Monday, December 10, 2007

Meta: Flatulating my gassy bloviation all over the Internets.

Hell truly hath no fury like an Internet reviewer.

This one comes from a user going under the nom de Net "Scone Mason." Get it? Scone Mason. See what he did there? Watch out, Sconey Maloney kicks it up to a whole 'nother intellectual level in a second.

This is a review of House of Leaves, the cult hit spook story that used concrete poetry techniques, stunt layouts, and other tricks to tell the story of a young man obsessed with a manuscript purporting to detail the contents of a documentary about a haunted house.

Let's let the Sconester take it away.

This book was incredibly dull pseudointellectual gimmickery.

"Dull" count: 1

Bret E. Ellis's much touted blurb should be embarrassing to him, but more so to those who buy his books.

I'm not sure what exactly he means by "much touted" here. In standard English the phrase means to hype something up, to make much of it. Ellis's blurb is just stuck on the book like several others. The blurb itself isn't made much of. Perhaps he meant the blurb itself was doing the touting - but that's what blurbs do so it would be sort of like saying "the Crest add, which shamefully promotes Crest toothpaste . . ."

I can't say whether or not Ellis is embarrassed by the blurb. I can say that, as a person who has purchased some of Ellis's books, I can't seem to muster the proper amount of shame. My therapist and I will work on the crucial Ellis blurb issues in the future.

To mention Danielewski's charade in the same sentence as Pynchon, Wallace, and Ballard shows only that Ellis hasn't read any of those other writers. King, who is indeed the King of Hacks, is a proper comparative I suppose.

Ouch. I should add though that Pynchon once blurbed a Tom Robbins book - so treating blurbs as if they were anything other than a sort of cheap round agents force their writers to pay for now and then is, I think, a somewhat sterile exercise.

In Infinite Jest Wallace used copious footnotes to help tell the story.

Actually, the notes in Infinite Jest are endnotes. 'Cause they come at the end of the book. Hence the "end."

In House of Leaves there is one footnote that helps tell the story, and that is the group of letters from Johnny Truant's institutionalized mother. Those letters are the best part of the book. The rest is typing. 99% of the footnotes can be ignored, and as you approach the end, you can pretty much skip every other paragraph to the finish. Fake scholarly works inserted into a rewriting of The Amityville Horror (or pick your haunted house story) do not make it scholarly.

I assume he picked Amityville and then added the "or whatever" because the house in Leaves really doesn't do anything that the house in Amityville does. The latter is haunted by the residents who were murdered there previously, has imaginary friends appearing and disappearing, possesses its inhabitants, has swarms of flies buzzing everywhere, rotting meat smells, and so on. There was, if I recall, a mystery room the Amityville folks found in their basement - a sort of crawl space behind their washing machine. Still, that doesn't seem to explain why the former house - with no ghosts to speak of, no flies, no blood and ooze running down the walls, no demonic voices or pig-like imaginary friends, no any Amityville-ish traits - is a copy of the latter.

I think what the Scone Ranger meant to say was something along the lines of "I'm pretty sure this is an unoriginal rewrite of something that, if I had read it, could point to at this very moment." And who can argue with that?

Lots of Latin and Greek references do not make it intellectual, and telling a story within a story does not make it literary when you don't care about the people involved.

Damn right. French is the language of vapid intellectuality. And the measure of all literature is whether or not you care about the people involved. Everybody knows that. That's why The Velveteen Rabbit is the cornerstone of Western literature.

None of these characters is particularly endearing, and putting the words on the page in imitation of the geography the characters are experiencing is impressive only to those easily impressed.

So, yeah, fuck you readers! I should point out that the funniest thing Scone-and-Rag Man does here is shotgun wedding to completely unrelated ideas into a single sentence, stretching the power of the poor comma until it screams. Check out this sentence. The first clause - dependent? who cares? - is about how none of the characters are endearing (not like, say, the endearing Oedipa Maas or those lovable wheelchair-bound assassins in Jest) and the second - is this the dependent clause? are there any dependent clauses? at least give us a sanity clause - is about layout issues.

High school kids probably love this book. Or college business administration majors.

Yeah. What the hell are you? Some sort of business administration major? Get a life!

Actually, I'm a little embarrassed by Here-I-Go-Again-On-My-Scone here: he clearly pulled his punches. I think he wanted to say something like "only poor and uneducated people" or "only blacks and Chinamen" would be impressed, but he was worried that this would make him sound like some sort of jackass who used stereotypes as an intellectual crutch.

Anyone who wants a challenge or to read something experimental should try Robert Coover's The Public Burning or John Hawke's The Beetle Leg.

Again, he's pulling his punches. I recommend sending several books through a shredder. Then taping them back up in random order. Read that mess, you mammer-jammer. Now we're talking about R-E-A-D-ing, baby. Anything less rigorous than this and you're just one of those pussy business administration majors that reads for pleasure or the sensation of novelty or escape or whatever pathetic excuse you cling to. You don't want people to think you're a pussy business administration major? Well, do you?

If this book changed your life, you need to get out more, go to a bookstore, then get in more.

This might be true. The only reason I stop to mention this line is that I don't believe anybody in the comment chain mentioned anything about this. If we're going to attack fanatical readers that don't exist, let's really make them crazy, right? Say: "I've heard that some people have been trading away their own infant children for copies of this book. I think those people are daft!"

There is nothing deep or deeply intellectual about this book, it is not a difficult read, unless you are unable to physically turn the book to read upsidedown or sideways, and there is certainly nothing to lead any well-read person to compare it to Wallace, Pynchon, or Ballard.

This is another one of those great pile-on sentences, like Scone-some Dove was trying to get the most out of some one-trip critical term salad bar. Does something have to be difficult to read to be "deep or deeply intellectual"? Wouldn't that make the instruction manual to the Airport wireless router I've got more "deep or deeply intellectual" than, say, Darwin's Origin of Species, which is written in a pretty straight forward style? Doesn't this make Edward Lear a more "deep or deeply intellectual" author than Pynchon, because Pynchon at least makes sense?

THere was not one sentence in this book that made me laugh the way Wallace does, or marvel at its genius the way Pynchon does.

Ballard has suddenly dropped out of the running. I don't know why. As for laughing, Leaves isn't really a comedy. I don't want to suggest that its not being a comedy could possibly account for lack of ha-ha's. Indeed, maybe it is a sign of just how crappy a writer
Danielewski is that he was unable to write a drama-horror book that didn't send Pay-Scone into paroxysms of school-girlish twittering. Or, you know, maybe he didn't write any gags. I'm just saying it's a possibility and we should keep our options open.

As many have pointed out, it is simply dull. I think a lot of people probably love the fact that they can say they read a 700 page book that is actually about 100 pages long if all the nonsense is removed and there aren't 20 pages with only one sentence or one word on them.

"Dull" count: 2

This is true, I know many people who regularly say, "
I read a 700 page book that is actually about 100 pages long if all the nonsense is removed and there aren't 20 pages with only one sentence or one word on them." They've got a club that meets regularly at the Brooklyn Central library. The coffee is free. I recommend it.

Most of all it's dull.

"Dull" count: 3

Right. We got you. It's dull.

I usually toss aside a book this boring, but I wanted to be able to review it in its entirety.

Um, what? He read the whole book solely so he could produce this? He thought his crucial insights into the book - limited mostly to a discussion of a single footnote, the layout, and one of the marketing blurbs - was so essential, so important, so vital to our needs that he sacrificed himself for our greater good.

Wow.

Now I feel kinda like a total asshole for making fun of him.

I mean, I don't feel like as big of an asshole as Give A Dog A Scone is for finishing a book he hated just so he could flatulate his gassy bloviation (look it up, Sconed Age) all over the Internets. But still, I feel a bit bad.

I don't know Danielewski personally, but as a writer he and Ellis are a good pair, all hype. Two literary big hats with absolutely no cattle.

I like that touch. I do that myself when I'm reviewing Dickens. "Dickens and I don't travel in the same circles, but . . ."

Is it possible to negatively review something on the Inter-web and not sound like a jackass? This is actually a real question. I've done my fair share of trashing product I thought was subpar. But then I read some crappola like this and, aside from giving me yet another reason to hope the terrorists win, it makes me wonder if I shouldn't adopt a Believer-style review policy: only write about stuff you like.

What say you, loyal readers? Should ANTSS adopt a "if you can't say something nice" policy?

8 comments:

Heather Santrous said...

I don't think you should. I will sometimes get a little mad at someone that hates a movie that I loved and feel that just didn't get it. Maybe they did get it and still didn't like it.

People that read your blog or even mind probably do so because our views are close to their own. Books, movies and everything else in between effects each of us in different ways. What is scary to me is lame to someone else.

I think we owe our readings to let them know that we like someone or even dislike something. If we don't like something and our readers feel their views are in line with our own, then they know to avoid said movie or whatever it is.

Maybe we shouldn't rip into things. You have said yourself that you have done it and I know I have as well. I will feel bad about it at times but again, just because I think something is bad doesn't mean everyone thinks that.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Mer-lady,

So that's one vote against an "only positive reviews" policy. Thanks for sounding off and for the sound insights into why folks read these blogs in the first place.

SpaceJack said...

One more vote against the "only positive reviews" policy from me. If the new horror movie of the moment is getting all the media attention and thumbs up from all the "right people", then I want to know if it sucks.

Also as a long-time reader of your reviews, I think you've built a sense of trust with us; I get the feeling you won't do a hatchet job on something just for the sake of doing a hatchet job. (Except possibly with the movie Hostel, but I can let that one slide.)

Sasquatchan said...

I think you meant that "The Little Prince" is the cornerstone of Western Lit ;)

CRwM said...

Screamin' Spacey,

Thanks for the kind words.

But Hostel is still overrated.

Okay. We've got two nay votes.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Sassy,

There's nothing scholarly about The Little Prince. Only business majors read that book. I suggest you find more deep or deeply intellectual books.

cattleworks said...

Oh, man...

Well, re: the idea of limiting your reviews to only positive feedback for a film, I also say nay.
I think Heather's correct in that we tend to read those blogs we tend to agree with most, although when I see a movie that i think is quite different from anything I've seen or at least unusual from what I've expected, I'm curious to see what other reactions are. And sometimes a different opinion is more informative.

As for the rest of this post... oh, man! Someone's buttons were definitely pushed..!

CRwM said...

Screamin' Cattle,

I know, I know. It was excessive. I just hate that "this was well beneath my vast intellect" shit.

I don't know why it gets me.

I mean, I've read Pynchon too (every book but his latest), but I guess Thomas never sent me my "Official Asshole Squad" badge and decoder ring.

Anyway . . .

Alright - it looks like the "play nice policy" has no friends. We'll continue as we've done: callin' them the way we see them.