“The Worst Book I Have Read in the Past Three Years”

In today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, you will find my review of Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones. Let it be known that I did not arrive at my assessment lightly. I am an ardent lover of ambitious literature, and I realize when taking on any review assignment that an author has probably sweated for years on a project. As such, I do everything in my power to attempt to understand a book on its own terms.

But this novel was so atrocious that I was forced to record a video presenting just how this atrocious book left me vitiated. If you haven’t yet seen the video and you’re on the fence about Littell, I strongly urge you to see what it might do to you. For if you have any decent literary standards, you may very well find yourself incapacitated in a similar manner when you reach the end. (I still don’t know how Orthofer got to the end, but his review is also worthy of your attention.)

One other side effect of reading Littell: I was forced to spend half a day staring into space in order to recover from the book’s sheer awfulness. You can find out the specific reasons why in the review. But I must stress that, even if I didn’t possess some modest spirit of decency, I could not possibly recommend this book to my worst enemy. The Kindly Ones still rests in the stacks of spent tomes, sullying the fine offerings of other skilled voices. I have strongly considered burning it.