In the United States, Labor Day is a federal holiday. This is the time when the people of the nation go online to see if they can get 30% off on that La-Z-Boy Recliner they’ve been desiring. (Is it awful that I didn’t know the proper spelling for those chairs? Until this morning, I thought people were buying Lazy Boy recliners. I was wrong. Apparently, the words “lazy” and “boy” are too generic to create a rock-solid trademark for La-Z-Boy, Inc, so they made up their own word.) The holiday is supposed to be the day when a grateful nation celebrates the contributions of its workers. That might have been what happened in the 19th century, but, these days, not so much. During the part of my lifetime that I remember, Labor Day has been when the country’s retailers make their workers put in overtime to ring up discounted merchandise.
Our Canadian friends celebrate Labor Day, too, but they spell the holiday as, “Labour Day.” Vowels are as plentiful as maple syrup in Canada, so they add a few extra to any word they can.
My Labor Day was largely uneventful, although I did receive one notable text. It was from a friend who has recently started writing, and she’d just received her first negative book review. She’s received some very nice reviews, but she never texts me about them. I suggested (a) she stop reading her reviews, since many writers only remember the bad ones; and (b) reassured her that even the most acclaimed writers will receive the occasional thumb in the eye.
I don’t think I helped. There are times when it’s better just to listen.
But (b) was absolutely true. Everyone with any kind of readership will get a bad review sooner or later. Today, I’m going to prove it. Knowing that people’s taste in books can be very different – it sounds crazy, but some people might not enjoy Agatha Christie’s Curtain, a story I love – I decided I should find a list of swell reads selected by someone other than myself. Not only swell reads, the BEST reads. In 2003, The Guardian (UK) offered their readership The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time. I decided that would do nicely.
I confess, I recognized a lot of the names on the list, but I haven’t read most of the books they selected. I’d like to have read several of them without actually having to spend the time to do so. (Ulysses by James Joyce? #45 on Guardian’s list. It’s supposed to be brilliant. Here’s one review: Worse book that I have read. It should not be considered a "classic".) Then I went onto Amazon to see if anyone said grumpy things about these other works of genius.
Horrible book it is beyond confusing. If you wish to be confused trying to keep up with a million characters the(n) be my guest (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL by James Ellroy. #95 on Guardian’s list.)
I sure hope the movie is better than this book. There is no "zero" star rating or I would have given it for this book. (TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY by John le Carré. #78 on Guardian’s list.)
It was a terrible book. The book is so unbelievable and weird. (NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell – Penguin Clothbound Classics. #59 on Guardian’s list.)
AHHHHHHHHHH, worst book i ever read! sorry Mark Twain but its really really bad! (ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain. #31 on Guardian’s list. Included here to tweak my writing partner, who adores the novel.)
This was literally the worst book I have EVER read. Well except 50 shades of Gray. (MOBY DICK: OR, THE WHITE WHALE by Herman Melville. #21 on Guardian’s list.)
Jumbled writing, many events were simply not plausible and downright depressing to the very end. I cannot count the number of times I simply wanted to scream at the protagonist. (FRANKENSTEIN – Reader’s Library Classics – by Mary Shelley. #10 on Guardian’s list.)
If you like road-trip stories, potty humor and the slapstick comedy of a bumbling protagonist, you may very well like this book. (DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes/Translated by Edith Grossman. #1 on Guardian’s list.)
These were all one-star reviews. Every book I checked had readers complaining about something or other. Every book. Do I feel these readers were wrong in their opinions? Hardly. They know what they like, and the various authors didn’t deliver an enjoyable experience for them. The readers shared their thoughts with the world. That’s fair.
One more, before I go:
Agatha Christie has written some stinkers, but really this is the worse. (CURTAIN by Agatha Christie. #1 on my Agatha Christie collection list.)
So, rest easy, L. You’re among some very good company.