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Sunday, June 22, 2008

The 2nd Worst Book I've Read in Years

Monday, June 16, 2008

2nd worst book I've read in years, Richard Laymon

Yes one would ask, why spend time reading what you are pretty sure will be absolute crap? Well ask any writer. We read anything. We read labels from soup cans, we read technical newspapers from local polytechs, some of us read palms (not me.)

So I've just finished the second worst book I've ever read in many years. This is Richard Laymon's The Cellar. He was listed by one website as being even better than Stephen King when it comes to Horror. First the preface: I like Stephen King for a few reasons. 1.) He's from Maine like me. 2.) He wrote a half decent book on the practice of writing, which if you've not read it, well please do. 3.) Parts of Hearts in Atlantis were really nicely written. There are times he spins positively literary and it's fun when that happens. True, his endings are often problematic and formulaic and the overall quality of his work has that cranked out feeling. But on the scale, he succeeds because he is good at what he does.

The Cellar by Richard Laymon makes King look positively literary in every respect. This book is downright terrible. One reviewer on said that it wasn't worth the paper it is printed on. I consider that an understatement.

Let me explain. He is a poor writer in every respect. I've had beginning students in writing classes who submit work like this stuff. It's choppy, no flow, patronizing, over detailed in all the wrong places, terrible constructions of sentences, and so on. To make a list would be a book on writing.

Secondly his characters are never developed and the little they are is later contradicted by their reactions. Examples: The main character, a woman, has a daughter who was raped by her former husband. The daughter acts like a seven year old and at times speaks like a Sex in the City 30 something. The husband leaves jail and kills the woman's sister. The woman finds out but amazingly, only about an hour later the trauma of this has passed so much that she can engage in a passionate moment with a man she met just the day before. She never considers her sister for the remainder of the book. The guy she met, named Jud is a mercenary of sorts, hired but justified killer, evidently. Call him Mr. Macho. Yet when the ex husband bursts into the hotel room and makes Mr. Macho place his hands on the wall he mutters something like Sweet Jesus he's going to kill us. (remember this is muttered.) Then he says, he's going to kill us. Then hysterically he screams, he's going to kill us! (exclamation point directing us to now understand he's no longer muttering, I guess.)

The beast in the cellar is really about five beasts who impregnate women and create more beasts. Throughout the book Laymon engages on what might be called disgusting sexual descriptions of Pedophilia, consenting adult affairs, and beast plus human encounters. To put it bluntly it's gross. We don't need the details to get the sense of what took place, and the fact Laymon spends time discussing each with detail raises questions about his goal, is it to tell a horror story or to write offensive pornography?

I've read some in this field, not a lot but enough to see that if Laymon is one of the best writers out there, then the state of horror is in very serious trouble. He's a terrible, terrible, terrible writer in every respect. I will never bother reading another of his works in any form and I'm posting this to save you from even cracking open the cover. If you're not fully convinced, check out his picture in the back of The Cellar, it shows him in his wonderful literary photo as a goofy looking guy framed by two larger than life alien puppet heads.

Be very, very scared.