam that was killed, but when you see that the story of the book is not that man, is a journalist from England that doesn't want to go back to his country you will be disappointed, the book doesn't have any main story, it has the story of the journalist, his girlfriend (who was also the girlfriend of the "secret agent") and many more, but you will not be interested in one story at all, a real waste of time this book."

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe:

Newton Ooi (in Phoenix, AZ) wrote: "If imitation is the highest form of praise, then this book must be one of the most praised books in the English canon. A man from a middle-class upbringing leaves it and ends up stuck on a tropical island. This story would inspire Swiss Family Robinson, Castaway, and probably Lord of the Flies. Mr. Crusoe is a white, Englishman with a wife and kids. After the wife dies, he leaves the kids to go on his own and to serve God. He ends up stuck on an island by himself. There he encounters cannibalistic natives, and one of their intended victims. The former scares him, and he essentially enslaves the latter, teaching him to call him Master.

"The book is not that interesting, as tales of desperation and survival are actually quite common."

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:

A reader wrote: "I love classic novels. Some of my favorites: Gone with the wind/The catcher in the rye/Huck Finn/The Iliad..I adore Shakespeare... this book was B-O-R-I-N-G!!! I stopped reading at 400 pages. I am someone that almost never stops reading books. I couldn't stand it any longer. I don't mind the parts the were actually about Anna and human relationships. I could not stand all of the boring Russian politic talk or Levin and his boring farming or hunting talk. AHH! I do not recommend this book. If I truly hated someone, I would them to read this book."

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck:

Jef4Jesus wrote: "So, I'm only on page 478 of 619, but I've been disgusted at the amount of profanity. So far I've found more than 500 uses of profanity! On average every page (with relatively big writing, even) has more than one swear. Yikes! I'm never going to read Grapes of Wrath again, and won't be recommending it to anyone. If you don't like profanity, be careful."

M. Landis wrote: "This book was 600 pages written purly about a bunch of hicks from Oklahoma starving. Thanks, but no thanks."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Writing category from October 2006.

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