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Could This Really Be the Worst Book Ever?


The Bridges of Madison County

Okay, I have been formally challenged to prove that The Bridges of Madison County is not the worst book in existence.

The worst book ever!

I laughed when this challenge was issued. All I knew about Bridges was that Clint Eastwood was in the movie with Meryl Streep and there are never fewer than four copies of it in the thrift stores around here.

“Do you really hate it?” I asked. “Do you hate that it did so well?”

“Yes and yes,” came the reply. This was from a person who doesn’t waste much energy hating things. This was from a person whose judgement I usually trust. So I was intrigued. I got a copy at work and read it all yesterday. It’s short.

I had a great time but I have to say that I spent the entire book laughing. Really laughing, like listening-to-David Sedaris-laughing. But while Sedaris does intentional comedy, Robert James Waller does not. It was good for me. It was healthy. I feel revived and my stomach hurts from an intense, draining hilarity that I experience too seldom.

It was as funny as a book can be, particularly during the wild night when Francesca and Robert give in to their passion. Holy crap, I’m starting to laugh right now. You really have to read it to understand. I could not begin to describe it.

I followed Janette around all night reading her passages and saying “Why can’t you give me compliments like this?” and “How come you never say I’m like a star creature from the tail of a comet?” and “Do you think I might be one of the last cowboys too?” And then I’d read something and laugh some more and she’d groan and say “Please, just let me go to sleep.”

But! Is it truly the worst book ever? Not for me. If I can get through a book and it entertains me this much, it can’t be the “worst” by any standard I use. In fact, reading Bridges was such a party that it practically brought me back to life. I might actually love it.

But for perspective, if you really want to make this analysis, here are a few books I can take more seriously and that are better-written and that feel more realistic to me.

  • Twilight–if you’ve followed this blog for long, you know what it means for me to say that. But it’s true.
  • 50 Shades of Gray–I  read it so I would know what all the fuss was about. Turns out, the fuss was that people are fussing. The only things that are special about this book are the sales figures and the fact that it has generated so much controversy over such tame material, in my opinion.
  • Any other romance in existence, even the ones with time traveling vikings.

Now then, over to you. Do you agree with the original assessment? Could Bridges possibly be the worst book? What would you nominate in its place?

Also: I love Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep and I imagine the movie is a perfectly serviceable romance.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Boris B May 27, 2012, 3:21 pm

    I wish I had had your perspective when I read it almost 20 years ago! Makes me laugh just reading about you laughing!

    • Josh Hanagarne May 27, 2012, 3:25 pm

      Why did you read it?

      • Boris B May 27, 2012, 4:49 pm

        Japanese women were crazy about it at the time.

  • jntswally May 27, 2012, 6:58 pm

    Haven’t read it. Thanks for the tip; when I need some cathartic laughter I’ll check it out.

    It did create huge buzz about covered bridges. There was a limited-edition cross stitch pattern series in honor of the book and a “save the bridges” type campaign at the time the book came out.

  • Linda Dial May 27, 2012, 7:05 pm

    I read it when it first came out. Don’t remember why. When I told my marriage counselor that it was a stupid book, she totally agreed with me.

  • Daisy May 28, 2012, 10:09 am

    The book’s premise is deeply flawed. The whole plot revolves around a man asking directions.

  • Michael Golrick May 28, 2012, 10:14 am

    My line (back when it first came out): “I wasted 45 minutes of my life, and read the book.” (The movie was much better!)

  • Carol May 28, 2012, 6:33 pm

    I agree!! It was unbelievably bad. I was not a fan of the movie either, but the book was in a class of bad all its own.

  • Cat Ransom May 28, 2012, 9:05 pm

    There is a MUCH worse book: Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend. It was pitiful. Similar premise to Bridges but much more slapped together. I must admit I loved Bridges. It was very romantic. It’s a great fantasy piece for women who are bored in their relationships. Men should read it to find out how to seduce a woman. There could actually be an even worse book in print though…A Thousand Country Roads: An Epilogue to The Bridges of Madison County (2002) c. 😉

  • cinderkeys May 28, 2012, 10:42 pm

    Never read Bridges, but I find it difficult to believe that it’s worse than The Celestine Prophecy. Talk about laughing your way through a book.

    I talked to a couple of people who thought the insights within were brilliant … and even they agreed that the writing was awful.

  • Jim Janney May 29, 2012, 9:41 am

    There are ways to enjoy a book that have nothing to do with the author’s original intentions. Try a google search on “clench racing”.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 29, 2012, 11:05 am

      That’s hilarious. I challenge you to a clench duel.

  • Cee October 1, 2012, 3:07 am

    I loved this movie but have not read the book. However, the WORST book I have ever read is “The Notebook” upon which the movie-everybody-seemed-to-love was based. Egads, now that was HORRIBLE.