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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
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Ray Davis
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Sean McCann
Guest Authors

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Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What’s the Worst Book You’ve Ever Read?

Posted by Jonathan Goodwin on 04/26/05 at 11:20 AM

The Valve hasn’t been around that long, and one of the most frequent criticisms we’ve received in our short, glorious era is that we focus almost exclusively on what is positive in the contemporary literary/critical scene. We write about trenchant concepts, elegantly expressed. We explain the subtleties of our professional discourse to an eager and avid generalist audience. It might not be going too far to suggest that we’ve established ourselves as a beacon on the hill of literary-type blogs. It is not enough to lead by example, however. There can also be no compromise with error.

Don’t be fooled by the post’s title. We’re only talking here about volumes of literary/cultural studies. Articles, reviews, etc. may also be suitable, depending on the argument advanced and the style adopted. As we know, attacking any major dude who has enemies is the easy way out. Your preferably pseudonymous comment should focus on the work of the not-so well known. “Poverty of historicism” and “port-induced stupor” may be abbreviated “POH” and “PIS,” respectively. Strive for emphatic assertion. Knead the group polarity. 


Comments

Frazer, The Golden Bough.  But this is to ask for just one among many.

By John Bruce on 04/26/05 at 03:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Abridged works are not suitable.

By Jonathan Goodwin on 04/26/05 at 03:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Peyton Place, 1963. Tons of bad writing and a small amount of very soft porn. I was desperate.

One of my problems in life is that I’m unable to finish reading bad scholarly writing. I found Robertson’s “Preface to Chaucer” unbearable.

At least in small-town Minnesota, the pornography available in 1963 was less bold than ads in family newspapers are today.

By John Emerson on 04/26/05 at 03:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John, did you read an abridged version, or the full version?

By ben wolfson on 04/26/05 at 04:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have to say that Deleuze-Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus was the most pernicious work of theory I’ve read.

It was not the worst in the sense of least sensible or most stupid. But I read it at an early age, and its passionate incoherence started a fire in me that took years to quell.

By on 04/26/05 at 04:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I abridged it myself down to about 20 pages. But to do that I had to read a lot of crap.

I tried to read Anti-Oedipus. That’s the kind of thing I was talking about.

By John Emerson on 04/26/05 at 04:54 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit comes to mind, mostly because I reckon it is just a hypnotizing kind of empty word play that cannot be translated from the German, and therefor has no merit. “Being” just has far fewer meanings than “Sein”, for one.

Though I have to say, the book offers valuable sentences to train pomposity, should one want to:

“Auf dem Grunde der Seinsart, die durch das Existential des Entwurfs konstituiert wird, ist das Dasein ständig ‘mehr’, als es tatsächlich ist, wollte man es und könnte man es als Vorhandenes in einem Seinsbestand registrieren.” [page 145]

By ijsbrand on 04/26/05 at 04:55 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It is customary on the Valve to provide full citations for your quotes. I checked your home page to see if this was a habit on display there, but I saw only words in a strange language with far too many vowels.

By Jonathan on 04/26/05 at 04:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I think I see about five German synonums for “existence” or “existing”, but it’s kinda impenetrable beyond that, and my deutsch ain’t all that bad.  Regarding The Golden Bough, as the poster above put it, I abridged it myself.

By John Bruce on 04/26/05 at 05:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I should also like to take this opportunity to remind commenters that giving detailed explanations of your answers, while in the Valve-spirit, is not recommended here.

By Jonathan on 04/26/05 at 05:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

This may be an easy answer, but I would say The Location of Culture by Homi K. Bhabha.

By on 04/26/05 at 05:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Unquestionably _The Location of Culture_.

By on 04/26/05 at 07:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I also want to remind Valve commenters not to forget their invective.

By Jonathan on 04/26/05 at 07:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

OK,I’ll play by the rules. No more Peyton Place.

“The Empire of the Text” is about the formation of literary culture around 200 AD during the San Guo Wei dynasty of the Cao family. This was a foundational period for the Chinese, and a very controversial one.

I believe that the book is part of the New Historicism. It tells us a tremendous amount about the politics and ideology of literature: “Textual Authority and Textual Practice”, “Social Texts”, and a piece about the social composition of the literati are the three main sections.

But in ~170 pp. it only talks about a single one of the literary works that made the age famous, while listing only the titles of about 20-30 more. It’s all context and no literature. The literature of that time is fascinating and important and deserves to be better known in English, and only has been translated so far in scattered and obscure publications.

Literature in China was a public function, and the poets of the time included two or three emperors, a failed heir-apparent, and a number of state officials. But the literature itself was just left out.

By John Emerson on 04/26/05 at 09:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Sentence or clause omitted: “So the attention to the political context of literature is entirely appropriate”.

By John Emerson on 04/26/05 at 09:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’ wunna pick on “the not-so-well-known,” I wunna pick on Waller Be’Michaelsh!  ‘Coz he’sh pernicioush!

By on 04/27/05 at 12:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen, 16e Auflage 1986 [1e Auflage 1927], seite 145.

The language with the many vowels is Dutch, coincidentally ranking high in the index of languages with the most different sounds [though still far behind the African click languages]

By ijsbrand on 04/27/05 at 06:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Ah, yes. Dutch. A tongue brought to prominence by the work of Sloterdijk, if I recall.

By Jonathan on 04/27/05 at 08:13 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Alas, although he has a Dutch name [note the uniquely Dutch and Frisian vowel “ij"] Sloterdijk is as German as they come.

The Dutch are too superficial to excell in writing. Only Erasmus of Rotterdam is known elsewhere, but he wrote in Latin.

And there’s of course Anne Frank, who wrote in Dutch but was a stateless Jew from Germany.

No, the Dutch always have printed countless books that were considered too risqué in other countries. But, that was trade.

By ijsbrand on 04/27/05 at 12:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Is this the appropriate place to say that Harold Bloom can shove his Western Cannon where the sun don’t shine?

By Keith on 04/27/05 at 01:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Janus Secundus is een van de grootste dichters ter wereld, dat blijkt nu duidelijker dan ooit, nu ook zijn niet-erotische gedichten zijn vertaald.

By John Emerson on 04/27/05 at 01:54 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Here you guys are putting down “Anti-Oedipus,” but in what other book can you find a wonderful chart like this one?

(Please don’t ruin my enjoyment by attempting to explain it to me.)

By W. Kiernan on 05/02/05 at 06:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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