Sometimes the name of the author tells you everything you need to know about a book: If you see the words "Stephen King" on the cover, you know it's gonna be creepy as hell and set in New England, and if you see "Nicholas Sparks," you know there's smooching inside, and that there'll be a shitty movie of it in two years. But then you find out that J.K. Rowling secretly wrote a detective novel and everybody loses their shit.
But that's nothing compared to the bizarre shit cranked out by some of the most iconic authors of all time ...
H.P. Lovecraft's disturbed imagination enriched the 20th century's nightmares by giving birth to concepts like the Necronomicon (the book of the dead) and Cthulhu, everyone's favorite octopus-headed cosmic entity. There are many (terrifying) recurrent themes in Lovecraft's work, but the main message in his stories seemed to be "All of us are fucked and there's no possible escape from the horror, not even in death."
But He Also Wrote ...
"Sweet Ermengarde," a whimsical farce about love, opportunism, and a stash of gold buried under a farm.
"Almost nobody dances sober, unless they happen to be insane." -H.P. Lovecraft
The story stars the pure, beautiful farmer's daughter Ethyl Ermengarde, who is taken from her family and virtuous suitor, Jack Manly (Lovecraft's second best named character after B'gnu-Thun, the Soul-Chilling Ice-God), by their villainous landlord. The landlord then promptly forgets about her when he finds out about the aforementioned buried gold. Later Ermengarde escapes to the city, falls in with the right kind of wealthy widow, and makes a fortune. She comes home to reunite with her love, but realizes that the landlord is quite wealthy, and so she marries him instead. It seems like the sort of plot the Farrelly brothers would put together in 15 minutes.
"We're thinking Jack Black in drag for Ermengarde and the suitors."
According to letters Lovecraft was writing at the time, the whole thing was apparently motivated by the fact that, back in the late 1910s/early 1920s, those rags-to-riches stories were all the rage, while his tales of monsters that make you insane when you look at them weren't, so this was his minor revenge. Also, maybe, just maybe, old H.P. took a look at his last name one day and decided he could make a fortune crafting romantic tales, but it didn't quite work out that way.
In fact, such was Lovecraft's reputation and the literary typecasting that the first time "Sweet Emengarde" was published for public consumption was in the horror collection Beyond the Wall of Sleep, between tales with names like "Herbert West -- Reanimator" and "The Crawling Chaos." Shockingly, its potential audience of bored housewives never managed to find it there.
Nostradamus earned a place in the pages of history by vaguely predicting vague world events that vaguely came true, sort of. Nostradamus' followers allege that in his book The Prophecies, published way back in the 16th century, he predicted things like Hitler's rise to power, the Kennedy assassination, and the 9/11 attacks. And yet he said nothing about Shaquille O'Neal's Kazaam.
But still, it's precisely the vagueness of his writing that gives Nostradamus that air of mystery that has allowed him to remain a household name for so many centuries. Does this mean that 500 years from now people will see that "ancient aliens" guy from the History Channel as a powerful mystic? Probably, yes.
But He Also Wrote ...
Treatise on Make-Up and Jam, which is exactly what it sounds like: a cookbook full of jam recipes.
"And the jelly will become one with the cream of peanut, and the bread will rejoice, for it is made delicious."
Nostradamus' jams were apparently so yummy that the book managed to become a best-seller in 1555, back when like five people knew how to read. It even became the standard on how to make jam by the jam makers in Paris. Nostradamus gathered all these recipes way before going into the future-guessing business, when he was an aimless 20-something going around Europe researching herbal medicines (he listened to a lot of Frank Zappa and grew his hair long during this time).
The book also included recipes for other delicious treats like candy, marzipan, and toothpaste. However, this was still a book by Nostradamus, so naturally there's plenty of bullshit in there. One recipe claimed to be able to cure the plague. Another could turn your hair blonde. And then there's the one that, when properly fed to another person, could instantly convince them to have sex with you (and by "properly fed," we mean you have to spit it into their mouth). So, yeah, maybe the whole best-seller thing had less to do with the jams being delicious and more with their plague-curing/boner-causing powers.
Roger Ebert's opinion on what makes a good movie can be found on literally thousands of Wikipedia pages and the minds of three generations of cinephiles. Ebert's film reviews were so respected that he received an unprecedented Pulitzer Prize for them. During his final years, the man reinvented himself as the classy uncle of the Internet, telling us what to think about a number of topics and totally owning up on the few instances when he got it wrong.
He would've come around on video games, too.
But He Also Wrote ...
Who Killed Bambi? This aborted movie starred the Sex Pistols and was so depraved, even Sid Vicious thought it was a little too much.
Chicago Art Department
"Oi, where's my Fred Astaire dance number?"
The scene in question, suggested to Ebert by the Pistols' manager, Malcolm McLaren, would have found Vicious shooting up heroin with his mother and then making out with her. The complete mess of a human being that was Sid read it in front of Ebert and the director, and his reaction was essentially, "Man, you guys are freaks."
The director, by the way, was the king of boobies, Russ Meyer, for whom Ebert had written some softcore pornos in the early '70s, as we've mentioned before. It was this work that compelled the Pistols to hire the pair for their proposed movie, which was supposed to be the A Hard Day's Night for the punk generation. Ebert rose to the challenge and wrote the entire thing, while Meyer spent his time carefully collecting the amplest bosoms in Britain.
Pictured: two punk motherfuckers.
Filming of the movie actually did get started for a few days and a couple of minutes of footage was shot, but then the production collapsed because it turns out the Sex Pistols weren't the best when it came to keeping track of their money. It's hard to imagine Ebert being taken so seriously as a film reviewer if such a turd of a movie had come out under his name, although it would have been interesting to find out if he would have become the first movie critic to have a Pulitzer Prize taken away from him.