In the long ago, I once stuck a poor hapless, thoughtless yet generously embosomed broad with the check on my one and only blind date after she gushed about the poetry of White Oleander. Disgusted, I excused myself from the table and made as if for the bathroom, and left. My only regret, I forgot an Andes mint. My behavior was inexcusable, I know. But sometimes art requires a teleological suspension of the ethical. That’s why my conscience is pure and unruffled as a white rose pedal. Oleander is the most poorly written novel I’ve ever read—and I’ve read 10,162 books. What makes it so bad? Well, that’s ridiculously easy to answer. Oleander seized my throat like a pair of sour pliers and juiced me like a lemon; the ugliness of its prose made me sob like raw razors; and Fitch’s storytelling drifted over the valley of literary art like a vast headache and made people dumb with pain. If you mock my figures of speech — and you damn well better have — I kiss you flush on the mouth. Oleander is overgrown with them. (Incidentally, I yanked this goatgrass and knapweed from its rank fields.) Read this book if you want to expose yourself to today’s literary allergens. If it doesn’t bolster your appreciation for good writing by way of dreadful example, nothing will. You may as well read Fitch backwards and rave about the lyrical dreams of a foster child in search of beauty.