I admit it. I'm addicted to the one-star reviews on Amazon's site.
At Atomic Books, we have a book club that meets the last Tuesday of each month. So what I've been doing off and on is compiling a list of snippets from the ridiculous one-star reviews of some of the books we've been reading. And now I'm sharing them with you.
This month: Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums
"Not as advertised. These copies are remaindered and are marked on the bottom as such with a felt-tip line. I had purchased this as a gift but was unable to give it due to the remaindered marking. The online information about these books fail to mention their remaindered status."
I love Amazon customers who mistake the concept of "review" for eBay-like sales feedback.
"Had to offset the praise handed down by so many people for Karourac's [sic] writings. Very overrated as a writer. This book is filled with the resemblance of substance, but has nothing in it. It is a contradiction of itself."
Aside from badly misspelling the author's name, I actually think this person is close to getting it. But I'm also fascinated that this "reviewer" feels they are responsible to "offset the praise." Probably a Libra.
"The story was structured as a blog or diary of two wandering bums who basically lived the life of poverty and 'mooching' off other people who were their 'friends'. Kerovac's [sic] 'friends' were people who were met at poetry 'slams'. They do nothing outside of drinking, reading poetry, mooching off of people and having sex. Any bum off the street could have submitted a journal to a publishing company and it would have the same affect on the reader.
"I would not reccomend [sic] this book to anyone. It was random rambling about nothing. If you like books that tell and interesting story and have charachters [sic] you can connect in a personal way to, then The Dharma Bums is not for you. But, if you like random blurts of stupidity, you will love this book."
I'm not sure there were blogs and poetry "slams" when this book was written. Also - any bum off the street can submit a journal to a publishing company and have it published? I don't think that's really how the publishing world works.
"I found Dharma Bums suprising [sic]. I thought On the Road was one of the most rambling, self-indulgent books that I've ever read, but I realized that Dharma Bums is even more so. The book reminded me how the degeneration of American intellectual life began with the Beats who, at least when they were in the '50's, were self-rightous [sic] and shallow, not to mention drunk womanizers, an odd trait for devout Buddhists. This book is a cultural artifact from the Beat era, but not a book to add to one's must-read list. Life is short. Read better."
Now we know when American intellectual life began to degenerate...
"The operative word from the title is 'bums'. This is a book about them and their self indulgent, self righteous idleness. A work with no redeeming features."
Well... in this case, the central bum (obviously Kerouac) did turn out to be one of America's most influential writers. So there's that. But if that's not enough, the other "bums" in the book were thinly veiled versions of notable American writers Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Peter Orlovsky and many more.
"A guy who thinks he's God, enjoys free sex and drugs, and likes to preach about how his version of Buddhism and Christianity connect via poetry while wandering around in self-obsession to the neglect and harm of others. Enter the Dharma Bum."
The central character is a Buddhist. Buddhists don't believe in God. Also, what's so wrong with enjoying free sex and drugs? Prude.