Sunday, 8 July 2012

Books we love to hate

' we forget sometimes that a vital part of loving literature is hating certain books and certain writers, just as hating Spurs is an important part of supporting Arsenal; and the embarrassing truth is that I have probably got far more satisfaction out of trying to persuade friends that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a tawdry piece of misogynistic torture porn than I have out of discussing the reasons why Wolf Hall is a masterpiece.'
This comment in Mark Haddon's wonderful essay 'The Right Words in the Right Order', really made me smile.  I'm with him all the way with the Dragon Tattoo. Am I the only one to think so?  It seems churlish to blog about books I hate, best not mention them at all. It's true though that our most entertaining book group debates have been between book haters and book lovers. It's great fun to heap scorn and vitriol on a book and equally to defend a book against its detractors.

I haven't read many books that I hate, mainly because if I hate them that much I just don't finish them at all. Consequently the books I hate are usually books I've been obliged to study. So I confess now that I hated Dracula and I never want the Count to darken my bookshelf again.

Often it's just a case of 'the wrong book at the wrong time'.  Books need to be approached in the right frame of mind or at the right stage of life. Reading Camus' The Stranger as a seventeen year old was a revelation. I'm scared to reread it now for fear it leaves me cold and loses its place on my 'Greatest Books' list. It's not a risk I'm prepared to take.

Which books do you love to hate?

6 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you about the wrong book at the wrong time. I was made to read Dickens in school and have never really got over it, well, until just recently listening to Great Expectations was a much better experience than I'd anticipated. And between you and me, I'll say very quietly that I don't really get on with Shakespeare. But I can't say I hate him - just feel a bit inadequate!

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    1. I think it's being 'made' to read things that's the problem. If anyone ever tells me 'you must read this', I probably never will.

      As for Shakespeare, I'm tempted to say that you've just not seen the right production yet, but I shall refrain. ;-)

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  2. The books I hate and finish usually are for book group discussions because that is the only reason I finish them. The most vehement meeting we had was over Philip Pullman's 'The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ' between two atheists, one who loved it and the other who loathed it.

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    1. That sounds like a great debate. I wish I'd been there!

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  3. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David was my undoing. I couldn't get on with it at all and admit to only getting half way through it even though it was for my reading group. Luckily the weather intervened and I couldn't go to the meeting! Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time and I should try again?

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  4. I haven't read that Vee, so I can't comment. I tend to think that life's too short to persevere with a book you're not enjoying. On the other hand, some books that I've hated initially have turned out to be rather good.

    It took me years to get past the first chapter of John Fowles' 'Daniel Martin', but now it's one of my favourite books.

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