4. Vile Bodies (1930) by Evelyn Waugh
Waugh’s scattered, rapid-fire dialogue was meant to capture the Bright Young Things of his era. But this nearly unreadable book is more cartoonish than perceptive. It is also confusing, unfunny, and ultimately pointless.
3. Fury (2001) by Salman Rushdie
The beauty of Rushdie’s prose and his gift for humor desert him entirely in this clumsy tour through Manhattan high society. (A German plumber is called “Kitchen Schlink.”) Can this be the same man who wrote Midnight’s Children?
2. Exit Ghost (2007) by Philip Roth
Not only does this slender Roth novel convey none of his intellect or comic energy, but it also exhibits his worst traits: repetitiveness, solipsism, and, yes, misogyny.
1. TIE: American Notes (1842) and Martin Chuzzlewitt (1844) both by Charles Dickens
The first of these dreadful books is Dickens’s American travelogue, which was partially plagiarized and completely without insight. The second is his lamely unfunny satirical novel directed, again, at Americans. George Orwell famously called Dickens “generously angry”: These books are angry but small-minded and mean-spirited.