In one of the Sundays they had a feature (notice I'm not naming either the paper - Murdoch!!! - or the writer - career misogynist!!) about books that made you see red. I had this idea way back in my previous job, maybe a nicely arranged display of "Our Least Favourite Books", but was told by my manager that there was no way Head Office would allow it.. No surprise really. What was interesting about the whole exercise, though, was the fact that pretty much all the stuff the (literary) contributors hated was in the genre of .. any guesses? Oh yes, our old friend "literary fiction" (rabbit ears back atcha, Rol). While I can see that it's possible to get worked up over the fact that someone other than oneself/one's husband/one's best friend won the Booker, or that some Old Dead Guy is lauded as a great figure of the literary world and you secretly have a chip about him because he's posh/common/gay/rich/a man, I have to say that most of the worst books I've ever read have been bad because they were just badly-written. Or unimaginative. Or, in the case of childrens' books, a downright exercise in cynical money-grabbing, like the Rainbow Fairies series - there are 60-odd of them so far, with many many more in the offing, and they work on the publishing principle that little girls will buy ANYTHING, regardless of tissue-thin plot, as long as it's pink and/or sparkly, and the title contains the words "Fairy", "Ballet" or "Unicorn". In fact there's a new (non-Rainbow Fairy) series that has all three - a fairy ballet school with talking pets, including a unicorn (and the cover's glittery!!!!). Now that makes me see red. But after my last post about literary snobbery I should just point out that none of this means I think children should be shackled to Dickens from an early age - after all, if you don't read crap you'll never learn to enjoy the good stuff...!
Herewith, anyway, my very least favourite book. I wasted 3 hours of my life speed-reading it. It is (drumroll) "Magic" by Tami Hoag. I like a bit of supernatural crime - Phil Rickman, John Connolly, and the grandfather of them all Charles Williams* - so I picked this up, foolishly thinking it might be worth a try. FOOLISHLY I tells ya. It was the worst combination of the worst possible elements - a Scooby Doo level of crime, a romance where they hate each other but just, y'know, kinda can't stop thinking about each other, and a ghost story where the author, evidently someone who's never been nearer England than an atlas, inserts an "adorable" 1920s ghost called (if I remember correctly) Archibald Wimsey, who refers anachronistically to Oxfam, and was the least cute "cute" character I've ever read. The veritable JarJar Binks of fiction. This, to quote someone sensible, is not a book to be lightly laid aside. It is to be hurled with great force.
*Charles Williams - a member of the Inklings, the same literary set as Tolkien and C S Lewis, and the least read nowadays. He wrote strange, lovely, metaphysical novels, the best-known of which was "Many Dimensions", a nearly-crime novel about the 20th century discovery, subsequent theft, and recovery of the Stone of Solomon (or Philosopher's Stone). Truly great writing, deeply questioning, and if you find a copy of any of his novels on abebooks or amazon, snap 'em up.