Readersforum's Blog

February 7, 2013

Amanda McKittrick Ros, the Worst Novelist in History

Irene… Maybe. An excerpt from Mark O’Connell’s Epic Fail.

Who was the worst novelist in history? A definitive answer is probably impossible, given that total artistic failure traditionally results in total obscurity. But it would be foolish to even consider the question without taking into account a very notable exception to that rule—a schoolmistress from Northern Ireland whose novels were so uniquely and thrillingly terrible that, in the early years of the last century, she became an ironic cause célèbre among the cultural luminaries of her time. Her story gives us some perspective on what we tend to think of as a uniquely contemporary phenomenon: the ironic appreciation of bad art—of monkey-faced frescos and multichapter R&B melodramas. This terrible novelist was a sort of early avatar of the spirit of the Epic Fail.

She was born Anna McKittrick in the village of Drumaness in 1860 and became Anna Ross when, after taking up a teaching position in Larne, she married the town’s stationmaster, Andrew Ross. When she began to write novels, she did so under the pseudonym Amanda McKittrick Ros, taking the name Amanda from an Irish romantic novel and dropping the second S in her husband’s surname in order to imply a connection with the noble de Ros family of County Down. For their 10th wedding anniversary, she convinced Andrew to put up the cash to have her first novel, Irene Iddesleigh, printed in Dublin.

Click here to read the rest of this story


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