Good morning, Readers and Book Lovers! We have no diarist today, so we’ll have an open forum instead. By the way May is wide open, so people who’d like to contribute a diary, please kosmail me. There’s a template available to get you started if you’re feeling a bit nervous about writing a diary. Lately we’ve had some really excellent contributors whose diaries have sparked numerous comments, so keep it going!
That delicious aroma emanating from the urn in the corner is hazelnut coffee. My husband just ground the beans half an hour ago; the coffee is now ready to drink, so help yourself to half-and-half and demerara sugar. This morning we have freshly baked banana-walnut bran muffins—so delicious, so good for you! Feel free to slather them with cream cheese, butter, orange marmalade, or apple butter.
This morning I’d like to kick off our discussion by commenting on a writer I really dislike. His name is Wilbur Smith. Yes, I know he’s a best-selling author who’s written innumerable novels, most of them biggies. To give the man his due, I will say the following:
- Smith really knows how to grab the reader’s attention, starting with page 1. He’s a master of the narrative hook. I’m not particularly interested in the horrors of steering a small fishing vessel through a hurricane, but Smith’s storytelling ability is such that I was slipping and sliding on the deck right along with the crew.
- Smith’s work has what critics refer to as “narrative sweep.” Once you begin reading one of his books, you really can’t put it down. All the novels I’ve read by him are enormous, but I didn’t mind—felt I was getting my money’s worth.
- Smith’s backgrounds are riveting. The Courtney novels, for example, are largely set in Africa, a place of immense fascination. Smith imparts a great deal of interesting historical information even though one’s attention is focused on what’s happening to the characters.
I haven’t read any of his Egyptian novels, so I can’t speak about those. Considering the nature of my complaint against Smith, I definitely will not read them.
The reason I dislike Smith’s novels so much is their sheer misogyny. In two of the ones I’ve read, “an officer and a gentleman” ruins a girl of good family by persuading her to jump into bed. One of the girls was fifteen, the other seventeen. Then, the “gentleman” refuses to contemplate marrying the girl because she’s, well, um, not up to snuff, y’know—one doesn’t want a despoiled woman for a wife, what? Great Goddess! If Penrod Ballantyne were real I’d whack his head off with a sword so fast it would rival the blur of a humming bird’s wings.
In one novel there was an account of the villain, who was Chinese, visiting a brothel in Hong Kong. What happened there was so unspeakably vile I won’t discuss it.
The Courtney men are particularly despicable. One of the modern ones, Sean Courtney, is a big-game hunter or safari guide by profession. What he liked to store some of his possessions in was—again—so unspeakably vile I refuse to describe it here.
There was an account of an ill-fated young African woman trudging in a long column of other soon-to-be slaves when she began lagging behind because she wasn’t feeling well. The slave traders refused to stop. Again, what happened to her was so horrifying my stomach is roiling just thinking about it.
Smith really gets off on animal murder. The first time I encountered his description of the murder of numerous elephants in one of his books, I did start reading it—but quickly stopped, skipping the next 20 pages. There are accounts of elephant slaughter in some of his other books, so I skipped those too.
Now I find myself with three unread Wilbur Smith novels that I ordered in an excess of enthusiasm from an online used bookstore. I will never read them now, so I’ll take them to a place where some desperate person, immured in a condo on a rainy day at the beach, may be moved to open one of them.
But that’s enough of my point of view. Which writer do you REALLY despise? Did you throw his or her book across the room? Did you glue the pages together, scoop out the middle, and store your valuables in it? Or did you—no, you wouldn’t burn it in a jolly backyard bonfire—no book lover would! So why not tell us about your Disliked One and what you did with the offending product?