When I decided to resurrect America's most notorious yet beloved wit as a character in a novel, I knew I'd inspire the wrath of some book reviewers. We are, after all, proprietary about our literary heroes. They are our own special treasures, held close to our hearts and jealously guarded. So when a writer comes along and mines that trove for material, there will be blood.
Still, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER was published to some outstanding trade reviews, garnering raves from Publishers Weekly, BookReporter, Library Journal and BookList. Even Kirkus Reviews put it at the top of the list for the week's best books.
So I was lulled into letting down my guard just when the assault finally came from a couple of newspapers, and it felt like I was being sliced, diced, eviscerated, burned, bitten and left to die. Next time, I'll remember to dress in Kevlar.
In the meantime, it helps to know that I'm not alone--that even the most revered literary works have had their share of detractors. So for all my fellow authors who have felt the sting of bad reviews, I offer the following anti-venom: actual Amazon one-star reviews of literary greats. See if you can guess which books they're about before clicking on the reveal. *
EDITED TO ADD: Apparently this game is harder than I thought, so I'm supplying the list of titles to choose from:
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE • FAHRENHEIT 451 • GREAT GATSBY • THE SUN ALSO RISES • TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD • PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT • EMPIRE FALLS • CATCHER IN THE RYE • OLIVE KITTERIDGE • REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
*For the sake of this game, names and titles have been redacted. Spelling and grammatical errors have been left as is.
Great American Novel - You Are Not!
How this is an American classic, I will never know. The book is short and barely has any character development. You don't route for anyone nor really care about finding about anybody's back story - including [redacted] himself. The book does do an ok job of portraying that "rich, post-World War I, 1920s era apathy generation" but the problem with portraying apathy is that your readers are going to be apathetic. There is one part of the book that has some "action" in it but it's so shoe horned in for the sole purpose of rapping up the story that it's almost unbelievable. For those that poo-poo Twilight for "stalker" type mentality of Edward, you have the same behavior in [redacted] as well. I was very underwhelmed and feel sorry for the countless public school students who had to suffer through this book. The one positive thing I can say is that it wasn't as boring as "Wuthering Heights". Final Grade - F
Keeping up with the ...
I hated this book! It is like a Victorian Keeping up the Kardashians. How superficial can you get? I realize that in that era the only hope for a woman was to marry well. Why promote that idea as a romantic one in our present day lives is just stupid. I see nothing romantic in the book whatsoever. The snobbery is almost unbearable. This is one of those situations where you read hoping it will get better, it never did. What a waste of my time.
Umm...you must be kidding. Mindless nonsense. This is the story of several, self absorbed drukards stumbling their way through a short season of life together; they are self indulged, lazy and broke. The book finally comes to a ridiculously predictable ending. Yes, of course there is symbolism throughout, but do not waste your time.
This book is a classic judging by the reviews. I had never heard of it and was probably better off. [Redacted] is a horrible character, obsessed by his penis. I have never found toilet humour particularly funny and so you must judge my opinion in that light. if you have heard of Ross O'Kelly Carroll then this is the jewish equivalent. Ross is the cliche Dublin 4, Alex the New Jersey jew. Sitting on his physchiatrist couch bemoaning his parents. His mother threatened him with the knife if he won't eat. He spends his teen and adult years either masturbating anywhere and anytime or with the fair Protestant college girls or his dumb but sexually insatiable model. [Redacted] is condesending and obsessed, unlikeable in a Woody Allen style obsession with self and sex. The novel is dated as no doubt it was titillatingly scandalous of its time but frankly it is boring. The long rambling rant eventually grates. This book would be better as a novella, the theme and characters are interesting to start with but the problem is that it becomes repetitious and boring. It wanders back and forward from childhood to love affair, from Monkey the model to Pumpkin or Pilgrim the debutantes. [Redacted] repeats himself and becomes gratingly tedious. I suffered to the end, only so I could justify my rant, and gained nothing from it. Judging by the number of positive reviews here I am perhaps missing the point. For me who also hates Woody Allen films this is toilet humour at its worst. If you like the images of a teenage boy humping raw liver, his sisters used underwear and just about anything else while his mother hammers on the bathroom door demanding to see his stool then read on.
How On Earth Did This Book Win The Pulitzer?
I just finished reading this novel and I am mystified by all of the acclaim it has received. Far from being an accurate depiction of small-town life, it is a dull, mind-numbing work populated by repulsive characters who resemble redneck cartoons more than flesh and blood human beings. Many times I wanted to fling the book across the room out of frustration with its snail-like pacing and terminally unhappy characters.
If you're looking for a realistic portrait of life in rural Maine, try anything by Cathie Pelletier - particularly her Mattagash trilogy. These books offer everything - humor, heart, emotion - that [redacted] fails to deliver.
This book is filled with evocative prose that evokes tedious, boring, mundane, desperately unfulfilled life in 50's suburbia. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to read it.
An American classic????
I waited 52 years to read this book. I should have waited 52 more. A real snoozefest. I don't see what all the fuss is about.
Babble of an Idiot
I made a bona fide attempt to read this book. After the first few pages, it became apparent to me that the novel was not a piece of literature but rather babble of a mentally retarded person. In the style of the book, I could describe it as "some goddamn crap about some guy or something." One beneficial consequence of reading a few pages of this "work" is that, after that, nearly any book would seem like a masterpiece of literature.
Can you guess which book this reviewer hates? Click here for answer.
Can you guess which book this reviewer hates? Click here for answer.
Heyyyy I had to read this book for school and it was the worst thing I ever read. A worthless good for nothing piece of junk! Actually it is good for something. I took this book with me to rifle practice and i shot at this instead of the target. I got busted but hey it was worth it. Mail me if you want a picture of my shooting.
Boring story, miserable characters
I don't know why all the great reviews. I found the story dull, about miserable characters I cared nothing about, in a depressing setting.
The writing was too heavy on uninteresting detail and I could not even get halfway through the book.
Each chapter begins with a new character introduction, which for me is frustrating - just when you get to know one character, you are
jumped to a new one with little or no tie in to the previous introductions. I'm sure eventually they tie together, but I was halfway
through and saw no reason to go on.
Not my type of story, I guess. If you like a story about depressed (and depressing) people living in a small town in Maine, this one is
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Ellen Meister lives on Long Island and is the author of four novels, including FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER (Putnam 2013) and THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam 2011). She is an editor and writing coach, and teaches creative writing at Hofstra University Continuing Education. For more information visit ellenmeister.com.