I recently reread a memoir that had a subject pretty similar to mine. And I hated it. The premise was good. Some parts of it were super interesting. But the author couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be a journalist or a memoirist. To make things worse, she did something that some of my favorite journalists do (*ahem* Natalie Angier*ahem*), which is to show off their vocabulary until the sentences are hideously overwrought and E. B. White turns in his grave.
“I drank Scotch, my father’s favorite tipple in his sunset years”
Who fucking says “tipple” anymore? And his “sunset years”?? Please. What did he look like/smell like/sound like as he drank Scotch as an old man? Was he on a yacht in Florida or a shabby nursing home in Wyoming? Help me out here.
There’s another book that I read that was much lauded and about one of the topics I write about. And it was boring as fuck. The narrator was whiny, and she thought no one else had ever written about said subject. And she was published in the New Yorker. Feh.
But I think it is good to articulate why we hate books that try to do what we are trying to do but fail for one reason or another. Maybe it helps us avoid pitfalls. Maybe it helps us rethink structure. Maybe it challenges us to come up with criticisms outside our own inherent jealousies.
What’s your anti-book?