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Sweat en Tears (1947): Blood, Blood, and More Blood

John Lieuwen, Sweat en Tears (Steketee-Van Huis, 1947)

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Mine didn’t come with a jacket, more’s the pity. That would have probably stopped me cold.

The number of books that I have abandoned after reading less than fifty pages I can count on one hand, out of approximately 17,500 I’ve read over the course of my life. But some books have a flaw so glaring that it doesn’t take me fifty pages to know that there’s no way I’m going to be able to finish the book in question; it’s so horrific that the thought of pushing on past wherever I decide to abandon it is torture. One of those books is Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker. The dialect in which Hoban wrote the book is so unintelligible that I suffered through the first chapter, spot-checked pieces of the rest to see if it ever started resembling English, and then kicked it to the curb. That was almost a decade ago, if memory serves. (Memory does serve; according to Amazon I posted my review in April of 2004.) Sweat en Tears, which is written in a dialect that Marion de Velder, in her introduction, calls “Yankee Dutch”, is the second. I made it through twelve pages (the first two poems) of the book’s hundred sixty-eight, and by that time I knew there was no chance I was going to be able to devote any more time to this mess. It doesn’t help that the first poem starts off with, basically, “Two Dutchmen and a Jew walk into a bar…”:

“Ik droomde dat de Rabbi kwam
En pull-de aan mine ear
He said, wat ben jij toch een sight
Wat doe je now toch here.

Ja, zei ik, Rabbi, het is bad
We hebben niks to eat
I only got een bun, I said
Maar die is mijne niet.”
(–p. 9, from “De Dream”)

I have little doubt this has been out of print since not long after it came out. (Steketee-Van Huis lists themselves as a “printing house” on the title page; I am assuming they printed it on commission, meaning this is essentially self-published.) Which means the chances of you stumbling across a copy almost seventy years after its release are minimal. However, if you are so unlucky as to do so, flee screaming in terror. There is a strong possibility this will end up being the worst book I attempt to read in 2013. (zero)

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

One response »

  1. Pingback: Worst I Read, 2013 Edition | Popcorn for Breakfast

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