In Search of the World’s Worst Writers by Nick Page

5 Dec

Of all the books I own this one has got to be the most fun.  Everybody knows the so-bad-they’re-good movies, but the books that are like that are less praised.  Think about it, we have only 100 years of movies to go through, while we have 20 times that for written information, and boy does this book delight.

It helps that Nick Page shows pieces and fragments (the best ones I might add), because I don’t know if anybody has the stomach to read whole volumes of much that has been presented.    I mean what lines can be funnier than “Harmonious Hog warble some anthem out!”  Or winds that go “flop, pop” or a whole epic poem dedicated to tooth care by a dentist.  What I have to give Nick Page a huge salute for is that he had to read so much bad stuff to get to this good-bad stuff, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was blind and crazy now.  He did the literary equivalent of throwing himself on a live grenade.

I think every poet should read this book, because not only does it show every kind of badness that can be in literature, he goes to great lengths to explain why it’s bad–whether it be because of forced rhyming, galloping rhythms, overly ornate diction, or strange subject matter (and usually more than one of these) each poem has a specific reason WHY it’s bad.

And bad they are.  This is not a book of some snooty academic pooh-poohing more common fare–these poems (because they are mostly poems) are atrocious–and the ironic thing about these writers is that most of them were convinced they were good.  It’s a little bit unnerving reading all of these awful poems and considering that each and every writer thought of themselves as gifted in some way.

“…and rude sea-urchins, frisking o’er the ground…”    The book is a hoot!  At the same time it’s a bit humbling–the thing that all these authors have in common (or at least most of them) is that they are all incredibly sincere.  Incredibly, terribly, awfully, sincere.  We like to think that writing is good when it’s about something real, raw expressions from someone’s soul, but the truth is, writing is much more audience based than it seems.  However much you might mean it, bosoms bursting into flowers is going to be unintentionally funny.

And that’s the crux of it, the book somehow shows humanity, if not at its finest, at least at its truest.  We are all characters with odd obsessions, silly over the top emotions, and delusions of grandeur in one way or other.  I think we’re all the better for it.

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