Every year when the preview for the Oscars appears on TV, my mother flips out with absolute annoyance. “Who cares!” she yells. This year we were sealing her famous gravy (or spaghetti sauce), and on our way to my aunt and uncle‘s, when the conversation carried itself, as it often does, from our kitchen to their dinning room. Somewhere between passing the bread and the wine, I made the mistake of confessing I really enjoy watching the Oscars.
Holy hell broke loose. Banter carried on in Sicilian, opinions about movies not being what they use to be flung into the air and hands flailed about as if everyone was swatting flies. For a passing moment, I felt like I was sitting at a table filled with Italian equivalents to encore’s own Anghus after he watched “Narnia.” In a voice that reminds me of Robert De Niro, my uncle demanded, “Tiff, fix the situation so everyone can eat before their pasta gets cold!”
“Wait a minute!” I shrieked. Silence fell over the table. “I meant, I’m doing something similar to the Oscars in my next column. Instead of discussing 2010’s best movies, I’m detailing 2010’s worst books.”
Alright. I was reaching, but this on-the-fly idea wasn’t a bad one. Out of my family’s comical madness came a damn good topic that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been done in encore until now. Without listing Nicholas Sparks (that’s just too easy), I present my nominees for the top five worst novels among popular reads of 2010:
by Stephen King
I know, I’m stunned to have Stephen King on this list, too. Despite King’s infamous writing, and his supernatural ability to capture and perfect so many different character voices, this story really is, well, boring as hell. Sadly it’s not worth the amount it commands at the register.
“Blockade Billy” isn’t so much a novel as it is a short story. I bought it for my husband, because it promised to combine two of his most cherished genres: sports and horror. Within, George Granny Grantham, retired third-base coach of the New Jersey Titans, takes readers down memory lane as he recalls the spring of 1957. Billy Blakely, a catcher called up from the Titans’ Iowa farm system, helps boost the team out of their losing streak.
As the narrative goes on, readers learn that there’s something not quite real about Billy. Sure, he’s responsible for the team’s countless wins, and it’s only minor that he endlessly refers to himself in third person, but players who meet him at the plate end up dead. Though hard to put a finger on it, something’s just not right and the same can be said about this novella. It feels rushed, and it didn’t leave the same ominous chill down my spine (or my husband’s) that I’m accustomed to from King.
Therein lies the problem. King’s work is so memorable and impacting that readers expect everything to meet his usual standard. When it fails, even if just by a tiny bit, it fails miserably.
“Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever (100% Official)”
by Justin Bieber
This one clocks in at number two. First of all, I doubt he really wrote this on his own. Second, there’s hardly a word with more than four consonants, so maybe I’m wrong. Third, he’s only 16! What could he possibly have to write about within a memoir? He’s a rags-to-riches tale. That’s great, but live out more of your life before you declare your version of Chris Gardner‘s “Pursuit of Happiness.”
I don’t know what’s worse: the fact I found his memoir in my cousin’s bookbag or that I had the curiosity to open it. Admittedly, my original thoughts were :“As long as teens and tweens alike are reading, it’s a great thing.” Oh how wrong I was.
“Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever (100% Official)” consists of 240 pages of pictures, Twitter posts, obsessions for Chuck Norris and other random unimportant crap printed in big type. Upon reading, my brain tried to make sense of it all but failed, and I was left with an uncontrollable headache. I felt like Louis Black as he sat in IHOP and pondered heavily over a stranger’s comment, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.“ All that was missing was an aneurism.
What ever happened to, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” or “Blubber” by Judy Bloom? These were substantial reads with unique, original tones and educational undercurrents that one could hang on to forever. Today, we have Bieber and his attempt to give a sense of himself in a book that outlines his gratitude.
Are you there, God? It’s me, Tiffanie. If I get “the fever,” I’ll be seeing you very, very soon!
“Eat. Pray. Love.”
“Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage”
by Elizabeth Gilbert
My good friend Charisma talked me into seeing the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” In short, I hated it. Not even Julia Roberts could save the film, but for the sake of friendship I thought I’d give the originating author, Elizabeth Gilbert, a second chance.
Days after viewing the film I embarked on a journey and read both her novels, “Eat, Pray, Love.“ and her second memoir titled, “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.” I had high hopes of redemption, but sadly both titles only succeeded in becoming numbers three and four on my list of 2010’s worst (even though “Eat. Pray Love.” came out in ‘06). Throughout each body of work, I felt like I was back in college studying ideology. There was too much emphasis and analysis on society’s ideas of marriage rather than depicting an engaging heartfelt story centered around that which makes marriage possible: true love.
I wanted a woman’s perspective through an uplifting, insightful and soul-speaking tale. Instead, I received a woman’s list of incredulousness. I found her literary voice shallow, her soul unappreciative and her thoughts contradicting and annoying. I kept wondering, Did I miss the mention of her degree in sociology somewhere, because she sure dishes a lot of awful self-indulgent advice? Contrary to the beliefs of other women, there is no way in hell I would ever consider Gilbert or her work to be the best guide on love, marriage or spirituality. Then again, I’m not your typical discontented, insatiable, insensible woman and that could be the problem–not the book.
“Here’s the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades and Getting in Your GTL on the Jersey Shore”
by Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino
co-authored by Chris Millis
C’mon, is it really any surprise that I selected this one? It’s beyond me how a self-centered, egotistical, womanizing spotlight-monger could bank approximately $5 million for a “how-to Guido guide.” I shutter to think this is the material young men are filling their heads with. I rather they read Justin Bieber’s memoir! It’s a bundle of illustrations and hyperbolic fonts to mask his diminutive thoughts.
Think I’m being unfair? Think his work must have a shred of respectability, else he wouldn‘t have such a strong fan base? Here’s a sample sure to leave a bad taste in readers mouths:
“Another misconception is that the better sex is always to be had with the hotter chick, but it can be argued that indeed the best sex is often with the grenade—because she’s so grateful.”
Now, imagine 133 pages of this. I rest my case.