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The Book Blogger Awards 2017

Fiction Feature

The focus of  Awful Library Books has always been on non-fiction.  A few fiction submissions have come in, though, that are just too funny not to post!

Blissful Joy and the SATs: A Multiple-Choice Romance
Greenwald
1982

Submitter: I saw this in the library and had to take a picture (it’s my facebook profile picture now)!

Holly: “Her life moves along as carefully planned until sixteen-year-old Bliss is befriended one day on the subway by a stray dog.”  (Click here for the worldcat entry.) Hmmm, misleading title!  First, I thought it was a non-fiction book about how euphoric it is to take the SATs. That couldn’t possibly be right (although I have now seen stranger things…), so I took a second look.  Sure enough, it’s fiction.  A story about someone in a state of euphoria about taking the SATs, then?  Nope – the character’s name is Bliss.  Disappointing!

The Masterpiece of Nice Mr. Breen
Hunvald
1972

Submitter: The cover almost says it all, doesn’t it?  Pot smokin’ grannies.  The plot–5 sweet old ladies get their pot from neighbor Mr Breen, who manufactures psychedelic drugs in his basement. They don’t know he’s also a murderer, with grandiose ideas of creating murder masterpieces–unsolvable, classic, murderer uncaught. And he’s having quite a career, until, as the book jacket states:

“…the ladies come no closer to solving the macabre crimes than than anyone else—until crotchety old Priscilla takes an acid trip that flips from
heartwarming to nightmarish and leads the ladies directly to the killer’s lair.”

“Not only a funny and fast-moving suspense story, but an often lyrical journey into the mellow world of mind-expanding drugs and an affirmation of Seneca’s statement that ‘life is most delightful when it is on the downward slope.’ ”

Holly: Ha ha ha!!!  I’d write more, but I’m gasping for breath between squeals of delight!

George Bush, Dark Prince of Love: A Presidential Romance
Millet
2000

Holly: “Realists will scoff at George Bush, Dark Prince of Love. Absurdists, however, may rejoice. To put it politely, the narrator of Lydia Millet’s satire is fat, felonious, trailer-park trash who’s out to replace Barbara Bush in the president’s affections.”  http://amzn.to/chaoIv They had me at absurdist.

Jason’s Women
Okimoto
1986

Thank you to the submitter, YA author Julie Halpern, for this one.  No, this did not come from her library.  It came from her awesome blog!  http://juliehalpern.blogspot.com/2010/05/more-covers-for-your-covering-pleasure.html Check out the other excellent covers on her site!

Sarah T.: Portrait of a teen-age alcoholic
Wagner
Based on the Universal Television Production written by Shapiro
1975

Submitter: We found this book while weeding a specialized collection for the Education Department.  Books based on movies are suspect to begin with, but this one is based on a made-for-TV movie with Linda Blair and Mark Hamill.  …and the teaser text on the inside cover? Can we say melodrama? Yikes!

Holly: I didn’t catch this one on TV, but I bet Linda Blair plays one heck of a puking drunk.  (Sorry, couldn’t NOT mention that, could I??)

White Captives
Lampman
1975

Submitter: So obviously, the cover illustration is a pretty stark expression of white culture’s fear of the “other.” The expression on that girl’s face is just exquisite. This book was published in 1975, and we all agreed that the publisher “should have known better” by that point. The writing itself may be perfectly acceptable — the lone Amazon reviewer gave it 5 stars, calling it “a captivating story,” and it’s based on a true story about two sisters captured by Apaches — but the title and cover art are so dated, exploitative, and unintentionally funny that nobody over the age of 10 is going to be able to derive anything but ironic enjoyment from it today.

Holly: This is cataloged as a children’s fiction book.  The cover would have scared the heck out of me when I was a kid!

0 Responses to Fiction Feature

  • Wait… if “murder occurs right before their eyes,” wouldn’t that make them material witnesses rather than “supersleuths”?

    Thanks; I’m dying here! (OK, that was bad even for me.)

  • The blonde girl is reaching out in a futile gesture to the author:

    “Noooo! Do not play the race caaaaard! You are not readyyyyyyy!!!!”

  • Laughing… too… hard…. Must stop… laughing…. I think it was the George Bush book that did it. Too much….

  • Richard and Esther Shapiro? The creators of Dynasty? I’m sure they brought the drama to teen alcoholism.

    I think I read the George Bush book at once upon a time.

    I need to read the Mr Breen book!

  • Oh, boy! The first book about Bliss looks like an old outdated book I might have picked up in our library in high school fifteen years ago. Plenty of books from the 80s to very early 90s with similar covers like that were all over the place back in the day.

    The books titled Jason’s Women by Jean Davies Okimoto sounds very familar to me. I actually read another book about adoption by that same author when I was in high school. Not a bad book at all.

  • Holy cow, there are like 5 libraries close to me that have that SAT book. Should I ILL it?

  • Epic post today! My jaw would drop and then I’d close it and then it would drop again. Wow.

  • Not just Linda Blair and Mark Hammill, no! Let’s toss in Larry Hagman and William Daniels too! They had to do a book just to recoup the cost of the actors in the movie!

  • I have never been so moved to want to find and purchase one of the “Awful” books until now! I must have Bliss and her SATs! And you know what, Amazon has a seller who is willing to part with it for 1 cent! That is correct, just one thin penney! Oh, I have to pay postage, but can I resist? One site describes the book as a “multi-layered and complex novel’ with the author having “expert use of irony and satire.” It is supposed to have “sophisticated humor” as well! Heck, I can spring for a total of $4.00 (remember the book is only 1 cent, but postage is 3.99!) for a funny summer read! My teenage son and daughter might get a hoot out of it! Encoiurage them to stress over their SATs! (Actually my older kids didn’t even take them. One is in college, the other a PhD candidate, so really Ms. Bliss might have chilled a little,)

  • Oh…my…gosh! I need the druggie granny book too! I just have to have ! Yes, it is available used on Amazon! I must have that book!

  • I weeded the Blissful Joy book AND the Portrait of a Teen Alcoholic out of our high school library collection not all that long ago …

  • Blissful Joy and the SATs would probably not interest teens today, though I can’t say for sure since it’s been quite a while since I read it, but it was a popular YA title and one I booktalked a couple of times back when I was a Young Adult specialist. I actually own the book, with a number of other YA titles from that time. It was actually a nice little fiction title and back when it was published, odd titles were the norm.

  • I found “White Captives” at my Friends of the Library sale last year, and it was so offensive that I bought it in order to destroy it!

    (shhh, don’t tell anyone that a library employee has intentionally destroyed a book!)

  • I know there actually is a book called “The Way To Become The Sensuous Man” by “M” – because I own the women’s version “The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman” by “J” – my question is, do the other two books that Jason has his feet on exist?

    • They are hideous, aren’t they! I own both.
      The woman one is all about how to get nice jewellery and the kitchen you always wanted by playing the sex card. The section on the woman’s orgasm is how to FAKE!
      The man one is of course how to get laid without forking out for the jewellery and kitchen.
      Not sure which is more repulsive.

      • Yeah, and reading about “J” on Wikipedia made me think the book is even more nonsense then I thought while reading it –

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Garrity

        Somewhere I’ve also got a book from the 60s on female orgasms. I picked it up from the Friends for 50 cents not to read it, but because the address for the publisher was 666. Just amused me.

        I also got Sex Games That People Play – I want to read it but it’s so fragile that when I started it I was afraid the pages would fall out. So I’ve left it alone. Nice mustard yellow cover with a teeny tiny picture of naked people.

        I have a feeling since they were all sex books and all from the 60s & 70s that they were all from the same person, but the Friends are putting them out sporadically. Either because they’re afraid of offending someone (our library is across the street from two different churches) or because they just have SO much to go through.

        I looked up reviews on the Men’s version of that book. Apparently there’s still guys whom use it, including teenage boys!

  • Directed by Richard Donner!

  • Why hasn’t “The Masterpiece of Nice Mr. Breen” been turned into a movie? Bette White, call me!

  • Regarding those white captives, maybe the cover’s offensive, but not out of context….check out S.C. Gwynne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon” and check out the interview with Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. Comanches were the most fearsome, marauding warriors there were, hardly the idealized gentle notion of Native American people we’ve constructed for our recent imagination.

    • yes…one would NOT want to be an enemy, white or indian, captured by hostile comanches or apaches…same with mohawks and iroquois.

      as for the Jason book; anyone notice the ‘guitarist’ in the poster is shredding on either a mini -cello or a giant violin? and ol’ jase has some HUUUGE feet on him. he should have no trouble with the babes…if a certain ‘rumor’ is true, eh? winkwink

  • When I was a volunteer at a public library in a much larger city than the one I live in now, one of my occasional duties was to straighten up the room most often used by adult ESL students and their tutors. The SAT book made me think of that one – I remember seeing lots of books that looked, in length, font size, and simplicity of sentence structure, like easy children’s chapter books, but that all had romantic or over-the-top drama storylines.

    I thought you were kidding about the plot for the little old ladies one. That one sounds bizarre.

  • About 12 years ago I discarded a children’s fiction book that had Orenthal in the title, think. It was about an old lady who loved OJ Simpson or some crazy thing. It struck me at the time that putting him in that book probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
    The George Bush title reminded me of that and an old Carol Burnett song called “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles.”
    Yes, I’m old.

  • Sarah T., Dawn, the movies about Satanic girls’ schools–those were the golden years of frightening, horrific ABC Movie-of-the-Week movies that us girls watched in terror in the 1970’s. Glad to see that there were novelizations if you couldn’t get enough of the gratuitous violence disguised as an important issue. But where is the novelization of the Karen Black Tikik Doll terror movie? It could have a cover similar to the last one.

  • Lydia Millet is actually an award-winning fiction writer, and I seem to recall the George Bush book got some good reviews. Not that I would expect a librarian to be aware of something like that. Oh, wait.

  • The little old ladies remind me of the movie The North Avenue Irregulars.

  • I loved “Blissful Joy and the SATs” when I was in high school and I think it would hold up fine today, despite the dorky-ish title (and cover). It’s a nice book about a young woman whose ambitious college and career goals clash with her hippie-ish divorced parents (who gave her such an awful name). It wasn’t awful at all, and I would absolutely buy an ex-lib copy today to add to my young-adult nostalgia fiction collection. Don’t kill Blissful Joy!

  • The Bliss book sounds like a teenage bestiality romance!!

  • After seeing this post, I requested and received through our consortium “The Masterpiece of Nice Mr. Breen,” and I’m halfway through it. I can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s wonderfully hilarious.

  • That high woman does not even notice there’s a gun pointed right at her!

  • I remember watching Sara T. in Middle School – part of health class or something.

    I don’t remember Mark Hamill, but I do remember she killed a horse at the end, I think. And there was some girl who was 10 and a recovering alcoholic, or something.

    Oh, and the maid got fired because the mother thought SHE was topping the liquor with water.

    Good times…

  • I was assigned to watch “Sarah T: Portrait of a teenage alcoholic” by my 7th grade health teacher when it premiered as a TV movie in the 1970s. Imagine how fun that homework was (not).

  • @Carol I saw Sara T, too. I watched it on regular TV though, of my own volition. It was awesome. There is one scene where they fill a watermelon with vodka or something and then all stick straws in. Someone says to Linda Blair “Hey, slow down and leave some for the rest of us, har har.” I had no idea there was a novelization.

  • Can you imagine: a paperback of Mr Breen going for $47,94 at Amazon… http://www.amazon.com/Masterpiece-Nice-Mr-Breen/dp/0060870567