If you went through any kind of institutionalized school system, you likely learned the old adage “Honesty is the best policy.” (Also, “Don’t eat the Play-Doh. Seriously, don't.”) But those very same institutions that bleated on about the morality of truth also shoved conformity down our throats, so actually becoming the prepubescent army of Abe Lincoln prototypes of our administrators' dreams was easier said than done.
And when it comes to books — especially the Great Ones — it’s hard to bring those untouchable pieces of literature back down to Earth with a simple and candid opinion, either favorable or unfavorable, lest you face the risk of looking like a dolt.
Happily, the Internet is teeming with people who spit in the face of conformity and/or sounding like a dummy. Not only is this very punk rock, but it also makes for some class-A entertainment.
So in honor of National Honesty Day, I've gathered a handful of the most straightforward opinions on classic works of literature from Goodreads and Amazon. Whether or not you agree with these remarkably blunt reviewers, you have to at least admire their cojones: there’s no shame in disagreeing with the (Wo)Man, and sometimes, there’s no shame in having no shame. Because life is short, and Herman Melville is a creep.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
“It's magnificent, actually. It's just that any enjoyment or satisfaction I got out of the book was overshadowed by the tedious, largely pointless stretches of encylopedic descriptions about the whaling industry. Melville strikes me as one of those people who would corner you at a party and talk incessantly about whaling, whaling ships, whales, whale diet, whale etymology, whale zoology, whale blubber, whale delicacies, whale migration, whale oil, whale biology, whale ecology, whale meat, whale skinning, and every other possible topic about whales so that you'd finally have to pretend to have to go to the bathroom just to get away from the crazy old man. Only he'd FOLLOW YOU INTO THE BATHROOM and keep talking to you about whales while peering over the side of the stall and trying to make eye contact with you the whole time.” One star.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Nathaniel Hawthorne is the coolest name ever. I can see why people dislike this book, though.” Five stars.
“I hate this book and I hate Nathaniel Hawthorne for writing it. Nathaniel Hawthorne is the reason Franklin Pierce was elected President of the United States…Franklin Pierce has been accorded the dubious distinction of being the worst President…Therefore, in addition to the Scarlet Letter, we have him to thank for Franklin Pierce.” One star.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
“Warm, fuzzy, too long. Think Tolstoy after a lobotomy.” Two stars.
“Great for insomnia!” One star.
“Simply put, I don't care. I don't care about these characters. I don't care about their boring lives. I don't care who marries whom and who is happy or not happy, and I really don't care about Dorothea's stupid cottage designs.” One star.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“There is no denying that the book is phenomenally written, but the repetition of nymphette-this and nymphette-that simply overwhelmed me; I was left with an indelible image of Nabokov sitting there alternately referencing his thesaurus and a collection of kiddie porn for inspiration while hammering this out." Two stars.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
“You'll find it to be quite a sexist book actually, and I've read Bukowski. At least that guy is up front about his sexism.” Two stars.
“Other than his advice about pie, I find Jack Kerouac to be one of those useless, narcissistic, cult-leader types. He’s pretty hot, though, and he does have correct opinions about pie.” Three stars.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“waste of space rich loser chases women, has champagne cocktails, dies.” One star.
“It was not a party. It put me to sleep.” One star.
Ulysses by James Joyce
“I Can't do it, It fell in my toilet and didn't dry well, and I'm accepting it as an act of god. I decided against burning it, and just threw it out.” One star.
“I started reading it, and when on 60th page, the character was still sitting on the toilet, smelling burning fried kidneys from a widow's kitchen, musing about walking and talking with a priest on a beach, I thought ‘Life is too short for this’ and stopped.” One star.
The Odyssey by Homer
“The Odyssey is a story about a homicidal maniac who refuses to ask for directions." Five stars.
“I think I like it more than The Iliad even though it's noticeably less gay.” Four stars.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
"This is just a book about the worst parent ever...What the hell did you expect to happen, Victor!? Its all your damn fault. If you had stayed and raised him, given him a name even, maybe, oh, I dunno, LOVED HIM!? Maybe, just maybe, all this awful crap that happened to you wouldn't have happened. But no. He just whines and complains and faints and cries. Boo f*cking hoo. He's you're responsibility, Victor, you screwed up. Everything is your fault.” One star.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“This is a great love story with some very silly characters in it!” Four stars.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
“This book, as much as I detest it, is actually rather useful. Those who have read it tend to be those whom I most especially desire to avoid. Because those who have read it are invariably proud of the fact — ostentatiously so — it is even easier for me to keep my life free and clear of delusional egomaniacs. Thank you Ayn Rand.” One star.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
“Oh; but the semicolons; those most complicated of grammatical marks; like a colon; but not; numerous as they were, terrified her. Why so many; for what purpose? For what purpose?” Two stars.
“torturous. Just buy the f*cking flowers, Mrs. Dalloway!” One star.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
“I picked up this book upon the advice of Oprah (and her book club) and my friend Kit. They owe me hardcore now. As does Mr. Tolstoy.” Two stars.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
“…asking me to believe that animals can not only learn to speak English but also successfully run a semi-industrialised working farm is, frankly, a bit patronising. Pigs can’t talk, George, and they certainly can’t conceive of harnessing wind power to produce electricity. No doubt he got the idea from watching episodes of Peppa Pig with his kids, but adults won’t believe this sort of nonsense. Let’s hope he comes back with something a bit more serious next time.” One star.
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
“I've been reading a lot of smut lately. It's not because I'm a horndog, though! No wait, yes it is. That's the reason. So I figured I'd check this out, because I heard it was dirty, and it is, but it is not sexy. Not...at...all...sexy.” Two stars.
“It’s really overdone in the sex department.” Two stars.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
"[D]oes the Lorax have to be such a jerk about everything? Maybe he could propose some sort of compromise." Two stars.
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
“Lends substance to the persistent rumor that Shakespeare was one of the screenwriters for Saw 3.” Two stars.
“It's definitely not Shakespeare at his best, but it's probably Shakespeare at his most metal.” Three stars.
“Unbelievably f*cking insane. Five million stars.” Five stars.
Image: Rick Harrison/Flickr