Thursday, January 14, 2021


Dear Others,

Do you hate it when you don't like a book?  I do.  I feel like I am letting the book down.  I feel like I should learn, or even force myself, to like its characters.  Discipline myself to believe in its world.  

I search out support for my dislike- asking others, hey, listen to this- do you like this sentence?  Do you like this plot?  This idea?  It's about a guy who is imprisoned in a bakery for his war crimes, and he is in love with the commandant, but the commandant is of course not allowed to love men, and so he cuts himself nightly, chipping out pieces of his bicep; The commandant keeps his arms covered at all times, because they are pocked with pothole scars.  He punishes himself so he can get to military police heaven, but, the author has suggested strongly that there is nothing but hell for those who perpetuate violence.  Also, there is a girl;  she is besotted with the baker, because he seems to her to be the giver of life, the bringing of nourishment to her war-torn village.  She thinks he is a demi-god; but of course, the baker knows that he has killed and maimed beyond tallying, and so he secretly dispenses misshapen and poorly risen loaves to this girl, who shares them out daily amid her crumbling, bombed buildings.

Growing desperate for validation, I look up what the internet thinks- does it like this book?  Does it say this book is understood and beloved by decades of intellectuals?  By people with better taste, better knowledge, bigger bank accounts, and better hair cuts than I?  Just who is it who likes this book?

Or maybe I am uncomfortable with this book's hard truths.  Am I desperately seeking validation from others, anyone, even fictional characters?  Do I hate the characters because they remind me of myself?  Is hating a book just more of my tedious self-loathing?  I put myself on the couch; asking myself "why do you hate your Mother?"

Because, a bad book is not just a bad book, is it?  It's a failure on my part to comprehend, I am rejecting the gifts offered by the author.  I imagine these writers, with their pen, pencil, typewriter or computer:  They sit and slave, they erase, they write, they erase, they write, they strike through, they write, they write, they write, on and on, pages, chapters, volumes.  300 pages of words!  And I, miserable reader that I am, cannot find anything useful in all that generosity?  I am heartless, cynical, a jerk.  I should learn to recycle better. I am profligate.  The kind of person you dread coming to your party because they will only talk of over population and pollution, melting ice and rising seas.  And they don't think any good songs have been written since Stairway to Heaven.  

Well, I guess I can live with the lack of popularity, but I always feel like I am missing out-  books come in with 8 pages of glorifying praise, millions of copies are sold (but perhaps not actually read?), prizes and awards are bestowed, they are on long and prestigious lists of 'bestsellers.'  

Oh, and then, there is my lack of confidence.  Maybe I don't hate it, maybe I am just a cranky reader, a doubting Thomas, a negative Nellie.  

Conversely loving a book is so easy; reasons I adore it seem to spring from the air; books I love inspire great gobs of intelligible, imaginative praise: Oh, you will love this book!  It is like a beautiful handsewn crazy quilt, of deep colored velvet, with tiny stitches holding brocade trim to the edges!  And besides which, I never feel like I have to explain, to defend, my love for a book.  Which, I guess, might mean that loving is the easier thing to do.


I wanted very much to use the word 'bestown' in writing this, but the goldarned internet said I couldn't, and I guess, because I am feeling like a bad girl for not liking a book, I followed the rules instead of having fun.  Now isn't that kind of sad?  I hope you won't respond like that, punishing yourself for not liking a book.