In my ongoing attempt to come up with something to say here every Friday, I am returning to a tried-and-true formula with which I believe I can squeeze out one solid month of columns. Yay, me. 😉
The formula is of course: One star reviews of classic literature. To that end, I will be working off the list found in The Novel 100: A Ranking of Greatest Novels All Time (2004), written by Daniel S. Burt.
Using Burt’s list, I will be visiting the usual suspected places and perusing the one-star reviews on all of the books he has selected, with perfect confidence that there will be plenty of one-stars on all of them. I will then list each book with at least an excerpt of what is a reader’s authentic opinion of the “greatest” novel in question. My only criteria in picking reviews to share will be that I find them amusing, and that they do not appear to be jokes.
Once again, I am not really doing this to make fun of any reviewers. That may be the funny part, but it’s not my point, and to tell you the truth there are some reviews here that I agree with completely. My only point is to offer a humble reminder to all my fellow scribblers that for absolutely any book in question, there is going to be at least one reader out there who thinks it is a steaming pile. That goes for your books, my books, EVERYBODY’s books. So when (not if) you get a one-star review, consider yourself to be in excellent company.
(Reviews have not been edited for grammar)
100 Gone with the Wind (1936) Margaret Mitchell
“(I)f we’re going to follow Scarlett and Rhett through a thousand pages of melodrama, we have to care whether they live or die. I did care, but I wanted them both to die.”
99 The Hound of Baskervilles (1902) Arthur Conan Doyle
“Extremely boring book. I hated it. Too many big words and funky old time talk.”
98 The Three Musketeers (1844) Alexandre Dumas
“Don’t bother reading it, just watch the Disney movie, it’s so much better than the book!”
97 Dracula (1897) Bram Stoker
“For a card carrying member of the evil undead he sure seems to spend a lot of time slinking around.”
96 The Good Soldier Svejk (1921-23) Jaroslav Hasek
“The particular, kind of slapstick, humour was readable, but I found the story rather repetetive – bumbling Svejk does similar things again and again.”
95 The Woman in White (1860) Wilkie Collins
“If I had to give an example illustrating what deus es machina means, I would chose this book.”
94 The Catcher in the Rye (1951) J.D. Salinger
“In my opinion, Holden is the worst character in the English language.”
93 The Leopard (1958) Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
“(E)ven after finishing it I’m still not entirely sure what it’s really all about.”
92 Frankenstein (1818) Mary Shelley
“First off, the fact that Victor Frankenstein basically plays God the entire first half of the book bothers me a lot. It just isn’t right.”
91 On the Road (1957) Jack Kerouac
“The book’s common thread seems to be characters who will travel thousands of miles in search of a hamburger.”
90 Les Miserables (1862) Victor Hugo
“As a rule, I strongly dislike dramas.”
89 Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) Harriet Beecher Stowe
“(T)he reason why I’m such a voracious reader is simple: I read books for aesthetic pleasure. That’s it. I really don’t give a  about anything beyond entertainment when I read.”
88 The Last of the Mohicans (1826) James Fenimore Cooper
“Those damn women just keep getting kidnapped.”
87 The Betrothed (1827, 1840) Alessandro Manzoni
“It took me 5 weeks to get through 250 pages and I’m done with it.”
86 Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) George Orwell
“I did not like the novel, but I am just not a fan of post apocalyptic themed literature.”
85 Snow Country (1937, 1948) Kawabata Yasunari
“Feel less sure about the geisha situation than I did before.”
84 Waverley (1814) Sir Walter Scott
“Really quite boring, if you want to know the truth. Besides, what kind of name is “Waverly” anyway?”
83 Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) Zora Neale Hurston
“hated it! i’m not sure why, just did.”
82 Oblomov (1859) Ivan Goncharov
“All philosophy / pondering the meaning of life, no action.”
81 Under the Volcano (1947) Malcolm Lowry
“I guess the style is appropriate since the main character is an alcoholic who spends almost the entire story drunk. It just isn’t pulled off very well.”
80 Native Son (1940) Richard Wright
“Why must the vast majority of classics focus on the hopelessness and misery that is the human condition?”
79 Candide (1759) Voltaire
“I guess these days this would be called black comedy – a genre I don’t find funny today and I doubt I would have in 1759 either.”
78 The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Rarely have I been so pissed off at a character in a book, he had everything going for him and decided to throw his life away for some silly tart.”
77 Robinson Crusoe (1719) Daniel Defoe
“This is one of those books that really serves to remind a modern audience of why we should kill whitey.”
76 The Pickwick Papers (1836-67) Charles Dickens
“My unfavourite Dickens, I’ve never managed to finish it…”
(…To be continued…)
And, of course, the article which started it all: Everyone is a (one) Star
27 thoughts on “One-star Reviews of the Hundred Greatest Novels: 100-76”
Ed, thanks for this. I choked on my tea when I read the "why we should kill whitey" quote – outstanding!
I googled the 'whitey' quote and found the review on Goodreads. Hilarious and though provoking! Ed, as usual, great post!
Thing is, it has a point.
I never thought of it before, but you have two guys washed up on a desert island, and one is the master and the other an underling?
Was this where the TGIF expression came from?
To be fair, Pickwick Papers is my unfavourite Dickens too. And I've never managed to finish it, unlike all the others. 😉
Thanks Ed, this has boost my morale a bit, I don't feel so bad now.
Cheers – Micki
Bwah ha ha ha. Thanks, Ed. "Those damn women just keep getting kidnapped." Ha ha. (giggle.)
Oh, no..the Gone with the Wind quote "I did care, but wanted them both to die" is definitely my favourite. Thanks for a good laugh.
And these are also 'our' readers, folks. It certainly gives some perspective on reviews. Good laugh.
Great idea for a post! It was nice to start the day with a laugh. Once my first one-star review inevitably comes, I'll think back to this. Can't wait for the next one.
Thanks for this Ed, what a fun idea for a post. Enjoyed a good laugh this morning, looking forward to more!
I don't always read classic literature, but when I do, I drink
These are hilarious. I love the one for "Frankenstein" — Playing God "just isn't right." No, really? Maybe that's the point of the book, huh?
Thanks for posting these, Ed!
The more well known the book, the more likely people will hate it. It's human nature.
I love these. The person who gave me one star also gave one star to my 6 favorite books of the last decade, so I wasn't too sad after that.
So glad it says "to be continued" at the bottom. Many of these reviews resonate with some of the things students say in papers, too.
Hee hee. There's a poetry to these.
Wonderful! Thanks, Ed. Jane Austen got some pretty scathing reviews too.
Kill whitey!!!!!!!! McNally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Great article. Very funny and reminds us that perspective is one-sided!! Thanks for this.
Bwahahahahah! I love, and agree with, the review for Gone With The Wind. The one for Robin Crusoe was sublime. Thanks for the post!
Oooh I love this and so clever of you to think to do the post/s for all us struggling writers who have way more in common with known writers than we think. Have shared.
Started my Saturday Morning with a laugh. I must admit to only giving 'The Catcher in the Rye' two stars though.
Thanks for the Saturday morning smile. Going to be over 100 here today, so I needed something to cheer me up.
Great post! Really a scream.
Trouble is, I agree with a lot of them.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is an egregious piece of crap writing, only remembered for its political effect, for instance.
I can't wait to see if "Howl" or "Catcher In The Rye" get dissed. If not, I'll have to go do it myself.
Oops, I see the "Catcher" quote now. A bit over-stated. But then the book is, too.
Thanks for this great post Ed! Didn't laugh so hard in a while. And I felt bad for a 3 Star review from a legit reviewer.
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