Stupid Tuesday Questions, naked emperor edition

A few years ago, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 was published posthumously.  It was met with riotous praise, as critic after critic waxed rhapsodic over what a masterpiece it was.  Despite its incredibly dark subject matter (a thinly fictionalized take on the unsolved murders in Juarez) and daunting length, I was excited when a blog read-along was organized, and happily embarked on a challenging but rewarding literary journey.

I loathed it.  Of all the books I have ever read, none come close to the depths of my hatred for this one.  I hate it with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns.  There are plenty of books I’ve thoroughly disliked, but was happy enough to have finished that I kept them on my shelf.  (I’m looking at you, Franzen.)  I couldn’t give my copy away to the local library fast enough.  If I were trapped on a desert island, I’d rather have the phone book than this one.

And yet, the critics loved it.  Loooooooooved it.  Picking the first five reviews that pop up on Google, they’re all utterly unsparing with their praise.  Where I see a brutal, ugly heap of incoherent, garbled nonsense, they see an epic masterpiece.

This happens to me every so often.  I remember how much the critics loved “Sideways,” which I thought was a movie about two schmucks.

So, here’s my question for you — what movie/book/album/TV show have you watched/read/heard that everyone else seemed to love, that you hated?  The more critically acclaimed, the better.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Blindness by Jose Saramago. He win the Nobel, so I though I’d give it a shot. Cruel, uninsightful (no pun intended), sexist, poop-obsessed. And apparently, it got made into a movie!

  2. Napoleon Dynamite. I think, however, that had I not been told by the rest of the living world that it was THE GREATEST FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER (which I didn’t believe, but still, I expected humor), I might have found it moderately amusing in places and not regretted having watched it. Instead, I can’t stand it, mostly to spite the people who jumped on the hyperbolic praise bandwagon.

    I don’t know if this qualifies, because I can’t say that I hated it, but I had a very conflicted relationship with One Hundred Years of Solitude while I was reading it a few years back. I didn’t hate it… but I found almost no pleasure in reading it, and found very little interesting in it, but a friend whose taste I generally trust loves it, so I figured I would force myself to finish it. By the time I reached the end, however, I came to the conclusion that it’s one of those books written to be read twice — because I began to get a glimmer of a structure to it that seemed possibly remarkable. So maybe one day I’ll give it another shot. But life is short, and there are many (long) books to read.

    • I felt that way about “Rushmore”. All the people watching with me were practically peeing themselves laughing at the movie, while near the end I was literally pacing back and forth waiting for the credits to roll so I could get out of there.

  3. I’ve never understood the purported genius of Miles Davis. All the hype about him, compared to the actual albums which sound to me like tuneless, unharmonic noodlings functionally unrelated to what the rest of the band was doing, left this reviewer cold. In fact, it turned me off to a lot of other jazz, too.

    If you’re in to jazz, this opinion is probably heresy. But I’m afraid I just don’t get it and I probably never will.

  4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I loved every bit of the story, but I hated the actual reading of it. It just dragged on and on. I read it in high school, and I might have more patience for it now, but I doubt it. Still, I’m very glad I read it.

  5. “I loathed it. Of all the books I have ever read, none comes close to the depths of my hatred for this one. I hate it with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns.”

    If you had just said it was really poor I would have taken a pass. How can I not read it after seeing this?

  6. Nirvana, Rebel Without a Cause, and Catcher In The Rye.

    Linking mine to yours, Russell, it makes me wonder: Do we just attach genius to those that die early? (Yeah, yeah, I know Salinger didn’t die, but his decision to be a recluse maybe has the same affect?)

    I still maintain that James Dean’s famous “You’re tearing me apart!” bit would be dismissed as terrible over-acting if he’d slowed down going into curves.

    • Oh, I thought of another one:

      The Usual Suspects.

      I was lied to for two hours. This was supposed to be entertaining.

      • The Usual Suspects was entertaining, precisely because you were lied to for two hours and you bought it [spoiler] right along with the hapless Chazz Palmienteri. You go to that sort of movie precisely to have your mind toyed with, the same way you go to a horror movie to be scared.

        I thought the last scene in Blair Witch Project was kinda scary, but the setup was too long and headache-inducing to justify the payoff. There was too little sense of dread along the way to the house. Blair Witch was only really interesting for the way it was made.

      • Curious: Was thus the same reaction you had after 6th Sense?

        • In all of the trailers, what did we see? The kid saying “I see dead people”.

          So I go to the movie and Bruce Willis gets shot in the first scene. I say to myself. “That’s one of the dead people the kid sees.”

          And then there’s this big reveal at the end and everyone in the theater gasps and I die a little inside.

  7. Three Men in a Boat. I’d heard over and over that it was brilliant, inimitable, quintessentially British humor. None of the above. It’s a knockoff of a Mark Twain travel book like A Tramp Abroad, but not as funny.

  8. Your reaction to 2666 tells us more about you than about the book. 2666 is an amazing work of art.

    • Well, given that you chose as your alias the name of one of the major characters, I would hardly expect you to agree with me.

      You are, of course, free to like whatever you wish. To you, 2666 is an amazing work of art. Good for you! To me, it’s an appalling pile of claptrap that adds up to nothing, laced with graphic violence and sprinkled with casual homophobia. You’re not going to convince me, and I’ve certainly got no desire to convince you. Vive la difference!

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