World's Worst Writer? or, the Tremendous Trials and Tribulations of the Brave Bevy at Belfast

Posted: September 18, 2006 in An Author You May Not Know

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Ever heard of the romance writer Amanda McKittrick Ros? Most likely not, though she was an author read by such notables as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Mark Twain, among others. So she must have been a worthy writer, right? Well, not exactly. In actuality, they read her works as part of a contest to see who could read the longest without bursting into laughter. Not exactly the most prestigious distinction, but it IS a distinction.

Can’t argue with that, now, can you?

Her other distinction was her rampant usage of alliteration. That and her incredibly melodramatic language made Twain et. al. read her work for the sheer entertainment value only the truly bad can offer. Never mind Bulwer-Lytton’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” McKittrick Ros blew the man completely out of the water. She showed HIM who’s truly bad.

Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939) was an Irish writer who fancied herself an aristocrat. She dropped the ending “s” in her last name in a vain attempt to align herself with Danish nobility, in an effort to claim a family line that wasn’t anywhere near hers. She was, according to reports, a terrible snob who most likely had no idea what she was writing was anything other than profoundly literary. Which, of course, makes it all the more funny.

Despite the fact so many have laughed at her work, she’s become a sort of cult-classic icon in the way the truly bad can sometimes become. At the upcoming “Celebrate Literary Belfast” festival her work will be profiled for the “benefit” of a new generation of readers. To “honor” her, they’re planning a contest in which the winner will read the longest extract of her work without laughing. Ah, to be a fly on that wall…

Here’s an example of the sort of prose she wrote: “The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future, and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing.”

Feeling a bit queasy yet? I should have warned you, sorry.

If any of the above should leave you feeling inclined to read any of her works, I should warn you they’re out of print and prices start at around $ 300. That’s the price you pay for kitsch, I guess.

A bibliography of the works of Amanda McKittrick Ros:

Irene Iddesleigh (novel, 1897)
Delina Delaney (novel, 1898)
Poems of Puncture (poetry, 1912)
Fumes of Formation (poetry, 1933)
Helen Huddleston (posthumous novel)
Jack Loudan (1954) O Rare Amanda!: The Life of Amanda McKittrick Ros (London: Chatto & Windus 1954)
Thine in Storm and Calm – An Amanda McKittrick Ros Reader, edited by Frank Ormsby(The Blackstaff Press, 1988.)

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