I’m reading Alice Hoffman’s latest novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things in bed at night before I go to sleep. Even after just a few pages, however, I find I can’t fall asleep.
What keeps me up is marveling at how awful it is. Well, not marveling, maybe–seething, is more like it. The New York Times described “the hackneyed and thinly sketched writing that diminishes many scenes in these pages.”
I’ll go further: try, leaden, flat-footed prose populated by two-dimensional characters who seem mere puppets in some play that Hoffman has created from a mashup of genres: historical fiction, magical realism, and bodice-ripping romance. Yes, it really is that terrible.
There’s no losing myself in the story because the story is beyond predictable. In fact, I’m reminded of the fanciful plot lines my girl friends and I used to come up when we were pre-pubescent and playing with paper dolls or Barbies.
But lots of books that fit that description are published today–most of them sold in airport bookstores and/or under the Harlequin imprint–so why does this one make me so mad?
Because it’s being slid into the publishing world as literature because Alice Hoffman wrote it and once upon a time she wrote a worthy book or two. And because of that and all the attendant hype, I bought it.
So, yes, I’m mad that I wasted money. I’m mad that the publishing industry can still foist pap on the public, provided the marketing machinery is working well. I’m mad that a brand-name author remains a brand name no matter what the quality of her work. And I’m mad that I lying in bed wide-eyed at night because I’m so–mad.