Monday, September 18, 2006

The best bad novelist of all time

Looking for a chuckle? You've come to the right blog. I found this in today's Telegraph:

An obscure writer, whose works were enthusiastically devoured by C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley and Mark Twain, is the subject of a revival celebrating her status as the world's worst novelist.

The heaving bosoms, trembling lips, quivering voices and clammy hands that inhabit the world created by Amanda McKittrick Ros won her many admirers among the literary elite.

Her novels provided the entertainment at gatherings of the Inklings, a group of Oxford dons including Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien who met from the 1930s to 1950s. They competed to see who could read her work aloud for longest before starting to laugh.

I had never heard of Amanda McKittrick Ros, so I went Googling and learned that the Irish novelist was born in 1860 and died in 1930.

How bad was she? I scampered over to Wikipedia to find out:

Nick Page, author of In Search of the World's Worst Writers, rated Ross the worst of the worst. He says that "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment.'"

Oh! You're killin' me! (Don't stop.)

The article mentions her novel Delina Delaney, which begins:

Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?

Back to Wikipedia:

Page comments: "I first read this sentence nearly three years ago. Since then, I have read it once a week in an increasingly desperate search for meaning. But I still don't understand it."

A poet as well as a novelist, Ros wrote Poems of Puncture and Fumes of Formation. The latter contains "Visiting Westminster Abbey," which opens:

Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
Undergoes the same as you.

Oh, my. Not as deliciously bad as William McGonagall, but close.

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cantnever said...

Ha Ha. These writings remind me of a quote I heard and loved recently about what document I do not know: "This paper, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read." - Winston Churchill (Quote from: GREAT POLITICAL WIT, Bob Dole)

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased! I read your quote from Delina Delaney (what kind of title is that, anyway?) three times, and still didn't understand it, and then I read on and found that the original commenter didn't either. Such relief!

Sounds like her books might be out of copyright. It might be worth a search over at Project Gutenberg. She sounds a hoot!

Neal Dench

Camy Tang said...

Oh my gosh that's horrid. So horrid, it really is funny.

Brenda Coulter said...

Oh, I doubt you'll find Delina Delaney among the Project Gutenberg books. Not because I think it's still under copyright, but because I can't imagine anyone having enough patience to type the entire work.

Brenda Coulter said...

Delina Delaney. Delina Delaney...


Urban Ospreys said...

There's an AMR revival happening in Belfast (see my entry)!