Book Reviews by Readers Ranging from Clueless to Insane
Gustav Flaubert said ‘I try to live in an ivory tower, but a tide of shit is constantly beating at its walls.’ He could have been talking about Goodreads. The shelves are your own personalized ivory tower, while the reviews are the tide of shit.
Just the thought of rating books kept me off Goodreads for years. I was too cool to mix social media and reading. No wifi in my tower. When I finally got on, I told myself it was just a reading list and ignored the reviews.
One day I decided to look down and see what the rabble had to say. I started reading the reviews. What I found was hilarious.
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE — J.K ROWLING
Adam looked at Harry Potter as a class struggle, a world divided between wizards and muggles. He didn’t like all the wizard-privilege and cheap shots at middle-class values. Adam’s biggest issue, however, is that Harry Potter is ‘written in the style of a children’s book.
To which one learned commenter replied:
The most popular one star review was written by none other than Lord V*ldemort.
ULYSSES — JAMES JOYCE
Joyce’s masterpiece didn’t do it for Caris. But don’t worry, Caris’ review gives the rest of us permission to like it, providing we’re okay with committing a venial sin in Caris’ mind.
You can imagine how this sort of windbaggery went over with the types who like Joyce. The comment section that follows the review is a 37 car pileup of sarcasm, puns, intellectual pissing contests, and meta-trolling. Which brings to mind Joyce’s immortal words: “The troll trolls to troll the troll that trolls the troll to troll the troll that trolls.” I wonder what this guy thought of Finnegan’s Wake?
CASINO ROYALE — IAN FLEMMING
Readers complain that the James Bond novels read ‘like something out of the 1950s.’ Well, considering they were written between 1953 and 1966, I don’t know what to tell you. Plenty of five-star reviews acknowledge the rampant political incorrectness (by today’s standards) in Flemings work and some readers see it as one of his charms.
Inder from Oakland, on the other hand, isn’t having it. She calls the book ‘over-the-top offensive’ and blames Fleming for creating a ‘brutal’ ideal of masculinity. Which is fair enough, but then she has to throw in this little barb, ‘I want my morning back.’ As if to say, ‘someone like me needs but an hour or two to read this sort of thing.’ When Inder isn’t wasting her mornings on offensive spy novels, she enjoys folk art, veganism, and sacred harp music (check her profile.)
Don’t worry, Inder, darling, Mi-6 isn’t sending Bond to The Starry Plough anytime soon and you don’t seem like the type to play high stakes baccarat in Monte Carlo or Mombasa.
LOLITA — VLADIMIR NABOKOV
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you the over-share of the century: Stepheny uses her review of this controversial classic to tell the story of her own loss of innocence at the hands of an older perve, complete with pictures. She was 14, he was 22 and someone her family trusted, much like Humbert Humbert. Obviously, the relationship ended in disaster and heartbreak. But her story has a happy ending. 15 years later, she met someone her own age, someone she describes as ‘just as odd as I am.’ She includes a collage of the two of them in her book review.
Stepheny’s sad story made me want to call the police. Instead I forwarded the review to our editor Alex Mak. ‘It’s Goodreads,’ he said, ‘not her diary.’
But let’s give credit where credit is due, Stepheny was able read past the creep factor, which is more than you could say for a lot of readers. She writes:
‘The book, subject matter aside, is completely brilliant.’
THE WAVES — VIRGINIA WOOLF
In fairness to Lynette, this is a tough one. It took me about six weeks to read all 180 pages. But Lynette isn’t reviewing the book, she’s reviewing herself as a reader.
REDEPLOYMENT — PHIL KLAY
Not everyone wants to read dirty words, but when you pick up a book about Marines in Iraq, you should know what to expect.
To review this review I talked to my dad, Lieutenant ‘Chuck’ Daly USMC ret. He’s a wounded Marine with a Silver Star, a Purple heart, and a head full of bad memories and dirty jokes. He loved Redeployment and had strong feelings about the review:
‘As a Marine might say, she (the reviewer) wouldn’t know shit if she had a mouthful.” He looks away with the infamous 1000-yard-stare. ‘You know what’s really obscene? Young men killing other young men. I saw a guy go down whose last words were: ‘shit.’’
SWITCH BITCH — ROALD DHAL
The beloved author of The BFG and Matilda also wrote stories for adults. Really raunchy stories that originally appeared in Playboy. As another Goodread-er points out, the stories are xenophobic, misogynistic, and brilliant. One thing they are not: bedtime stories. Neither is this review. The guy starts talking about reading Switch Bitch to his son by accident and ends up on the topic of orifices.
* * *
I think I need a bedtime story.