Bad Narrative II: Books to Shun in 2012

Having reported on the worst novels of 2011, I feel it's my duty, based on advance galley proofs, to warn readers about which  novels to avoid next year.  Of course, these are just my opinions, but, then, it was just Alexander Fleming's opinion that Penicillium notatum might secrete a substance that could kill bad bacteria.                                                          

A Pillow for Sam, by T. F. Juniper


When young hot-shot journalist Samantha Collins is diagnosed with pink eye at the age of 27, she spirals into a state of depression and fear. How can she recover? Will she recover? How will her friends react? Can she have children? These questions are asked, but the reader is never given any reason to care about the answers. Oddly, Juniper tries to weave in bits of humor in this novel. As someone who has suffered through conjunctivitis, I can assure you it's no laughing matter.  This novel takes liberties with the science, and the "humor" is greatly misplaced (to the retina) and offensive.


Murder of Trust: A Jack Jordan Mystery, by Louis P. Gladstone


Every great detective needs a gimmick, and Jack Jordan’s well-known trait is that he really likes soup. That’s it. That’s the extent of his supposedly unique personality. The idiosyncrasy is obviously shoehorned into sentences such as, "I’ll get to the bottom of this, like a lentil sinks to the bottom of a bowl of soup."  Well, for one thing, by no means all lentils sink to the bottom of their soups, and for another it doesn’t help that Det. Jordan’s sidekick, Caribbean Pete, is only there to offer his catchphrase, "Uh-huh."


Dragon Tomb, by Arthur G. Guth


While Guth’s fantasy story has an intriguing plot, too much of the book is spent explaining where the various towns are located. A map would have been helpful. Instead, the reader must endure page after page of explanatory itineraries,  such as the following: "The hero traveled West, past some other towns. One of the towns was oval-shaped. And then he turned a little bit, and went kind of to the South. There’s a mountain there. Did I mention that? So then he keeps going, and there’s a valley that’s not that big. I mean, it’s not small, but it's OK. He doesn’t spend too much time there. There’s also an ocean, but don’t worry about it. Then there’s this path, kind of. And a hut. But the hut is on the right. It’s far."


The Long, Tepid Summer of Our Forsaken Love, by Lachryma Jones


A debut novel that shows it. Why on earth would Dori Mastroianni, the beautiful CEO of a large soft-drink corporation, fall in love with Nikolai, the fruit-stand vendor on the corner of the street where she lives?  Especially when he turns out not to be the head of a top-secret intelligence gathering agency trying to gather-- well, intelligence, about new methods of soda carbonation that can be used to make America's enemies explode one at a time? I said, not to be. He turns out to be a fruit-stand vendor who handles melons with particular grace. Maybe that's it. In any case, when Dori's board of directors get wind of their affair, they ask her to-- You know what? I'm not going to tell you what happens, because I don't know. I stopped reading when the language barrier prevented Nikolai from comprehending Dori's sexual demands and he just stood there.


The Treasure of Spider Island, by Richard Hawkes


This is nothing more than Finnegans Wake, but with pirates.


Like Immanuel Kant, whom he admires in some ways but not in others, Dan Bergstein takes a "constitutional" every evening.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.