George Orwell once said that some things are so foolish only an intellectual could believe them. Likewise, there are books so sordidly bad, so soul-rottingly awful, that only the hippest, most cutting-edge book reviewers can like them, which means stifling their moral imaginations long enough to praise the books in an effort to look cooler than those who cannot.
Here’s more proof in the reviews of a novel I’ve warned against before, The Seven Days of Peter Crumb. Alas, I’ve been watching the pop-culture and bookchat world long enough to know that the book would be a hit, helped along by people who somehow believe that there is still a sizeable group of dull, middle-class, Sunday-school squares who need to be shocked, and that it is their self-appointed duty to go forth and shock them out of their innocent illusions.
Here are some reviews passed on by the publicists of this latest bloodfest:
“If you believe you are by now immune to gory novels, here’s one with enough malevolence to give even the most hardened readers nightmares. The Seven Days of Peter Crumb, a chronicle of the final week in a psycho-path’s life , is gruesome, obscene and utterly disturbing. It is also absorbing and well written. Reading it, I fought the urge to throw up. Needless to say, I was transfixed.”–New York Times Book Review
“Vastly impressive . . . Glynn’s grimy but entertaining prose is filled with wonderfully appalling descriptions of chopped flesh and sordid details of debauched sexual escapades–providing a horny combo plate of unabashed grins . . . It’s fair to call The Seven Days of Peter Crumb a version of Jekyll and Hyde in bed with American Psycho, though neither work’s disdain for humanity shines as brightly as in Crumb. Let’s say it’s more of a murderous Ignatius J. Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces, enhanced with a multiple personality disorder and a penchant for free-market sodomy. It’s the perfect literary antidote to overly obnoxious holiday cheer.” —Radar
I’ve reviewed hundreds of books over the years, and I believe in my craft, but if I ever had to read one that gave me “the urge to throw up,” I believe I’d listen to my gut and pan it, not praise it.
Praise for books like this reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story of one of Mussolini’s sons, who loved to fly bombing runs at night because he found a weird aesthetic pleasure in beholding the gigantic blooms of flame that rose from the earth. To him the destruction and horror below meant nothing; all that mattered was the twisted beauty he found in the colors and patterns.
(In answer to the obvious question, yes, I did read parts of the book before throwing it away. I’m applying for combat pay.)