June 29, 2007

Too awful to finish: "The Pesthouse," by Jim Crace

(Longtime followers of my creative projects know that in general I don't like publishing bad reviews; that for the most part I see it as a waste of both my time and yours, in that I could be spending that time instead pointing out great artists you may have never heard of. However, since one of the things this website is dedicated to is honest artistic criticism, I also feel it's important to acknowledge books that I found just too bad to bother finishing, as well as give you an idea of why I found them that bad to begin with. Hence, this new series of short essays. Don't forget, the entire list of books I've found too awful to finish can be found on CCLaP's main book review page.)

The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace

The Accused: The Pesthouse, by Jim Crace (Nan A. Talese / ISBN: 978-0-385-52075-1)

How far I got: 80 pages (first third), plus the ending

1) Nakedly and shamelessly stealing concepts and plot points from Tatayna Tolstaya's far superior The Slynx, only in an American setting this time and without any of the humor or witty wordplay of the original.

2) Positing a world where a nuclear holocaust for some reason causes the survivors to revert to a hokey "Little House on the Prairie" style vernacular and lifestyle. ("And then Ma, she done told us about the Magic Steel Silos in the East, where they done say that the Wise Short-Haired Ones once used to live, my Ma done told me..." Sheesh, Crace, enough.)

3) Creating the ultimate post-apocalyptic wet dream for snotty east-coast liberal intellectuals; a United States where everything west of the Mississippi has become a series of heathen backwards rural villages, where the only "civilization" left is found on the Atlantic Seaboard (of course), where the mouth-breathing ultra-religious Heartland swarm are causing their own destruction through superstition and a lack of education, and where ultimate salvation can only come by getting on a boat and sailing permanently to Europe (of course!).

4) Being liked by John Updike.

Verdict: Guilty!

Sentence: Six months detention in the Midwest, to perhaps give the author an inkling of how not to horribly offend us. And no, not at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:20 AM, June 29, 2007. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |