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Great American Parade
February 19, 2003 1:01 PM   Subscribe

The author of the worst novel ever published in the English language gamely submits to an interview by the Washington Post.
posted by alms (48 comments total)

 
Hm. I thought the "worst book" trophy had already been claimed.
posted by blueshammer at 1:07 PM on February 19, 2003


I didn't think Dave Eggers did interviews anymore.
posted by briank at 1:11 PM on February 19, 2003


I use "indeed" in casual conversation.
posted by anapestic at 1:13 PM on February 19, 2003


at least the guy finished a novel. that's a damn good start.

now all he needs is really really kickass editor.

really kickass.

(honestly though, i'm always impressed by people who have the wherewithal to follow through on things -- music albums, novels, paintings, sculptures, programs -- even when those things are terribly lacking in talent. i actually like to pretend that the people who finish works the most often are those who are the poorest self-critics: because they don't realize they're making a gigantic pile of poo, they've got no problem carrying on with their efforts. of course, that's because i'm an egotistical asshole who thinks he's better than all of you. that's right: all of you.)
posted by fishfucker at 1:14 PM on February 19, 2003


it wasn't all bad:

Your book is printed on very white, shiny paper.
posted by poopy at 1:17 PM on February 19, 2003


So this means my longtime idea for a novel - the world's first (Grisham-esque) economic development thriller - wouldn't fly?
posted by raysmj at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2003


Uhhmm, isn't Hubbard dead and buried in Helena, Mt?

(At least Burrows tried to keep a touch with reality...)
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:19 PM on February 19, 2003


briank: Ha!
I loved this interview, this was great, thanks for the link. I loved how the reviewer felt like he should say something good about the book: Your book is printed on very white, shiny paper. Precious. Maybe I should order a copy just to have one. I can point to the bookshelf and tell dinner guests, "And there you will find the worst novel ever written in the english language."
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:21 PM on February 19, 2003


What? How do they know I'm not a female born in 1981 and living in 90210. Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of hell, Washington Post.
posted by wobh at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2003


Get it while it's hot
posted by shabrem at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2003


I think I would like to read that book. Maybe it's because I feel sorry for the author. But that parade sounds like a pretty weird and funny idea.
posted by faustessa at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2003


Ray, you've been beaten already...LeCarre's "The Constant Gardener" is a pretty good development mystery.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2003


And to a particular someone: how much better can you be when your romantic skills garner only salmon?
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2003


Blueshammer:Hm. I thought the "worst book" trophy had already been claimed.

The sequel to Faith of the Fallen (The Pillars of Something or Other) is even worse. Yes, I read them both all the way through. No, I don't know why. No, I won't be reading his next.

Great American Parade sounds fascinating in it's awfulness.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2003


Me: Listen, I'd like to write a really snide piece wherein I make fun of you a lot and make myself look really smart. You'll come out looking like an idiot, but it might sell some books. Is that cool?

Burrows: Yes.


Talk about your Faustian pacts.
posted by mikrophon at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2003


You've got to love an author who comes right out and says things like “it was my intention in writing this book to capture the public’s attention to the realization that eliminating the estate is comparable to sticking a knife in the heart of our democracy”.

That's almost...refreshing. It has topicality, local colour, a nice dust-jacket -- what more could you want?
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:28 PM on February 19, 2003


"Uhhmm, isn't Hubbard dead and buried in Helena, Mt?"

Actually Hubbard wrote some good science fiction before he hit on the idea of forming his own religion. And I'm sure you can appreciate the difficulty of writing science fiction while at the same time trying to maintain credibility for the idea that some of your *other* science fiction plot is actually gospel. The balance can't be easy to maintain.

And of course, following on the original theme of this thread - How many of us have had people take our looniest ideas so seriously that they handed over millions of dollars?
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:42 PM on February 19, 2003


I thought Burrows seemed like a good sport. My question is, why would Gene Weingarten take the trouble to write this review and do an interview? Seems like a cheap way of getting read.
posted by orange swan at 1:42 PM on February 19, 2003


This sounds a lot like the story a columnist for the Post (I believe) did that showed the depths a PR flak would go to pitch a client's product or service. The author had the PR reps tell an embarrassing personal story with the best getting a free mention of the company they represent.
posted by MediaMan at 1:43 PM on February 19, 2003


Right on!
posted by Guy Smiley at 1:47 PM on February 19, 2003


...she turns away in horror and says to her friends: "What an almost unbelievable tragedy! It will take a great resolve to overcome this terrible blow."

[runs out to the bathroom to retch violently]

I've read Casanova's autobiography, which runs around 3000 pages. I'm not reading that book even if its ludicrous excuse for a plot can only be stretched out to a hundred pages. Enough said.
posted by clevershark at 1:50 PM on February 19, 2003


Gene Weingarten is a great columnist. He declared a town in Nevada, Battle Mountain, to be the armpit of the United States. It was very funny. He has a talent for going to the extremes of American culture and bringing them to the public eye.
By the way, Battle Mountain isn't even the armpit of Nevada. I think that title goes to Pioche or Panaca.
posted by stevefromsparks at 1:57 PM on February 19, 2003


Great link. Hee hee hee!
posted by Marquis at 2:07 PM on February 19, 2003


i'm always impressed by people who have the wherewithal to follow through on things -- music albums, novels, paintings, sculptures, programs -- even when those things are terribly lacking in talent.

fish, in an interview, Woody Allen basically said that was the point he was trying to make with his now-famous "x percent of life is showing up" statement (x seems to vary depending upon the source you check). He was talking to some students and was making the point that a lot of people want to write a book or make a movie, etc., but never do it; actually finishing a creation was a notable accomplishment.

It was an offhand comment that he didn't think was particularly profound, but it has certainly endured.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:09 PM on February 19, 2003


armpit of the United States - I thought that was Garland, TX. You've seen King of the Hill haven't you?
posted by Nauip at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2003


He declared a town in Nevada, Battle Mountain, to be the armpit of the United States.

Which also earned his work a thread here.
posted by mattpfeff at 2:16 PM on February 19, 2003


I'm a second generation child of Garland, Texas. I think the armpit of America really needs to be someplace in the Rust Belt, such as Peoria, Illinois.

Loved the article on the worst book written. The author's completely unflappable; Weingarten did a good job of making him look admirable at the same time he was insulting his book.
posted by rcade at 2:22 PM on February 19, 2003


In my circle, I am regarded as a fascinating conversationalist

ha! brilliant.

shabrem: goddamn! i clicked your link, they had one copy left. BUT THEY WON'T SHIP OVERSEAS! so i hastened back here to ask whether anyone would be interested in getting a copy on my behalf, as a birthday present, or in exchange for cold hard cash or a bag of carrots or something, and the next thing i know the damn thing has sold out. i am distraught!

behold the power of MeFi to sell rubbish to clever people
posted by nylon at 2:23 PM on February 19, 2003


Your book is printed on shiny, white paper.

They did a good job


"They did a good job" is what people say about the embalmers/morticians at a viewing.
posted by namespan at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2003


Given the author's subject matter, could anyone have written a decent book? I mean, really? Still, give him credit for writing, publishing and distributing the darned thing. And for putting up with that interview.
posted by tommasz at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2003


wobh: Brenda?
posted by shadow45 at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2003


Me: Your only black character, who is named Jesse Jackson Jones, expresses his concurrence by saying, "Right on!"

Burrows: Yes.


Sounds like a gem.
posted by padraigin at 2:30 PM on February 19, 2003


I think it was unfair of the interviewer to attack the book's credibility in terms of the actions of the Bush administration. They're beyond incredible. In fact - is that... is that... the sounds of a parade approaching?
posted by soyjoy at 2:33 PM on February 19, 2003


Very funny interview.

Might be a horrid book, but the nanowrimo in me says, good job for finishing...

(I'm 0 and 2 years in that dept myself)
posted by dreamling at 2:36 PM on February 19, 2003


More details about the book:

Royal Purple Online: "Even UW-Whitewater Political Science Department Chairman John Kozlowicz has a cameo in this book, and Burrows names a character after him."

When I think of human character, there's nothing more compelling than a campus administrative head. But that's not all.

The South End: "These students, who incidentally talk in the same well-rehearsed speech pattern as the politicians, have 4.0 GPAs, only drink beer twice in two years, and are a perfect cross-section of American stereotypes. In short, they are simply unbelievable."
posted by ed at 2:52 PM on February 19, 2003


Metafilter: Right On!
posted by owillis at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2003


"These students, who incidentally talk in the same well-rehearsed speech pattern as the politicians, have 4.0 GPAs, only drink beer twice in two years, and are a perfect cross-section of American stereotypes. In short, they are simply unbelievable."

Apparently the same is true of 98 % of students in New Zealand....according to their report cards.
posted by Raya at 3:40 PM on February 19, 2003


armpit of the United States

My father used to tell me that if they were going to give New York City an enema, the nozzle would go into Times Square. That was in the old days, before Disney bought it, but somehow it still seems applicable.
posted by alms at 3:50 PM on February 19, 2003


Well, he got his fifteen minutes, anyway.

Mick Jagger once commented of Rolling Stone, "As long as they put my face on the cover, I don't care what they say about me on page 93."
posted by alumshubby at 4:48 PM on February 19, 2003


Indeed
posted by jdiaz at 9:21 PM on February 19, 2003


i'm sick of people like this interviewer; they are all around me at that ever-so-impressive school i go to; when i'm drunk i might act like one of them. These people have a name: smartass. Picking on a 79-year old, clearly a bit out-there guy, with every word desperately trying to sound smart, and failing. I'm all for biting commentary - but let him take on a heavyweight, someone that might define if he continues to write his columns.
Besides, not funny.
posted by bokononito at 11:29 PM on February 19, 2003


nylon: I think bn.com still has a few copies. From what I could gather, they ship internationally, as well.
posted by faustessa at 12:20 AM on February 20, 2003


The Washington Post is giving away the book in a contest that ends tomorrow.
posted by rcade at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2003


Thanks to shabrem, I managed to get a copy of the book. I've scanned in the covers and written a short article about it on my weblog. I undoubtedly will be saying more; I love work that manages to be honored -- however fairly or unfairly -- as the worst of its field. This reminds me of the legendary Eye of Argon, billed as the worst science fiction story ever, and Spawn of Fashan, claimed as the worst roleplaying game.

Incidentally, regarding that second link, I'm the reason Kirby Davis figured out that Spawn of Fashan had a cult following. I found him in Oklahoma a few years ago, where he's an editor at the Daily Oklahoman newspaper and came within minutes of being caught in the Oklahoma City bombing. I'm glad to hear he's cashed in on the game's infamy.
posted by rcade at 9:01 AM on February 23, 2003


The sequel to Faith of the Fallen (The Pillars of Something or Other) is even worse. Yes, I read them both all the way through. No, I don't know why. No, I won't be reading his next.

Dude, you are so right on. I thought all of his novels rocked, then got to the politcal piece of Faith of the Fallen...and, then came the Pillars of Creation. Wow, that was painful to finish. Highly disappointing after what i considered a very good start to his series. (though, I admit i'll prob buy his next piece in hopes he goes back to his formula from his first few books)
posted by jmd82 at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2003


Pink & jmd82, you are both so right. What a total piece of crap - so glad I borrowed it at the library and didn't pay good cash for that trash. Might read the next one in the hopes that he redeems himself - but only if it's free.

As for this interview, I thought it was hysterical. I thought the author carried himself well and I'm glad that sales of his book will increase for no reason other than one critic thought it was god-awful. PR at it's best.
posted by widdershins at 1:38 PM on February 26, 2003


owillis: the demographic singularity
posted by skyscraper at 12:44 AM on February 27, 2003


Armpit=San Dimas, California. Hands down.

I loved it how the author wasn't fazed by the questions at all. He is what he is, to hell with everyone else. (And he is, in his humble opinion, a fascinating conversationalist. Geez, I wish I could say so much.)
posted by aacheson at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2003


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