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August 22, 2014 3:20 AM   Subscribe

Reviews of classic books, culled from the internet's think tank.
posted by Too-Ticky (64 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Yellow Wallpaper, "I cannot even deal with yellow rooms now."

I blurted coffee all over my keyboard.

(and now with Shakesperean pop sonnets, I now have TWO English lessons for the year!)
posted by kinetic at 3:30 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


“I felt like Camus was trying to make some kind of a point”

You got it!
posted by Thing at 3:39 AM on August 22 [9 favorites]


kinetic, you may also enjoy Rinkworks Book-a-Minute.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:41 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Too be fair, the review of Coetze's Disgrace cited in the post title is pretty much accurate.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 3:48 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Waiting for Godot: “I don’t know if my book was incomplete or if this whole thing was some kind of weird joke.”

Wait here and I'll tell you later.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:00 AM on August 22 [27 favorites]


You Moogle
posted by gorbichov at 4:12 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Barthelme: “he is to serious literature what Weird Al Yankovic is to pop music.”

excuse me that is a five star review kind sir
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:19 AM on August 22 [7 favorites]


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “Struggle struggle struggle then some Lion come from out of nowhere and saves the day.”

... OK I'll give you that one.
posted by kyrademon at 4:20 AM on August 22 [12 favorites]


"The book is basically Dilbert in World War II."

You really ought to read the full review; it's a doozy.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:31 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


Along similar lines.
posted by kewb at 4:31 AM on August 22


This seems to be disparaging the reviewers, but the line on Love You Forever is spot on.
posted by graymouser at 4:32 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


They should really link to the original reviews.
posted by kersplunk at 4:35 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


This site has caused my boyfriend to curl up in bed and comment, "I'm not going to work today. These people are out there, probably breeding."
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:35 AM on August 22 [11 favorites]


I would like someone to explain this paragraph to me:

"If his title had been something slightly less appealing like "Catch-33" or if the term "Catch-22" was used but hidden in the text, rather than used as the title, no one would have ever heard of this book."
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:42 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


> I would like someone to explain this paragraph to me.

"Joseph Heller was a fucking hipster because he made all the fucking hipsters want to pull quotes from his book."
posted by ardgedee at 4:51 AM on August 22


Incidentally, this site brings to the fore one of the worst things about Tumblr: Legitimizing the ethos of never linking to sources. These bad-review snippets are fine, but for fuck's sake, link to sources. Maybe we want to see the whole review that the quotes came from.
posted by ardgedee at 4:55 AM on August 22 [15 favorites]


I have to complain about the Hamlet review: Fortinbras is alive at the end.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:00 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I would like someone to explain this paragraph to me:

My guess is that the reviewer supposes the book traded on the well-known expression 'Catch-22' to promote itself. Sort of like how Shakespeare has that irritating habit of sticking dozens of famous quotes into the text of his plays.
posted by Segundus at 5:08 AM on August 22 [32 favorites]


Some of them are really spot-on:
“I know if I was a kid and woke up in the middle of the night to see my mom peeking at me over the edge of the bed like Gollum at his precious, I would still be telling my therapist about it to this very day.” (Love you forever)

“Okay, we get it. Dignified working conditions = good, slipping and drowning in a pool of pig blood = bad.” (The Jungle)

“I see that there is an apple on the front so I think —- cookbook!….Then no apples or recipes. Only things that are not true about the world around us.” (Freakonomics)
And this is a useful review to keep in mind for books I hate:
“I doubt I’ll pick it back up unless I run out of books to read, I’m too poor to buy any more books, all my friends turn on me and refuse to loan me anything else, and all the nearby libraries are set on fire simultaneously.” (Leaves of grass)
posted by jeather at 5:13 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


These are lame reviews. They don't even do any analysis. Take the book info away and you wouldn't know what text was being reviewed.
posted by Quilford at 5:30 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Gilgamesh: “i guess i am not an ‘medievals’ person.

Bwahaha!
posted by Omnomnom at 5:38 AM on August 22


Sort of related....
My wife mentioned that at the middle school she teaches at, the literature class no longer is allowed to read and study fiction, just non-fiction, because non-fiction leads to higher test scores because non-fiction contains more facts. Not making this up. I asked her, who are the insane people making these decisions?
posted by jabah at 6:04 AM on August 22 [11 favorites]


Interestingly, one of the reasons I like low-dimensional topology is precisely because it's so surfacy. A matter of context, I guess.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:08 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


Related: Paul F Tompkins doing "Amazon Review Theater" on Wits. Dramatic readings of 1-star Amazon reviews.
posted by youknowwhatpart at 6:08 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


“I may be just a ‘Moogle’ (as they say in the books) but I just don’t get it.”

KUPO!
posted by dismas at 6:08 AM on August 22 [11 favorites]


I really want to read some of these reviews because I suspect they are actually thoughtful reviews where the author is facetious to make a point. But yeah, no links.

I tried googling "'toad had hair' review 'wind in the willows'" and all three results I got back pointed to the tumblr. Maybe some of these are made up?

Dammit. I don't want to have to read WitW to find out if Toad actually had hair in the books or are they upset that he had hair in the cartoon version?!
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:17 AM on August 22


“Want to read about people with psychological problems from a guy who’s obsessed with bears and prostitutes? John Irving is your man.”

That's not an unfair point, it has to be said. Bears, prostitutes and wrestling.
posted by Grangousier at 6:19 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


The thing is, all of these lean on the idea that "we" have intellectual opinions about Serious Literature, while they - for some value of "they" - are just lazy and ignorant. I mean, obviously, some of them are terrible, like the one of Beloved, but a lot of them are just informal and sort of flippant (like the On The Road one), and I mean really, why not? I could dress up my opinion about Jack Kerouac in classier language, but it basically boils down to "you are an annoying dudebro who is also kind of racist", and while that's, I think, true, it's also not that helpful or sophisticated. And yet I am A Serious Literature Person with Many Serious Works Of Literature on my shelves.

Also, I love Infinite Jest but could not tell you why - I'm basically just the inverse of the person who hated it.

I also thought the Alice B. Toklas one was hilarious - I've been meaning to read that forever, and now that I'm thinking of it as about a bunch of clowns like Picasso, I'm totally in.

And I had no idea that there was significant deviant sex in Alice Munro short stories.
posted by Frowner at 6:20 AM on August 22 [9 favorites]


I also wonder how many of these were from classes where students were required to write and post reviews.

And honestly, the one where the writer was all "just once I would like a cheerful book in English class" - my god, it was nonstop grim grim grim mid-20th century fiction about people who were totally unself-aware all the way from mid-9th-grade through graduation. You would think that, like, James Thurber, Robertson Davies, Doris Lessing, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alistair Gray and so on had never even existed.
posted by Frowner at 6:25 AM on August 22 [8 favorites]


Er, I mean, we read that fiction from 9th grade to graduation. The characters were un-self-aware all their lives.
posted by Frowner at 6:27 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


Some of these remind me of my all-time-favorite book review, for a now very little known American lipogram novel of civic virtue from the 1930s, written entirely without the letter "e," E.V. Wright's Gadsby --

"It will be read when Shakespeare and Milton are forgot -- but only then."
posted by deathmarch to epistemic closure at 6:43 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart: “Way too much information about yams”.

Well. They're not wrong.
posted by ZaphodB at 6:59 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


I don't remember toad having hair. But he did keep saying "poop poop!"
posted by chapps at 7:13 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I'm uncomfortable with the way this is framed—like Frowner said, sort of an "us" versus "them" where "we" are the ones who Know Books and "they" in all their innocence voice opinions that miss the point, or are hilariously uninformed, or mayyyybe are occasionally insightful in that "kids say the darndest things/stopped clock twice a day" kind of way. It's condescending and a little offensive. I just don't think people should be shamed in public for having the audacity to read a book, and then write a review on the Internet about their experience of reading the book.

(I went through a few pages of the tumblr after writing the above in an attempt to come up with a more charitable reading of the whole thing but... I just can't. Some of the reviews deserve to be called out for racism and/or misogyny, for sure, but in general it seems like a lot of punching-down and laughing-at.)
posted by aparrish at 7:21 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


“Want to read about people with psychological problems from a guy who’s obsessed with bears and prostitutes? John Irving is your man.”

I actually think this sounds like a great advertisement, but it may be that reading some Rudolph Wurlitzer at the moment is influencing me.
posted by mr. digits at 7:21 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


“If written today this would be seen as fan fiction.”

this take on the Aeneid is spot-on.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:40 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


Gilgamesh: “i guess i am not an ‘medievals’ person.

My all time favorite overheard conversation was between a mother and a child in a bookstore: What's that book you need? Beowulf. Who's it by? I dunno. Well how are we going to find the book if you don't know who the author is?

"If his title had been something slightly less appealing like "Catch-33" or if the term "Catch-22" was used but hidden in the text, rather than used as the title, no one would have ever heard of this book."

Whew. Good thing Joe didn't go with his first choice, Catch-18.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


The working title was "The Really Tricky Catch."
posted by Naberius at 8:39 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Sherlock Holmes: “The stories are great, but don’t have anything at all to do with the new TV show.”

Ow. I need to hurt this person.
posted by dnash at 8:45 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


“I am not from England, but from this book, i am understanding that Brits are ver vague, very surfacy, no depth.”

I guess it looks like this one might be right.

I kid, I kid. But this one at least is from a real review, so maybe they're not made up.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:47 AM on August 22


Where are you guys seeing the framing that all of this is meant as mockery? Some of these are funny because of the reviewer's cluelessness, but some are funny because they are understandable, legit reactions to these books.
posted by yarrow at 8:55 AM on August 22 [10 favorites]


Without context I have to assume many of these are written by people who are devoted readers. It takes at least a modicum of literary insight to draw a line from Barthelme to Weird Al.
posted by Lorin at 8:55 AM on August 22 [7 favorites]


I think these are wonderful for exactly the reasons yarrow gives.

The ugly duckling: "“This is a good book because it shows how you can be ugly and still move on.”

ahahahahaha


For 2001 A Space Odyssey, mine would be:

"Read the book. Didn't get it. Watched the movie. Still didn't get it."


Difficult literature is difficult. I've always wanted to read Finnegan's Wake (even rented the audio book) but I just couldn't make it understandable. I've got to make more English Lit friends.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:09 AM on August 22


And honestly, the one where the writer was all "just once I would like a cheerful book in English class" - my god, it was nonstop grim grim grim mid-20th century fiction about people who were totally unself-aware all the way from mid-9th-grade through graduation.

So so glad of the system in my school, which was basically going through the broad outline of Dutch/English literature and a basic understanding of literary tools in class while handing you a list of acceptable books to read for the exams, with the understanding that you had to read for this many points, then knock yourself out. Want to read something not on the list? Make a case for it and you could get it included.

It meant I could at least read those books I was most likely to actually enjoy reading.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:11 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


Yes! My English teacher even allowed me to read The Wall, as in the complete lyrics of the album by Pink Floyd, on the condition that I would type them out (yes, I'm that old). That way, he knew for sure that I had done more than just listening to the album.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:27 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


The Catcher in the Rye: "‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger is about a troubled teen named Harold Claufield."

Been laughing at this one for at least five minutes.
posted by JohnFromGR at 9:39 AM on August 22


So so glad of the system in my school, which was basically going through the broad outline of Dutch/English literature and a basic understanding of literary tools in class while handing you a list of acceptable books to read for the exams, with the understanding that you had to read for this many points, then knock yourself out. Want to read something not on the list? Make a case for it and you could get it included.

What did you actually do in class? We had "discussions" of the readings - and since almost no one actually read anything (except me, because I was awful) it was mostly people bullshitting. Also, since as a nation we have contempt for reading, the fact that a handful of students actually read the books more or less according to the syllabus was met with great scorn, so even the books that might have been fun to talk about were really held in contempt by almost everyone. (Did I go to some kind of deprived school where people were not fluent readers and thus legitimately hated reading? I did not; I went to high school in a relatively affluent suburb and these were the honors classes.)
posted by Frowner at 9:50 AM on August 22


On The Road: “Do you have any feelings, or are you just TOO FUCKING COOL?”

Hee.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:11 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


What did you actually do in class? We had "discussions" of the readings - and since almost no one actually read anything (except me, because I was awful) it was mostly people bullshitting.

Funny anecdote: I went to both English Canadian "English" class and 1 semester of French Canadian "English" class in Montreal.

English Canada - discussion on themes, symbols etc., just like you'd expect.

French Canada - straight up reading comprehension. I failed their Literature class as a result. Example writing assignment: "What did the man in the story want?" I wrote "He was reflecting on his childhood and wishing for a simpler time, as evidenced by how much time he devoted to his fond memories and the frustration he expressed at his current situation."

The answer was: "He wanted his dog back." Literally the line in the story was "He longed for his dog."

The whole test was like that. I just about lost it. This was 11th grade btw.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:15 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


At some point in the text it does mention Toad combing his hair. I always imagined him giving his amphibian warty scalp a couple of light passes with a comb and giving himself a smug look in the mirror, much as a basically bald guy will arrange his last 3 hairs across his shining pate and think "lookin FINE man" .
posted by The otter lady at 10:22 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


What did you actually do in class? We had "discussions" of the readings - and since almost no one actually read anything (except me, because I was awful) it was mostly people bullshitting.

A lot of people view anecdotes like these as evidence for the need for classroom and education reform. But to me, the issue goes deeper than that: it's our broader culture and its values that drive the attitudes we bring into the classroom whether we are students, teachers, or parents. We all know attitudes toward the importance of learning and secular, liberal education have taken massive hits in the American culture at large. People speak openly with contempt about "eggheads" and conservatives vilify liberal academic culture. We don't really value education. We pay lip service to valuing it, but in practice, we mock it, marginalize it, shirk it, deplore it. Reading in particular is an interest many Americans take an inordinate amount of pride in dismissing as boring or useless. Our kids know how we really feel about education, implicitly, and they bring that knowledge into the classroom, as reflected in their poor classroom performance and behavior. You're not going to fix a problem that goes so deep by rearranging class schedules or evaluating teachers differently.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on August 22 [6 favorites]


But more seriously, great fpp!
posted by saulgoodman at 10:29 AM on August 22


On The Road: “Do you have any feelings, or are you just TOO FUCKING COOL?”

Someone didn't do the assignment ... Because if you've read OTR, then you know the response is OH CHRIST WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS
posted by octobersurprise at 10:42 AM on August 22


The Sun Also Rises: “This book reads like a series of Twitter posts by an arrogant alcoholic hanging around with his irresponsible alcoholic friends.”

I liked The Sun Also Rises, but that's still a pretty accurate review.
posted by mosk at 10:45 AM on August 22


Also loved the review of A Good Man is Hard to Find: “I’d really, REALLY like to read a pleasant book for English class. Just once.”
posted by mosk at 10:46 AM on August 22


I asked her, who are the insane people making these decisions?

People whose jobs and salaries depend upon the test scores of sweaty hormonal children.
posted by emjaybee at 11:26 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Also I have ranted before about how school reading is all tragedy all the time. My theory is that to administrators, dark and tragic=Real Literature while anything with humor (even Shakespeare plays!)= too lightweight. Also, if kids are laughing in class, they may not be learning! Chaos! Disorder! Depressed teens are harder to manage, maybe.

And they are the reason I read nothing remotely literary outside of school for years; after following up Where the Red Fern Grows with Julius Caesar and then The Scarlet Letter, you will read any old crap so long as it doesn't have depressed people facing death and maundering about it for 200-300 pages.

In other words, school curriculum is directly responsible for the existence of Sweet Valley High books.
posted by emjaybee at 11:31 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I asked her, who are the insane people making these decisions?

the Borg
posted by philip-random at 11:48 AM on August 22


I read and enjoyed the Wind-up Bird Chronicle but in all honesty I can't articulate any more about it than that review did.
posted by solotoro at 11:56 AM on August 22


First line of that Catch-22 review - I read this in eighth grade two years ago. So he does go on about the hipster bit, and later says "This is the sort of book that you might hear people discuss at snobbish cocktail parties."

So, nice. Kid's all full of resentment and scorn for ill-defined 'hipsters' and 'snobs' whom he apparently suspects are judging him behind his back, and maybe getting girls by pretending to like things... quick, somebody get him a metafilter account!

It makes me wonder how many of the excerpts here are, similarly, from high-school-age kids, who were in most cases assigned the books in class. If they'd had this when I was being forced to read stuff, boy, I would have spoken some truth to power too!
posted by hap_hazard at 3:35 PM on August 22


Dunno about toads but here is a hairy frog don't look it's disgusting
posted by glasseyes at 5:50 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Sherlock Holmes: “The stories are great, but don’t have anything at all to do with the new TV show.”

This review makes a lot more sense if you realise they're now selling the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories with a photo Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on the cover. I can't find an image with a cursory search, but I saw it in a bookstore about a year ago.
posted by Georgina at 5:58 PM on August 22


Sherlock Holmes: “The stories are great, but don’t have anything at all to do with the new TV show.”

Ow. I need to hurt this person.


Why? That's one of the reviews that is full of truth. At this point, Sherlock has almost nothing to do with ACD canon.

This review makes a lot more sense if you realise they're now selling the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories with a photo Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on the cover.

The one I saw not only had a Cumberbatch cover, but also an introduction where he says that he never read the original stories because he's too busy being some kind of real life Wodehouse character. It was kind of incomprehensible, yet it made me like him more, at least it motivated me to spell his name correctly when talking about him on the internet.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:15 PM on August 22


Ulysses: “This book not only ruined a week at the beach but also damaged my self-esteem.”

HA. I love the mental image of someone bringing along Joyce as a light beach read, and later emerging from their vacation a hollow shell of a person.

Age of Innocence: “Paris Hilton meets Pride and Prejudice.”

Has anyone else read Age of Innocence? This is spot-on.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:20 AM on August 23 [3 favorites]


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