July 12, 2004
Worst Books I Ever Read
Following the meme. I don't read many bad books. That's because I don't use the library. I buy books, and I rarely buy a book I don't think I'd enjoy. But sometimes someone loans me a book, and sometimes I make dumb mistakes. Without getting into the whys and wherefores, here are books I remember hating because they were supposed to be all that, and weren't.
1. The Isis Papers, by Frances Cress Welsing
3. Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino
4. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, by Henry Miller
5. The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi
6. The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe To Each Other, by Randall Robinson
7. The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor
Most of these books were mostly disappointments, especially Naylor, whom I like and respect as an author. But there is no number two when it comes to bad. The Isis Papers is the Nick Berg video of literature. And so I dedicate a few paras of scortched earth.
This book is so horrid that it made me ill just thinking about it. It is obscenely retarded, ridiculously hyperbolic and has all the style of the instructions on a package of dog food. I've read cereal boxes with more wit and humor. I've heard more insight into the nature of race from 7 year old children.
Perhaps the only thing more astounding than the fact that the book was ever published is that there are people who actually believe this garbage. It only underscores how tragic are the dimensions of this uniquely American dilemma.
I will periodically could come back and add to this review every time I have an opportunity to find a new metaphor for idiotic poison stinkiness. In fact, the Isis Papers is a milestone, a testament to awfulness which will have critics reaching for superlatives for years to come. It will continue to challenge reasonable people with common sense to find ways to describe its slimy gutwrenching putrid foulness. Think of the old woman in the Princess Bride booing Buttercup. Boo
After I read it, I tried to justify it. I tried to figure out where she was coming from. No good. It sat on my shelf - and I thought, well at least I can tell something about people by judging their reaction to the book on my shelf. Instead, I just got nauseated by seeing it there. I actually felt sorry for the books that were next to it. OK, I say - there has got to be a good use for it. So I cut out the middle of it and made it into a book safe. Then I couldn't think of anything I cared about enough to hide, but not so much that I would put it into the embrace of the Isis Papers.
In the end there was only one good use I found for this book. I threw it into the trash. With that one motion I felt purified and my house felt cleaner. So I picked it out of the trash and did it again 12 times.
I would remind thoughtful people, in case you've never seen it -heaven forbid the temptation strikes you - that books don't burn well; whole books that is. If you take the pages out one at a time however, you get good kindling. Just thought you should know.
Posted by mbowen at July 12, 2004 02:33 AM
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Tracked on July 15, 2004 06:43 AM
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Tracked on September 21, 2004 11:19 PM
co-sign on The Isis Papers! I bought that piece of trash at the used book store. I was mad I spent whatever I spent on it. Then I thought about it again and got madder because that meant I was at least the second fool who had bought that copy. I think I actually threw it out.
Posted by: avery at July 12, 2004 03:37 PM
The Isis Papers, by Frances Cress Welsing
Weren't you one of the people who ripped me a new one for saying that I thought the Isis Papers was bad?!?!?!?!?
Posted by: DarkStar at July 12, 2004 06:42 PM
Wasn't me. I've googled up old scaa stuff...
Posted by: Cobb at July 13, 2004 07:34 AM
Posted by: DarkStar at July 13, 2004 05:47 PM
oh geez..thanks for the book burning tip--as a Librarian, it really made my day. Ok, so what exactly didn't you like about Brewster Place? Naylor is one of my favorite authors too.
Posted by: Sandra at July 14, 2004 07:12 AM
I read Naylor's book expecting something mindblowingly extraordinary. It was the first "black woman's" book I ever read, so I had no context. I basically went out and asked, what's the best book out there in Black Fiction, and was pointed to this which had won Book of the Year or some such. So I read it and it's a Ghetto tale about trifling black men and vengeful black women..hoo boy. Not what I wanted to hear, especially since I was in full blast Buppie mode.
The book gave me that feeling that people describe as 'Affirmative Action Stigma'. I kept thinking, this is considered the best we can do? If so I am completely disgusted with black literature. Fortunately I read Beloved shortly thereafter and my world was changed. When you are longing for the luxurious complex prose of Toni Morrison (and you don't know it) and you get the plain talk of Gloria Naylor, you are bound to be disappointed.
One more thing I should say, is having no real experience with black lit, being handed books like 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' as examples of the best had a negative effect on me early on. So I have always disliked dem book wid de venakaler spellin in em.
(Is anyone old enuf tuh recollect when duh newspapers used tuh quote dem Negroes like dis?)
Posted by: Cobb at July 14, 2004 07:47 AM
What exactly did you not like about the Isis Papers? Theory? Prose? Research? Conclusions? Implications?
Posted by: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at August 2, 2004 05:12 PM
It simply sounded retarded. Furthermore, when I spoke to other black scholars I respected for their opinion of the book, they trashed it too. That included Van Sertima & Naim Akbar whom I spoke to personally.
I think the more African American researchers and scholars you talk to, the more you'll realize that the only people who believe Cress-Welsing's theories are naive undergrads and hoowinked people with no college level critical skills.
Posted by: Cobb at August 2, 2004 05:26 PM
my god. where do i even start in stating my objections to the isis papers. some kid at work was reading it for a school assignment. i read half of this jaw droppingly stupid book and told the kids that in my estimation: "wesling is a fucking loon". i tried explaining that white people do have melanin in our skin, albeit not as much as blacks. you'd think an alleged head shrinker would have enough of an education in hard science to know this. any psychiatrist that doesn't know that white do have melanin out to have their licences revoked.
she starts off with so many false premises and simply runs with them, never questioning her own blatantly stupid assertions.
for instance she claims that jesus was black. any moron without a racial axe to grind can tell you that he was a. from the middle east. b. the middle east is in asia and c. jesus was probably arabic in appearance.
the woman is absolutely obsessed with black male genitalia and simply assumes white males are too. the cristian cross? black male genitalia. swastikas? big black dicks. guns? yep. you guessed it african tube steak.
honestly, i'm less concerned these days with white suppremacist holding blacks down than i am with this silly hag holding her own kind down. but what do i know i'm probably only projecting my black schlong envy off on her.
Posted by: kurt at August 2, 2004 08:57 PM
I think this book needs to be read more than once. When I see pictures of lynchings of my people, I always wonder why they had a pieace of clothe wrap around thier waist. Come to find out that white men always cut the penis of blackmen in the majority of the lynchings.
When I researched the tasmanian people (aboriginals) of Australia, there again Europeans cut of the penis of the men. Why? Before you just start saying its the worst book or this person is crazy your you should look for proof or just investigate the information. If alot of people studied history on thier own they would see what the Isis Papers is really about. What is the reason behind white men castrating black men when lynched?
Posted by: Nat Turner at November 1, 2004 06:25 PM