One-Star Reviews of the Hundred Greatest Novels, #25 to #1

And so, it ends. Maybe with a whimper, maybe with a bang, maybe with a whoopy cushion. This week concludes our perusal of Daniel S. Burt’s list from The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time, with one-star accompaniment by 100 helpful readers, who really, really hated all of these books.

Two things. First, once again, I am not doing this (solely) to make fun of the reviews or the reviewers, but only to point out to my fellow authors that ALL BOOKS are going to get some truly AWFUL REVIEWS. You, me, Chuck Dickens, and even that 50 Shades woman. Every book that gets read is going to get read by people who are going to loathe it, and some of those people are going to tell the world. This social media / instant gratification universe is not always conducive to deeply thought out literary criticism. Anybody with a mouse can register their opinion on anything, and they do. So when your book gets panned (and it will) my advice is don’t even spare a grain of salt on it. Just accept it as part of the price of doing business, and get back to work.

Second, I should take a moment to note that the very idea of ranking books from 1 to 100, or in any other way, is of course ridiculous. Everybody has their own criteria when deciding they like one book more than the next, and the idea that one piece of art is somehow “better” than another is the sort of thing you can spend a whole night hashing out in the dorm commons. Burt’s list is of course just that: Burt’s list. So don’t throw anything at me if you get to Number One and think “WHAT!?!” 😉

That being said, let us now conclude the countdown of real one-star reviews from real readers, which I have not edited for grammar. Though I did take the swears out.

#100-76 * #75-51 #50-26

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25 Invisible Man (1952) Ralph Ellison

“I really do not recomend this book to anyone. Its almost sick and very racist page in and page out.”

24 Vanity Fair (1847-48) William Makepeace Thackeray

“Not as bad as Last of the Mohicans knucklehead, but talk about dragging a short novel out to interminable lengths.”

23 The Sound and the Fury (1929) William Faulkner

“This book has inspired me to start a list of crap that is admired only because no one has the guts to admit they have no idea what the hell is going on. Although technically in this category, I give James Joyce the benefit of the doubt simply because I can’t understand anyone from Ireland anyway.”

22 Crime and Punishment (1866) Feodor Dostoevsky

“Was this book brilliant? Yes. Was it well written? Yes. Was it geniously structured? Yes. Was the Psychology incredible? Yes. Does that make me hate it any less? No.”

21 To the Lighthouse (1927) Virginia Woolf

“Stream of consciousness writing is f___ing crap, for which I have absolutely no patience. I hate Freud. I hate his concept of ‘consciousness’, so ‘stream of consciousness’ bulls__t based on that would be something I’d hate, too.”

20 The Great Gatsby (1925) F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I was never fully introduced to the root of the affair that existed between Gatsby and Daisy. So they were in love…yeah..I’ve been in love too, who cares?”

19 One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“I’ve given it no stars because I’m so full of magic realism. I’m real and can perform magic, and I’m far more convincing than this pretentious work ever could be.”

18 The Ambassadors (1903) Henry James

“I can’t even tell you the details of the story anymore although I finished it two minutes ago.”

17 Absalom, Absalom! (1936) William Faulkner

“Faulkner is an a__hole. This crap was unreadable.”

16 Great Expectations (1860-61) Charles Dickens

“I had nothing but bad thoughts for the author. My favorite of which was, “I hope he’s burning in hell and they’re using his sh__ty book to feed the flames.”

15 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749) Henry Fielding

“I literally threw this book across the room because I was so frustrated with every single character for hearing something and then automatically doing something ridiculous which then caused something else bad to happen and all of this could have been avoided if you’d just calmed down and listened to other people for five seconds.”

14 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) Mark Twain

“The only admirable character in the entire book is Huck himself — the kid is surrounded by fools and tyrants and hypocrites. Which I guess is the point. But I still maintain that it doesn’t make for entertaining reading.”

13 Anna Karenina (1877) Leo Tolstoy

“I had heard that this was the love story of all time…. Don’t believe it! The whole premise of the story revolves around a married woman Anna Karenina, who has an 8 year old son, and decides to cheat on her husband. This was not a love story, this was a Greek Tragedy.”

12 Bleak House (1852-53) Charles Dickens

“(T)here were a few too many characters, but it was really cool when a whole bunch of people died.”

11 Emma (1816) Jane Austen

“Rich people living in big manor houses go to dances and listen to each other playing the piano.”

10 The Tale of Genji (11th Century) Murasaki Shikibu

“(G)enji is the wimpiest, rapiest protagonist ever.”

9 The Magic Mountain (1924) Thomas Mann

“This book was horrific. There was no point, no enjoyment, no anything save for a harrowing description, 900 pages in length, of some sad sack in a tuberculosis sanitarium.”

8 Middlemarch (1871-72) George Eliot

“I don’t like it because it seems to me an exercise in rewarding Dorothea for being the excellent heroine without ever having her really face difficult decisions (I mean really difficult decisions).”

7 Madame Bovary (1857) Gustave Flaubert

“An effete precursor to The Bridges of Madison County.”

6 Moby-Dick (1851) Herman Melville

“I have always wanted to read this book, albeit for the wrong reasons at first. I used to think that Moby Dick was the story about the guy who ended up in the belly of a whale.”

5 The Brothers Karamazov (1880) Feodor Dostoevsky

“Dostoevsky was a depressing wanker.”

4 In Search of Lost Time (1913-27) Marcel Proust

“The main problem with Proust (and his admirers) is that they are convinced that the French aristocracy, with all their trivial concerns and all their trivial conversations, were actually interesting.”

3 Ulysses (1922) James Joyce

“Oh, how I love the movie ’Back to School’!! And perhaps, if Sally Kellerman had sat and read Ulysses to me, I would have found it as enjoyable as Rodney Dangerfield did.”

2 War and Peace (1869) Leo Tolstoy

“Basically a thousand page illustration of Tolstoy’s belief that stuff happens and no one can really do anything about it.”

1 Don Quixote (1605, 1630) Miguel de Cervantes

“This is, undoubtedly, the worst book I have ever attempted to read. Surprisingly, I did enjoy the dinner theatre version of the musical, however.”

The End.

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Author: M. Edward McNally

Epic fantasy author M. Edward McNally is a North Carolinian of Irish/Mexican extraction. He has a Masters in English Lit from ISU and Russian/East European History from ASU. He grew up mostly in the Midwest along I-35 northbound (KS, IA, MN), and now resides in the scrub brush surrounding Phoenix AZ, where the scorpions and javelinas play. Learn more about Ed at his blog, and his Amazon author page.

13 thoughts on “One-Star Reviews of the Hundred Greatest Novels, #25 to #1”

  1. 9 One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    “I’ve given it no stars because I’m so full of magic realism. I’m real and can perform magic, and I’m far more convincing than this pretentious work ever could be.”

    LOVE this! 🙂

    Here's a one-star review of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (from Amazon):

    I recently got through reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." I had read many amazing reviews. Many of these many reviews even called it a Masterpiece. Art. Literature. And various other fawning things. The Oracle of Oprah even bestowed her blessings.

    I swear, I think these reviewers must be so afraid to go against what is generally thought among their erudite group to be "brilliant." I really cannot understand what is brilliant about this book.

    Sure, the language is different. Sometimes it even sparkles. Sometimes, however, it is downright ridiculous: "The snow fell nor did it cease to fall." I think that's my favorite of the ridiculous. When I read that, I said to myself "Wow, he's trying to trick me somehow!" But I really don't know what the trick adds up to. Me being confused and annoyed, I guess. To those erudite reviewers it must be "brilliant."

  2. I have loved this series, Ed. Thanks for sharing these with us! Although #1 is well deserved, of today's my favourite is #20 The Great Gatsby: "So they were in love…yeah..I’ve been in love too, who cares?”

  3. Many points well taken here, Ed, about reader opinion being just that. But allow me one taunt: An effete precursor to The Bridges of Madison County. BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH.

  4. This time I only agree with about 85% of them.

    I loved the guy who worked "Last of the Mohicans" into it.

    Here's a review of James Fennimore Cooper "The conversations in the Cooper books have a curious sound in our modern ears. To believe that such talk really ever came out of people's mouths would be to believe that there was a time when time was of no value to a person who thought he had something to say; when it was the custom to spread a two-minute remark out to ten; when a man's mouth was a rolling-mill, and busied itself all day long in turning four-foot pigs of thought into thirty-foot bars of conversational railroad iron by attenuation; when subjects were seldom faithfully stuck to, but the talk wandered all around and arrived nowhere; when conversations consisted mainly of irrelevancies, with here and there a relevancy, a relevancy with an embarrassed look, as not being able to explain how it got there."

    Written by that benighted Philistine, Mark Twain
    We can imagine him puffing his cigar and demanding the ability to rate at zero stars.

    1. Twain has pissed me off ever since he said this:

      "I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable."

  5. The Dostoyevsky review s my favourite. Absolute favourite. Next to that; Great Expectations. Hi -larious.

  6. Why do I always get to these late?

    Anyway, yes, this is my favourite, The Sound and the Fury.

    “This book has inspired me to start a list of crap that is admired only because no one has the guts to admit they have no idea what the hell is going on. Although technically in this category, I give James Joyce the benefit of the doubt simply because I can’t understand anyone from Ireland anyway.”

    Ha ha!

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