Back in the ’90s, Bob at work was telling me how he had discovered the writing of Walter Mosley when then President Bill Clinton had answered a reporter’s question on what books he was currently reading. The President had responded with the name of one of Mosley’s books and after that incident, the sales of the author’s works had supposedly increased something-fold (I’m being vague because I don’t know the precise numbers). Anyway, on Bob’s recommendations I began reading Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries and I was hooked. The stories were your basic detective stories except the gumshoe in question was a black man from the mean streets of Houston’s fifth ward who was living in Los Angeles. The stories were set in previous eras giving them a nostalgic feel but my favorite part was that, since I was brought up in a racially diverse blue collar community, the places and characters of the novels were familiar to me in a way that the predominantly white settings of other detective stories were not.
The same decade was also a breakthrough time for some prominent black female authors so I decided to give one of Toni Morrison’s novels a try. I got about three pages in and I had to put the book down. Not only had three pages gone by without a single car chase, the story (I think it was “The Bluest Eye”) began with a girl named Pecola being pregnant by her father. I couldn’t see the story getting any better from there so that was the end of that.
Early in the next millenium, this smokin’ hot half Mexican half Japanese chick named Jenna from work was resigning. She was a highly intelligent psych major who was politically wrong about nearly anything you could think about but in our many conversations we had learned to debate in an orderly fashion and I like to think we both had a somewhat of a grudging respect for each other. I think Jenna decided I needed to broaden my worldview because, before she left, she gave me a novel that was written by a woman from India. The book is entitled “The God of Small Things” and although I tried, I couldn’t get more than about eight pages into to it. I will give you the first few paragraphs so you can see what I mean (my comments in red):
May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. (Yeah, dustgreen just underlined in red by Word because they don’t think it’s a word either) Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. (Earth to Arundhaty Roy: it’s not imagery if I CAN’T PICTURE IT) Then they sun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.(WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT???)
The nights are clear but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation (alliteration much? Plus how can a night be “suffused with sloth”? I see your lips movin’ but I don’t hear a god@#$% thing!)
Sad to say that’s not a purposely selected worst part of the writing, it’s the opening of the book and it doesn’t get any better after that. The writing is so terrible, I wouldn’t read this book even if I put it in the bathroom. I think I would rather reread the fine print on a stick of deodorant or the American Dental Association gushing like schoolgirls on the back of a box of Crest.
Anyway, it was experiences like these that led me to believe that I had a bias against books written by female authors. In fact this belief was one of the main reasons that for a long time I resisted reading the works of Ayn Rand which was constantly being recommended to me. When I did finally read it, devoured it, reading the whole thing at least twice in the first month. It turns out that I don’t actually have a bias against female writers, I just have a bias against bad writing. I think the moral of this story is don’t read “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and don’t read “The God of Small Things” no matter how good looking Jenna is. These books will make you regret literacy.
In conclusion, this movable type thing is going to destroy society. When will we even have time to farm?