Now read it to the last bitter page
April 18, 2017 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Why You Should Read Books You Hate: New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul on hate-reading Ayn Rand, parenting books and Harry Paget Flashman.

    As debaters know, sometimes you figure out your position only in opposition. All it takes is for me to read a book by Howard Zinn or Paul Johnson, each gleefully hate-worthy in its own polarizing way, to locate my own interpretation of history. This is what’s so invigorating about hate-reading. To actively grapple with your assumptions and defend your conclusions gives you a sense of purpose. You come to know where you stand, even if that means standing apart.
    I’ve hated my way through many books, thinking, I will read you no matter how hard you make it. But as I go on, I often find that loathing is mixed with other emotions — fear, perverse attraction, even complicated strains of sympathy.
Why Hate-Reading Is Beautiful: Hate-reading works through the magic of strong emotion mashed-up with personal detachment, bonding with clever friends in the budget fellowship of safe, shared disdain. Hate-reads balance the intensity of angry emotions with the depersonalized luxury of not committing too much. In order to hate, you don't have to show what you are, you just have to show what you aren't.

A Guide to Internet Hate-Reads: But maybe one’s deep scholarship of detestable crap on the Web is more than just the expression of an inferiority complex. Maybe it is an outlet, a way to access or exorcise extreme passion, sort of like watching a horror movie. The Greek tragedians knew that getting worked up is more than entertaining—it’s cathartic. And the experience of hate-reading is one part pure transport, one part fascination with the intensity of one’s own feelings, and one part something else. This third rail of hate-reading, I think, is what redeems it.

Why We Hate-Read
Hate-Reading Is The Best And Worst Thing You Can Do
The Top 5 NY Times Brunch Hate Reads Of 2016
posted by not_the_water (111 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't even have time to read the books I think I might actually like, man. I confine my hate-reading to short prose on the Internet.
posted by praemunire at 2:03 PM on April 18 [131 favorites]


A girlfriend insisted I read The Celestine Prophecy.
We broke up afterwards.
Not saying it's because of the book, but it certainly didn't help.
posted by signal at 2:07 PM on April 18 [19 favorites]


There are far to many books that you likely won't hate to consciously go out of your way to hate-read various authors. Unless the whole thing is about signaling to your friends that you are both learned enough to be willing to read not just for pleasure but committed enough that you'll stomach through stuff you hate just so you can come out on the other side with an ability to say you've read Atlas Shrugged and it's completely awful for reasons X, Y and Z and thus look good to your friends.

Can't you just let reviewers and literary critics handle the stuff you know you'll hate and then parrot the same basic opinions. Less time invested and for the most part your friends will be none the wiser.
posted by vuron at 2:08 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


You know what you should totally hate-read? Inf

[CONNECTION TERMINATED]
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:09 PM on April 18 [103 favorites]


This is good advice, although I don't find as much time for it anymore. Amusingly, the first book I ever really did this with was the Bible in high school, (New Catholic International version) - I wanted to be able to articulate why I wasn't Christian anymore to someone I knew, having left the Church after I left middle school.

By the time I was done, I'd gone from half-formed unease with the whole thing to a laundry list of reasons that I was happy with and secure in my choice. Really, nothing demolished by desire to go back like that did.

Upon preview:
Can't you just let reviewers and literary critics handle the stuff you know you'll hate and then parrot the same basic opinions.

I think that's fine most of the time, although it's fun to do it for yourself every so often, especially works that are cornerstones of vile/bad philosophy.

That said, probably my favorite experience in this vein is reading Fred Clark's deconstruction of Left Behind, since he offers so much insight into the culture the books come from. (Like, to me reading him instead of the books themselves isn't a shortcut so much as added value.)
posted by mordax at 2:13 PM on April 18 [18 favorites]


I agree with most of the points about hate reading. But, at the same time, those 1000 pages of Atlas Shrugged are a part of my life I can never get back.
posted by dis_integration at 2:15 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


Life is way too short to deliberately read books I'm not going to like.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:16 PM on April 18 [40 favorites]


Beloved in the same way Wodehouse is beloved but by fewer people

Feel the burn, Flashman.
posted by chavenet at 2:18 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Unless the whole thing is about signaling to your friends that you are both learned enough to be willing to read not just for pleasure but committed enough that you'll stomach through stuff you hate just so you can come out on the other side with an ability to say you've read Atlas Shrugged and it's completely awful for reasons X, Y and Z and thus look good to your friends.

Paul's thesis is that the whole thing is not just about signaling.

But reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument.

It was only by burrowing through books that I hated, books that provoked feelings of outrage and indignation, that I truly learned how to read. Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

To actively grapple with your assumptions and defend your conclusions gives you a sense of purpose. You come to know where you stand, even if that means standing apart.


Maybe if you'd read her piece--even if you hated it--before responding, you be able to make a comment that wasn't so clearly steeped in ignorance.
posted by layceepee at 2:20 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


A girlfriend insisted I read The Celestine Prophecy.

I have read that book. The parts about flying and turning invisible... and then the endorsement to buy the sequel that reveals all the secrets. Smells like a cult. I feel bad for your ex, that kind of bullshit really preys upon naive and vulnerable people..
posted by adept256 at 2:28 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Sounds great! I'll get to those hate reads as soon as I'm done with my love reads, some time around the heat death of the universe.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 2:31 PM on April 18 [40 favorites]


I wanted to know why Henry Miller was banned. I got three quarters through Tropic of Capricorn and understood. It needs to be kept in a vault only accessible to the bravest of scholars.
posted by adept256 at 2:34 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


I know people who hate-read and godspeed, because like much of the folks here, I'm having a hard time reading books I want to read because, y'know, life. Heck, I haven't even be able to summon the ability to quit reading a book entirely even when it's not great. (Except for a recent Clive Barker novel. I'd like a word with a 13-year-old me's hero worship of Barker.)
posted by Kitteh at 2:35 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.
This is all true; and it's a great exercise for people who are (or want to be) writers, critics, lecturers, or just really good close readers. This is the liberal arts ideal. But I must say that it appealed to me a lot more when I was in my 20s and 30s than it does now, at 50. At this point in my life, I definitely have no desire to read books I expect to dislike just to argue with them in my head.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:40 PM on April 18 [34 favorites]


I have read the entire Left Behind series. And Mary Pride's The Way Home. The problem with hate reading is finding ways to do so without actually giving any funding to horrible people. I mean, some things just aren't very good and I don't mind those people making money.

Also, yeah, you don't get those hours back.

I think it's useful for some people to do it, but I think it's a little like the Fahrenheit 451 kind of thing, where we should divvy up who gets responsible for knowing what which books say so we don't have to all know all of them. I don't fault any individual for not having read either of these things, but people who disagree with the contents of a book can't afford to be totally ignorant of it.

I think it is good to process contrary information sometimes, but I can read things I slightly disagree with for that purpose as well as I can read things I find wholly objectionable.
posted by Sequence at 2:44 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I hate-read Harry Potter (the first one) in high school so I could be more judgemental of my peers' reading habits. I was a terrible person, and I now keep my opinions on literature mostly to myself.
posted by hopeless romantique at 2:46 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Y'know what? I hope someone is hate-reading The Handmaid's Tale right now.
posted by adept256 at 2:47 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


Besides, I read metafilter when I want to argue with people in my head.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:47 PM on April 18 [40 favorites]


The problem with hate reading is finding ways to do so without actually giving any funding to horrible people.

Yes: obtaining media without payment is a significant problem in this era of bittorrent, usenet, and the public library.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:53 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

If you don't do this when reading generally, you're still engaging with texts at a pretty unambitious (if by choice) or primitive (if unconscious) level. Even assuming "developing a point of view" is the goal (not universal), you hardly need to hate-read something to think about it intelligently. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that reading something you intend to despise may result in a less thoughtful reading--a purely oppositional reading is no more insightful than a meekly submissive one.
posted by praemunire at 2:55 PM on April 18 [14 favorites]


Hate-reading books is different than hate-reading stuff on the internet, which is what the other links in the OP are about. I'm all for hate-reading on the internet. I like nothing better than to pass the time hate-reading. Which I'm sure says nothing good about me.

I've hate-read a couple of books in my life, mostly memoirs, all fairly easy to read. But I've never been the kind of person who wants to talk about politics, or debate about what movie should win the Oscars, or nitpick anything to death. I don't see that as a failing. That doesn't make me a simpleton.

"In earlier, blithe days, I’d simply allowed the contents of books to gather agreeably in my head as I read and then file out when I was done."

Well that's bullshit. I read fiction, for pleasure, and so the words may file out but the feelings don't. I remember where I was when I finished The Outsiders 35 years ago. (Stay gold, Ponyboy.) I remember how creeped out I was when I was reading Black House, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I remember how much I appreciated my kid after I read Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whalen. You get the idea.
posted by lyssabee at 2:55 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


I once thought that I'll read Atlas Shrugged the day I find a copy in a charity shop. It has been ten years and I still haven't read it. I wonder why that is.
posted by acb at 2:55 PM on April 18 [49 favorites]


That was brilliant acb. Thanks.
posted by adept256 at 2:58 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Honestly the idea that you need to test your abilities as a reader in the fire of bad and/or hateful books isn't very sound. Reading should not be a 1v1 knife fight between the reader and the author. Honestly what is going to be gained going out and reading the Left Behind series or Atlas Shrugged or L Ron Hubbard's works that you can't gain from reading other books that you are less likely to absolutely hate based upon merit or content? You can get a pretty good understanding of objectivism or dispensationalism or scientology without hate reading the original author's works.

If the idea is to expand your horizons it seem like you obviously can expose yourself to a variety of ideas and grapple with philosophical contents without necessarily seeking out and destroying the low hanging fruit that people typically hate read. It just seems that the essential thesis is weak in general as we can generally become more complete readers simply by reading outside of our comfort zones not just looking for the worst possible match-up of reader to book possible and trudging though the read like a death march.
posted by vuron at 3:01 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


What's to be gained? Know your enemy. See how they think, what they would do, how they will react. You don't have to fall into the abyss.
posted by adept256 at 3:07 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Ok Sun-Tzu and the art of reading hateful books...
posted by vuron at 3:10 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


This is all true; and it's a great exercise for people who are (or want to be) writers, critics, lecturers, or just really good close readers.

And this is a good point. I suppose not everybody needs that skill set.

(I'm a writer, and the other thing about at least skimming stuff I hate? It's a great reminder that if those jerks could finish their projects, so can I. A takedown of the Anita Blake comics got me through a difficult story once.)

I think it's useful for some people to do it, but I think it's a little like the Fahrenheit 451 kind of thing, where we should divvy up who gets responsible for knowing what which books say so we don't have to all know all of them.

And that's true too. It seems like this idea is getting a lot of pushback, but speaking as someone who specifically does do this: I wouldn't do it every day or for every idea I hate*. It's just a good thing to consider sometimes, especially in spots where you want to either understand your opposition better, or understand how your gut arrived at a conclusion you're having a hard time articulating. I don't think anybody's suggesting it should be anybody's primary means of engaging with books.

(* For instance, I won't read Ayn Rand. My actual degree's in economics - I don't need to read that crackpot to articulate what's wrong with her ideas.)

If you don't do this when reading generally, you're still engaging with texts at a pretty unambitious (if by choice) or primitive (if unconscious) level.

Just anecdotally, this is how most people I know consume any media: in an unambitious or primitive manner. (This is why I love Fanfare so much - do you know how hard it is to find people who'll overthink a plate of beans without a fistfight elsewhere?)

Upon preview:
Honestly what is going to be gained going out and reading the Left Behind series or Atlas Shrugged or L Ron Hubbard's works that you can't gain from reading other books that you are less likely to absolutely hate based upon merit or content?

Depends on the topic and why you want to know about it. Like, I don't feel there was any substitute for just sitting down and reading the entire Bible - most of what I've read about it comes from too much bias, one way or the other, to really compare to the experience itself. On the other hand, I'm not interested in libertarian/objectivist wankery because I'm reasonably close to an expert about why they're wrong already.

Also, what adept256 said: there's a lot to be gained by understanding why people hold horrible opinions, and a bunch of indirect testimony isn't always a substitute for just going and seeing what they were into.
posted by mordax at 3:13 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I unsuccessfully hate read. That is, I don't finish but good lord do I try. It's far easier to try and fail at a hate reading task when there are an abundance of little free libraries within dog-walking distance, fwiw.
posted by perrouno at 3:13 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I read Ready Player One after it was recommended on Metafilter and good lord was that rubbish. Shamefully bad and I will never trust another recommendation here again. I despise all of you, recommenders and those who didn't stop me from reading it alike.

Am I doing this right?
posted by biffa at 3:14 PM on April 18 [28 favorites]


Hate-reading books is different than hate-reading stuff on the internet

Yes and no. I included them because I think the thing that drives hate-reading, regardless of media, is often the same. But I agree what Paul and the other posts are are arguing in defense of is different.
posted by not_the_water at 3:17 PM on April 18


If I want to get my blood pressure up and shorten my lifespan a bit, I'll race through a Margaret Wente column* or something instead of slogging through hundreds of pages of something that's going to make me crankier than I already am.

* I had to give those up. Doctor's orders.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:22 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


perversely, I have found that I can plow through books I hate much faster than ones I really enjoy. every bad book doesn't make for a good hate-read, though. I generally find that the most satisfyingly hateful ones are the ones that could have been great, the ones that sound awesome in the outline but are executed terribly, or the ones that hook you in with an enjoyable scene or a strong character and then utterly fail to deliver in every other way that matters. it's not enough for the book to just be bad, it also has to be somehow wrong. a perfect hate-read is a singular pleasure that's hard to find, and I always feel fortunate when I stumble upon a book that majorly cheeses me off with its loathsomeness.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:24 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel.

Is that a challenge? I have gotten at least 2/3 through a book more than once before realizing I'd already read it. Fetishizing reading as if it's somehow "more than" other media consumption is sort of silly.

(That said, I still read a whole lot more than I watch TV or movies, but it's largely because books move at my own pace.)
posted by uncleozzy at 3:25 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


I heard Ezra Klein say the other day that (and I paraphrase) while there's a lot to despise in Ayn Rand, the people who publicly hate on her mostly haven't read her... And yeah, I have to admit that's me. I tried once or twice, and I couldn't take it.

To my credit, I finished the podcast, even though that was way too close to home...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 3:33 PM on April 18


Most print screeds marginally benefit from an editor, while most internet hate reading is an endless stream of stupid trolling for clicks and likes.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:34 PM on April 18


It seems like a better frame for this would be "sometimes you want to develop a better knowledge of a genre/field/set of arguments; in that situation you can usefully read books whose ideas you dislike" rather than "go go hate reading". I mean, if I want to understand, e.g., mid-century literary criticism in general, or major American historiographical debates, I will eventually need to read at least some source material that I don't agree with.

Right now I'm trying to chew through Bester's Stars My Destination. I was initially super excited because it's clearly so foundational to New Wave SF voice and it really does a lot of interesting stuff, but it is so rapey. So much sexual assault, dubious consent, creepy sexual stuff about a character we're obviously meant to find sympathetic. I am not enjoying it. Am I hate-reading it? I dunno; I'm definitely reading something I don't like a lot because it's useful to me to have read that particular thing. I would find it extremely burdensome and depressing to commit to reading classics of science fiction that are full of really terrible ideas as my primary SF reading.
posted by Frowner at 3:35 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


I was an English major, I literally have a degree in hate-reading.

That said, my parents are actual Objectivists and even I have not read Atlas Shrugged.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:36 PM on April 18 [20 favorites]


I read "Atlas Shrugged" to try to understand people who love it. I failed. It's 4 months of my life that are lost forever. Except for this. I hope you enjoy it.
posted by acrasis at 3:37 PM on April 18 [20 favorites]


I hate-read contracts and agreements most of the day. Does that count?
posted by Existential Dread at 3:41 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


I'm a writer and fiction-editor by trade. I feel a certain professional need to read very broadly, well outside what I would normally read for pleasure. I have read a LOT of books where I knew going in that I wasn't going to enjoy them and persisted anyhow. I have read a few books where I knew going in that I wasn't going to enjoy them and was then pleasantly surprised to have been entirely wrong.

I have never read a book I hated however and had the experience of feeling that doing so was a refined pleasure. My general advice would be to keep an open mind and try books you might not think you would like, but not to bother reading books that you are certain you won't like and definitely not to continue reading books you hate after you have given them a fair shake.

If you find hating a book to be a rare pleasure, I suspect that you should probably only be recommending reading choices to people in your support group.
posted by 256 at 3:52 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


So I guess it isn't a bad thing that I read The Shack.
posted by 4ster at 3:56 PM on April 18


I just can't. I tried reading The Fountainhead a while ago, so I could refute it or learn why it's so popular, or whatever, and made it two pages in before I wanted to throw it across the room (and I adore books- I'm a trained librarian- we DON'T throw books - any books across the room). I've been meaning to read Mein Kampf for the same reason (know your enemy's philosophy), but the same thing will probably happen.
posted by mollymillions at 3:57 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


What's to be gained? Know your enemy. See how they think, what they would do, how they will react.

Is it REALLY necessary as an anthroplogist to read "Chariots of the Gods" or "The Power of Myth"? Cant one just deal with the individual morons as they pop up in my internet communities?

I mean, yes I read both when I was younger, but they did me no good at all. In fact, all they did was contaminate my mind with faked facts and cherry-picked "evidence".
posted by happyroach at 3:59 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


As a complete aside, for those looking to hate-read Ayn Rand, "Anthem" is a completely readable sci-fi novel that is very short and also does a pretty good job of encapsulating the germ of objectivist philosophy. You can read it quickly and even with a certain detached enjoyment and then say honestly that you have "read Rand."
posted by 256 at 4:21 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


I read Purity. And I read The Help. And I (recently) read both Fates and Furies and Hillbilly Elegy. They all ended up being on what has become a reasonably long list of unintentional hate-reads--a list that ,more often than not, includes books my friends and loved ones (and sometimes the general public) adore. And I will admit to a thrill I get at the point where my fury at having been suckered into reading some horrifying tripe turns into a delicious glee when I realize I'm reading something that provokes such visceral dislike. I have also literally thrown a book across the room and told it to go Fuck Right Off Forever when I was done with it as well, so ymmv.
posted by thivaia at 4:26 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I really disliked the first couple of chapters of Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but so many people were recommending it, I figured I had to read the whole thing, even if it was a hateread. I made it through, and by the end I could appreciate some of the moves Chambers was making. Still didn't like it, though.

Now people are telling me to read the sequel.
posted by BrashTech at 4:32 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Did y'all know that Rand wrote a play? The Night of January 16th. It has a cute hook: it's a trial, and the audience is the jury. We did it in high school. Probably the least painful way to say you've read something by her.

I don't get the "to the last bitter page" idea. Read a hundred pages of Objectivism? Maaaaybe. Read a thousand pages? Why? It doesn't get better.
posted by zompist at 4:34 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


The difference between hate reading on the internet and hate-reading books is primarily that there are a lot more pages in books. I definitely see the appeal of taking on Atlas Shrugged as a hostile reader, but it's a very long book.
posted by atoxyl at 4:40 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Anthem is a pretty compact (and unexceptional) bit of dystopia, but I feel like Rand without the excess verbiage and pages of monologues doesn't really count.
posted by atoxyl at 4:45 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


acb: "I once thought that I'll read Atlas Shrugged the day I find a copy in a charity shop. It has been ten years and I still haven't read it. I wonder why that is."

I torrented a free copy since that seemed the most appropriate way to obtain it but I only managed to get through half the first chapter before I gave up.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 PM on April 18




Did y'all know that Rand wrote a play? The Night of January 16th.


Fun fact: I was in this play in high school as was my Ayn-Rand-loving boyfriend ( I know). He used to spend afternoons in the green room bloviating about Objectivism and the power of the free market while I ignored him and read about collectivism. Afterward we'd smoke cloves in the woods behind the boathouse and make out. He dumped me the week before prom, which was a blessing in disguise because he always wanted to be a Republican congressman and I was pretty hung up on Bakunin at the time. Evidently he has gone on to be an elected official in a small town in Kentucky. I keep waiting for him to run for national office because lord, I have gossip for days.
posted by thivaia at 4:52 PM on April 18 [26 favorites]


As a complete aside, for those looking to hate-read Ayn Rand, "Anthem" is a completely readable sci-fi novel that is very short and also does a pretty good job of encapsulating the germ of objectivist philosophy. You can read it quickly and even with a certain detached enjoyment and then say honestly that you have "read Rand."

I was forced to read Anthem in ninth grade. (Even clueless teenage me found its philosophy tragically simplistic.) I choose to believe that that English teacher was trying to inoculate us.

To its credit, it's fairly short and lean. I understand this isn't quite true of the rest of Rand's work...
posted by neckro23 at 4:57 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Beloved in the same way Wodehouse is beloved but by fewer people, “Flashman,” published in 1969,

"If ever there was a time when I felt that 'watcher-of-the-skies-when-a-new-planet' stuff, it was when I read the first Flashman." P.G. Wodehouse.

It should be noted that the author Fraser had had a bad war fighting in Burma. Such things can do interesting things to a man's sense of humor.

H.L. Mencken gave a shining review to Ayn Rand's first fiction, We The Living. I'll take his word for it. But then, I expect I'm older than the author.
posted by BWA at 4:59 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I think this is just a strong (too strong) statement of the case that it's sometimes rewarding to read things that you aren't enjoying. I'm not convinced by the thesis that it's particularly noble, however. It can be enough of a struggle grappling and disagreeing and doubting things that I'm convinced are brilliant. Lots of books are challenging, annoying and difficult at times, and lots of books I actively enjoy propose theses that I am at best sceptical of and at worst actively opposed to.

It's not what you're reading, or whether the author is your opponent. It's how you're reading. And you should probably just do that as suits you best. There are no prizes for having well developed positions, strong convictions or cogent arguments. Probably just be kind to other people and yourself, and do whatever you honestly feel enriches our shared experience of this very brief span of years. Being clever is all very well, and it can be useful and fun, but it's not actually worth anything in itself.
posted by howfar at 5:05 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I'd read 'The Fountainhead' as a teenager and it was learning experience. So many thoughts flickered through my head then. There's 4 main characters, 2 of them are protagonists and 2 of them are antagonists. All of them suddenly decide to devote their entire lives to trying to destroy each other because of some weird pique regarding something that they vaguely perceive in each others ideologies. They're all equally insane and impossible to relate to.

This would make for an odd but interesting novel if the author didn't have such extreme feelings about who was supposed to be right or wrong here. But the thing about literature is empathy: we're supposed to get involved in a narrative because we care what happens next, even if we don't like or don't agree with some characters, because they're comprehensible at least on some human level; but Rand's characters were just messed-up puppets. Nathaniel Branden's memoir was an interesting read years later.
posted by ovvl at 5:12 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I hated the first Flashman book, but I respected the hell out of it. I was a bit stuck with the book, being out of town at the time (long before Kindle), so I persisted. The rank misogyny was hard to bear, but it taught me a great deal about how men think about women, and as I was twenty or so, that was valuable. More than that, I learned a great deal about the bitterness and waste of war in Victorian times.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:18 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I torrented a free copy since that seemed the most appropriate way to obtain it

But where's the challenge in that?

(If I wanted to read it, I might do that. But I don't particularly want to, or rather have hundreds of better things to do with the time that would take. But something as unlikely as a book that defines altruism as the root of evil showing up in a charity shop could be seen as a prompt to have a go at reading it.)
posted by acb at 5:27 PM on April 18


How wrong would it be to reccommend people read a little DFW in this thread....
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:31 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Flashman is wonderful. It's so much fun watching him cretin, toady, and suffer his way through the Victorian period.

I know "cretin" isn't a verb, but in Flashy's case I can't think of a term that could possibly be more applicable.
posted by Palindromedary at 5:43 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


I used to always finish books, because even if I didn't like it, I felt obligated to know what happened. Someone strongly recommended John Dies at the End. I don't think I got to even 100 pages.
posted by theora55 at 6:07 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Rand is just tedious, like before you even get to the political or philosophical stuff, it's just the worst example of a potboiler, turgid and repetitive.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:08 PM on April 18


I liked Atlas Shrugged. (I was fifteen, and hungry for science fiction; I discovered her on my own in a thrift store and nobody was around to tell me that the thousand-page novel about super-metal and perpetual motion engine and the end of modern society wasn't "post-apoc sci-fi" but instead I was supposed to believe it was a philosophy text despite failing to address any aspects of family or community beyond the commercial.) My thoughts were, I figured out later, nonstandard for Rand readers.

I cannot imagine suggesting someone who dislikes her writing style, much less someone who's more aware of her horrible philosophies, slog through her books for the purpose of... what, finding out that her critics, many of whom have written very cogent essays about what her works do and do not say, are right? For the joy of finding that *one* point that they missed, that validates your recoil when her named is mentioned? For the value of being able to quote chapter-and-verse at her proselytutes?

Ugh.

I have read a lot of the bible. (Probably the #1 reason I'm no longer Christian.) I keep thinking I could read more, read more specifically, so I can argue better, but... No. I'm not obligated to understand the fine details of someone else's hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden scripture to know it's not for me. Anyone who wants to argue bible nuances with me will first have to persuade me that it's relevant. Same goes for any other literature - why should I care what your "Great Book" says? (Can we trade - I'll read yours if you read mine?)

My time is limited. My attention is already split in dozens of directions; I haven't time nor energy to do all the things I like, things that thrill and invigorate me, things that make me happy and a better person.

My response to any, "you should hate-read this" claim is going to be, "how will doing this improve my life, and/or the lives of those dear to me?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 6:14 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


I recently (after years of dithering do I/don't I) finally read The Clansman by Thomas Dixon, the book DW Griffith's movie Birth of a Nation was based on. I knew going in I'd disagree with its racist premise; amazingly enough it's even worse than the movie, and heck yes: I hated it. But I stuck it out to the end, as an exercise in Know Thine Enemy and try to learn a little about the mindset that believes that tripe. I've read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead a couple of times: once in school and again by choice several years later --- it still stunk, both the overwrought writing and the whole altruism is evil/selfishness is morally superior thing.

I mention The Clansman as an example of stuff I'd fully expect ahead of time to hate; there are also books I believe I'd hate but won't waste time to prove it, as well as books I'm unsure of and of course books I expect to enjoy. In general, like several people have already mentioned, life is too short to purposely hate-read (with exceptions for basically educational reasons), and I generally try to avoid books I believe will make me think evil thoughts about hurling them across the room.
posted by easily confused at 6:15 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


ErisLordFreedom: My thoughts were, I figured out later, nonstandard for Rand readers.

From your thoughts, I loved this bit:
I loved Galt's 50-page speech. (I have an *incredible* fascination with arrogant white male pontificating. I have learned tricks to encourage it; took me a long time to figure out that other people take it *seriously*.)
As an arrogant white male pontificator, I've found that I enjoy doing it more when I don't take it seriously, too.
posted by clawsoon at 6:35 PM on April 18


No. I'm not obligated to understand the fine details of someone else's hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden scripture to know it's not for me.

Which is why I no longer read smug atheist treatises.
posted by tully_monster at 6:40 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I feel like I learned all of my most useful critical reading and text interpretation skills in the classroom. I was lucky to have good teachers and be with engaged students. I don't think those skills can really be learned (well, anyway) just by reading things you (think you will) disagree with or dislike and then arguing about it in your own head. Argue about it with other people! With other people who know more than you do!

I think it's good to push yourself, as a reader, to find out why you don't like a particular style or genre or approach to a subject and be able to articulate that. But you won't learn as much if you only ever do it on your own, and for the love of god, life is short and it's okay sometimes to throw a book across the room unfinished.
posted by rtha at 6:43 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


Honestly I've had to do enough of this in high school and college (most recently: Cloud Atlas) that I think I'm good for the next decade. I need to get caught up on reading books I actually like.
posted by brook horse at 6:50 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Well, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, and you happen to come across a thriller that is well-written, engaging, and professionally edited, but about a quarter of the way through you realize that the author is throwing out all kinds of subtle, casually racist and misogynist jabs--not because his protagonist is flawed but because he genuinely expects his readers to tacitly agree with his polished, pseudo-edgy GuyInYourMFA assholery--just remember Kindle Unlimited's pay-per-page policy and return the book mostly unread, even if you really are tempted to just turn to the last chapter and see how it ends. I'm not giving that sort either my time or my money.
posted by tully_monster at 7:06 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


I unsuccessfully hate read. That is, I don't finish but good lord do I try.

Nope, not anymore. I used to slog thorough every book to the (sometimes) bitter end, but I've given myself permission to stop that crap.


My time is limited. My attention is already split in dozens of directions; I haven't time nor energy to do all the things I like, things that thrill and invigorate me, things that make me happy and a better person.


Yup, I'm in my 60s. If I find something to think about in a book that's well articulated, I'll read it and discuss it with people I respect. I like to think I'm old enough to recognize most forms of bullshit, but open enough to be told I'm wrong.


I feel like I learned all of my most useful critical reading and text interpretation skills in the classroom. I was lucky to have good teachers and be with engaged students. I don't think those skills can really be learned (well, anyway) just by reading things you (think you will) disagree with or dislike and then arguing about it in your own head. Argue about it with other people! With other people who know more than you do!


This.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:26 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Back in its day I read The Bell Curve back-to-back with Not In Our Genes, and I'm so glad I did, because now when Charles Murray's name comes up I never think "I wonder if what he did is so bad/intellectually dishonest". I know!
posted by kandinski at 8:55 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Just anecdotally, this is how most people I know consume any media: in an unambitious or primitive manner.

Yes; I'm sure it's how I take in more media than I'm even conscious of; but it's a downright weird assumption to make of the peak engagement of people reading the NYT Book Review.

Most of the world has not been able to enjoy the equivalent of a post-secondary education or the income or social status that gives rise to the long-term leisure to read a lot and think a lot about what you read. If, fortunate enough to belong to the group which has (which is surely heavily overrepresented in the NYT Book Review audience), you still need to have explained to you the general concept of how to read something critically, you should go and give your college degree back. Honestly, I find it a little embarrassing that this is what she's trying to sell people on.

...As opposed to the skill of learning to (temporarily!) quiet your own assumptions and inferences and see if there's anything you can learn from a work you loathe, which is by far the stronger grounds for hate-reading something. Still not strong enough for me to spend a lot of time doing so, but at least something you can assume pretty much all of us need work at.
posted by praemunire at 9:00 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I read Battlefield Earth intending to hate it to pieces and- sort of had a hard time putting it down!
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:23 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


That's because Hubbard was an honest-to-god skilled writer. Ole Doc Methuselah is still well regarded in the genre. It's always a tragedy when guys like Hubbard (or, currently, John C Wright) lose their marbles or whatever and get taken by the brain-eater.

Personally I have no problem reading books I hate. But I have no time whatsoever for books which bore me. Same with television.
posted by Justinian at 10:16 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I haven't even finished the last 15 chapters of one of my most favorite webcomics. I have several meditation sessions for the rest of my life that I'd like to cultivate and develop. You're gonna suggest that I hate-read Ayn Rand? I already know that she was a terrible aunt. No. I'm okay. This does not help me grow as a person, except maybe as "What Not To Do."
posted by yueliang at 10:43 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


I occasionally read autobiographies of celebrities I dislike - Paul Daniels, Midge Ure being spectacular examples - and find it makes me detest them in a much more rounded and deeper way. This is after hearing their side of the story.

I also read some books like Celestine Prophecy and rightly refuse all social contact with any admirers of it. A good rule in life that.

Dan Brown is inexcusably bad, I just don't know how you write that badly.

The worst was Eat Pray Love. When one of the most messed up women I knew gave me a tearful recommendation of it I was intrigued. Not in a good way, but eventually I was talked into reviewing it, chapter by chaper for a bet by a group of cool women. So I read the damn thing. It was so bad that after I finished I posted it to Rev Terry Jones advising him that he shold campaign to burn it .
posted by quarsan at 10:48 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Flashman is a villan, not a hero, and proud of himself for it. The books are wonderful and I had at one point nearly the whole series but the last which I have saved for myself for some rainy day. His other works, even the Pyrates book, are great too. Black Ajax is a strange and disturbing book. But he is a very particular taste. He is absolutely not in sympathy to Flashman - they're like genre Nabakov.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:48 PM on April 18


I can't remember if I hate-read the Left Behind books or not; I definitely loved them in some ironic way and got through at least 8 of them. It was many years ago and I had one other friend who also loved/hated them and she came over and we drank peppermint schnapps and watched the movie with Kirk Cameron in it and had a lovely time. The movie was terrible though.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 11:57 PM on April 18


If there was a trace of 'keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer' in this, I'd be all for it.

But there isn't. In fact, this is the opening salvo in a significant part of the NYT's ongoing campaign to pacify the rebellious and resistant segment of its readership, and make it possible for Donald Trump and all the creatures that have crawled out from under their various rocks since he announced for President to rule the US (not govern -- they are incapable of governing) for the next seven and a half years.

And this is not a lifestyle piece, though it's written like one: it is a manifesto. And a warning of things to come.

Pamela Paul is the first occupant of an unprecedentedly powerful position which was created by executive editor Dean Baquet back in August of 2016:
Pamela Paul to Oversee All 'New York Times' Book Coverage

Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, has been given an expanded role at the paper. She will now oversee all book coverage for the New York Times, including the daily Books section, book news, and publishing industry news.

The move was announced by the paper's executive editor, Dean Baquet, in a note sent to New York Times staff on Wednesday. Baquet said the move, among other things, will remove the current barriers that exist between the Sunday book review section and the daily book review. Under the paper's current model, critics who regularly write daily book reviews—like Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner, and Jennifer Senior—are prevented from writing for the cover of the Sunday Book Review.

Pamela Paul is the book czar of The NYT, and during her tenure we can expect to see book after pernicious, anti-scientific right-wing book (books which most Metafilterians would consider beneath contempt if they noticed them at all) given prominent and serious consideration by the NYT.

If you think I exaggerate, take a look at her background:
Pamela Paul is an American writer who currently serves as the editor of The New York Times Book Review.[1] She is also editor of all book coverage for The New York Times.[2] She joined the Times in 2011 and served as children's books editor and features editor for the Book Review before her 2013 and 2016 promotions.[3][4][5]

She is a former columnist for The New York Times, for which she wrote the "Studied" column, and for Worth Magazine, for which she wrote about financial issues and family. She has been a contributor to Time magazine, and a regular writer for The Atlantic. Earlier in her career, Paul worked as senior editor at the erstwhile American Demographics magazine. She is also a former London- and New York-based correspondent to The Economist, where she wrote a monthly arts column from 1997 to 2002.
I'd never heard of Worth, and I couldn't have guessed how Worthy it actually is:
Worth is an American financial, wealth management and lifestyle magazine founded in 1986[1] and re-launched by Sandow in 2009.[2] The magazine addresses financial, legal and lifestyle issues for high-net-worth individuals. Each issue is organized into four sections: "Make" focuses on making money and entrepreneurship; "Grow" centers on wealth management and investing; "Live" highlights philanthropy, lifestyle and passion investing; and "Creator" covers luxury products, services and experiences.[3]
. . .
Distribution

Worth is mailed six times a year to individuals listed on a proprietary database of high-net-worth households in major markets, including: the New York metropolitan area, Fairfield County, the Delaware Valley, Boston, Chicago, South Florida, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County, and more than 5,000 executives at registered invested investment advisors (RIAs) with assets under management of $100 million or greater, as well as 300 multifamily offices (MFOs) nationwide.

The magazine is also available on some newsstands. Worth has an advertising rate base of 125,000 and is audited by BPA Worldwide.[4]

Worth Power 100

Launched in 2010, Worth assembles an annual list of The 100 Most Powerful People in Finance. They named President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, finance's most powerful person in 2012. Former titleholders include Apple Inc. CEO, Tim Cook (2011) and U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke (2010).

Paid content

Worth charges financial advisors $2500 per month for advertorial content to appear in each bimonthly issue.[5]
Pamela Paul's demographic expertise is the care and feeding of the extremely wealthy, and that's exactly what she'll do as book czar of The New York Times.
posted by jamjam at 12:47 AM on April 19 [6 favorites]


Ah, it's good to see Paul knows her readership. Hate reading the NYT seems to be the norm around here already.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:03 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


You can challenge your worldview by reading good books, too.....like, if you are an atheist, read St. Anselm or Dante or something like that, and consider what it's like to believe in God in the way they did. No need for hate-reading Left Behind etc
posted by thelonius at 2:46 AM on April 19 [5 favorites]


I realize hate is trendy these days, but I prefer to approach books that don't appeal to me by changing my perspective on them. For example, I now consider Atlas Shrugged to be the best and most elaborate Harlequin Romance novel ever written.
posted by fairmettle at 2:57 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


You know, I can remember hate reading books. Well, not reading books because I knew I would hate them, but reading books that I started to hate while reading, but then going on to finish them anyway. I can't remember what any of them were, though. Which is a bit strange.

Well, except for Mission Earth. I read every page of all 10 books of that fucking thing.

It's not really a hate read, and didn't involve hate at all, but I started and didn't finish the book of Pynchon's Against The Day 4 times, and got the audiobook and listened to it all the way through and haven't been able to listen to an audiobook since. It was somehow so intense and required so much of me that it somehow either completed something within me or broke me.
posted by hippybear at 2:59 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Pamela Paul's demographic expertise is the care and feeding of the extremely wealthy, and that's exactly what she'll do as book czar of The New York Times.

I'm not sure how this really changes anything.

I don't know about Worth, but I used to subscribe to the Economist and found the arts column acceptable. And these days, you know who's providing financial life support to highbrow culture--funding symphony orchestras and art museums and so forth while the rest of our society has been mainlining Harry Potter and Star Trek and Marvel comics and Disney princess movies and waxing indignant at A. S. Byatt and Simon Pegg when they tell it to grow the fuck up? Yep, that's right.
posted by tully_monster at 3:23 AM on April 19


A few years ago I went on a kick rereading all the books I was forced through in high school under the assumption that maybe, with a little more life under my belt, I'd like them more or at least get more out of them. This was true for nearly all the books I'd disliked in high school - Tale of Two Cities, the Scarlet Letter, even David Copperfield. But not fucking Ethan Frome. I still hate him.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:49 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


ChuraChura, I did exactly the same thing and came to exactly the same conclusion.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 6:24 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think the weird thing is the expectation that the only reason you'd read something challenging or different is as a hate-read. You can enjoy reading a book which argues a thesis with which you disagree or a book in a genre that you typically don't read. I think it's probably more productive, when you're reading outside your comfort zone, to read stuff that you're inclined to respect, rather than stuff you just see as a hate-read.

I've definitely done some pure hate-reading, reading something just to mock it or have fun with how terrible it is, but that's not an impulse that I'm proud of, and I don't think it makes me a better person. I think you grow through respectful engagement, not hate-consuming things.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:26 AM on April 19 [5 favorites]



Q: "Who is Henry M. Galt?"

A: "See "The Driver", a 1922 novel by Garet Garrett."
posted by mfoight at 6:31 AM on April 19


I have read a lot of the bible. (Probably the #1 reason I'm no longer Christian.) I keep thinking I could read more, read more specifically, so I can argue better, but... No. I'm not obligated to understand the fine details of someone else's hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden scripture to know it's not for me. Anyone who wants to argue bible nuances with me will first have to persuade me that it's relevant.

I wouldn't even know how to begin to persuade you that Bible knowledge is relevant, other than it being a pretty key part of the religious beliefs of about a third of the world, plus a key resource in tons of Western art and literature, but I don't know how someone can read the Bible honestly and come away with the idea that it's "hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden." Of course, there are troubling passages here and there, but every time someone in the Bible says "Okay, here's the big idea--the main thing you need to figure out" the answer is love. That is not a subtle theme or nuance. It's 20 foot tall neon letters.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:9-13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:12-14
I have read the Bible as an atheist, gathering material to use against Christians. I know how to do that. But even when I was working on that project, I couldn't deny that there are scads of passages (this is just the tip of the iceberg) imploring readers that the main thing is love and humble service, and no equivalent passages that say "in the end, the number one thing you need to do is hate everyone else and seek power for yourself." I'd ask you to consider the possibility that "hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden" isn't really an accurate summary of the Biblical text.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:46 AM on April 19 [8 favorites]


There is hate-reading for style, and hate-reading for content. Reading bad stylists like Dan Brown and James Patterson (if he actually wrote "his" books) is beyond me. I'm not Superman. Reading Ann Coulter is amusing and disquieting...but I can only read one of her books ten minutes at a time, so I'm not Superman there, either.
posted by kozad at 7:16 AM on April 19


I only have a few really hated books that I not only *keep* but go back to occasionally ("just to remember how bad they really are"). The two that jump to mind are linked by subject: blame whoever mentioned DFW above!

"A Tour of the Calculus" by David Berlinski
"Everything and More" by DFW

The first one just grates beyond belief, due to its omnipresent sexist claptrap, the author's non-stop preening, and the litany of elementary mathematical errors. Having my level-yet-scathing review on Amazon removed by the site was probably what sent me over the edge with this one! The guy seems to have a small but incredibly dedicated fan club, who descend with gusto upon anything critical of their champion.

The second book listed has plenty of the same elementary errors, wrapped in horribly condescending prose (reading footnotes that effectively state "I could go on about this forever, but you'd never be able to follow me...", after having encountered some of the most bizarre and basic conceptual errors in describing the basics of analysis is never really going to sit well). There's some interesting bits and pieces in there, but the combination of the arrogance and the glaring flaws just make it completely, gloriously infuriating to read.
posted by pjm at 7:17 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Flashman is a villan, not a hero, and proud of himself for it. The books are wonderful and I had at one point nearly the whole series but the last which I have saved for myself for some rainy day. His other works, even the Pyrates book, are great too. Black Ajax is a strange and disturbing book. But he is a very particular taste. He is absolutely not in sympathy to Flashman - they're like genre Nabakov.

Precisely. In the first book it's almost impossible to put up with him and Fraser lightens it just a bit after that but Flash is always at heart a scoundrel, a womanizer, a racist, and a coward...who on occasion does the right thing by accident and saves the crown several times. I think of these books more as a dissection of Victorian history through the eyes of a cad who is just self-aware enough to know it's all rotten.
posted by Ber at 7:32 AM on April 19


If someone I trust tells me there's something to be gained from a book I normally wouldn't read, sure. I'll try it. I'm pretty good at skimming too, so I will even tolerate a certain amount of bloviating to make myself familiar with the book's ideas.

I don't think I can bear strictly hate-reading, because as others have said, life is so very short and that is time you can never get back.

HOWEVER. What I have done sometimes do is deconstruct something I am consuming (book or movie) that is bad. Twitter is good for this. It has the virtue of a. putting something into digestible chunks, and b. allowing me to vent all the snark in my soul to an appreciative audience/get their feedback and commentary.

I also like reading other people who do this, or who do it in long-form blog posts (ala Fred Clark's approach to the Left Behind books). That is very enjoyable, because you not only get to beat up on terrible things, but you actually discuss the ideas (good and bad) behind those things. Clark in particular uses the failed theology behind the books to craft beautiful and eloquent discussions of faith and justice. And he is fair enough to discuss whatever virtue is actually in them, even when it's accidental.
posted by emjaybee at 7:33 AM on April 19


Ana Mardoll also has a series of deconstructions of the Narnia books I enjoyed. You may or may not find her criticisms fair, but if you like beanplating, it's a fun time.
posted by emjaybee at 7:35 AM on April 19 [5 favorites]


I feel that this is a largely worthwhile endeavor if for some reason the book in question is a cultural touchstone. But "Now read it to the last bitter page" is taking things to extremes, especially for non-fiction.

"I'll read Atlas Shrugged the day I find a copy in a charity shop"

I can only surmise that you're missing it; it's kind of a thrift store staple. It's funny how much Rand pops up in any discussion of hate-reading. I read The Fountainhead at exactly the right age for it to seem like a big and serious book, and only started figuring out how flawed it was much later. 12yo me put it in the same category as the (Constance Garnett translation of) Dostoevsky's The Idiot; it was long-winded and complicated and full of ideas I didn't quite understand.

Looking back this association seems pretty facile. But I finished both novels around the same time, and read both cover-to-cover despite not really enjoying it, and both have come up often enough since that I consider it to have been worthwhile.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:49 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Huh. I had some lingering curiosity about Flashman and thought about picking it up at some point. Now part of me wants to give it a wide berth and part is more curious.

My own hate-reading example that comes to mind is some of Vonnegut. I liked much of his early output, particularly Mother Night, but once he devolved into pure metafiction I started wanting to fling books across the room. If I wanted a modernized Tristram Shandy I'd have gone looking for one.
posted by delfin at 8:17 AM on April 19


every time someone in the Bible says "Okay, here's the big idea--the main thing you need to figure out" the answer is love. That is not a subtle theme or nuance. It's 20 foot tall neon letters.

You see, the Beatles said all that in three and a half minutes and even crammed a little Bach in there, too.

(Kidding! Mere cultural Christian tho I am, I dig the Bible.)

I've never read Atlas Shrugged, tho I read The Fountainhead in college. I dug it, kinda. I'm sure it wasn't the worst thing I read in my twenties, by far. And it gave us the Cooper/Neal movie which I love love love. I'll take this opportunity to point out that this Fountainhead re-cut set to "She's So High" is still glorious.

I'm a pretty good judge of my own taste, so it's rare that I read books I hate. I think Chester Brown's Paying For It was the last book I read and finished, despite hating it. Only a libertarian, I thought as I put it down, could write such a joyless and unsexy book about having sex.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:20 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


"I'll read Atlas Shrugged the day I find a copy in a charity shop"

Always said the same thing about Paris Hilton's album.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:23 AM on April 19


> I wouldn't even know how to begin to persuade you that Bible knowledge is relevant, other than it being a pretty key part of the religious beliefs of about a third of the world, plus a key resource in tons of Western art and literature, but I don't know how someone can read the Bible honestly and come away with the idea that it's "hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden."

Two issues here. I do know that the Bible is the foundation of a great deal of world culture. It grates on me. I have a ridiculous amount of Bible knowledge for a non-Christian; I used to avidly read all the "bible story" books and comics and the Sunday-school tracts, and sermons that explained how this or that verse/parable should be interpreted, and eventually, the Bible itself. (Finished new testament; got about halfway through the old, plus random bits as I was inspired.) Am willing to discuss, at length, how problematic I find the pervasiveness of Bible themes in art and culture, and how that's led directly to the oppression of (1) anyone whose religion is not Bible-derived and (2) anyone who the status quo wanted to serve as cheap/free labor, for which verses were found to support that opinion. (This is a bit off-topic, and should probably continue via memail if anyone's interested.)

Second, I misstated. I failed to properly segue between mention of the Bible (specific) and oppressive scripture (general, and in the informal sense of "any book someone points to and says 'this book changed my life! you must read it!'" rather than a book of specifically religious doctrine). I consider "scripture" to be any book whose pushers use the message, "This is very important and all Good People have read it, or have plans to read it, and if you don't, there's something wrong or lacking in your life."

(Back to point one , which, if taken in abstract, applies to a whole lot of these books.) I am aware the Bible is not a hate-screed. However, there's a lot more in it about who's morally right to take over who else's land, than about "love your neighbors." When people push the "Bible is love!" claim, they invariably quote heavily from the New Testament - the smaller section. And boy do they skip the verses about how obedient slaves are supposed to be. (And how Christian men are supposed to greet each other with a kiss.) There's always a lot of cherry-picking going on - "read these verses, which are the important ones, and skip those other ones, which are only included for historical context."

It's the same for all the "plz hate-read if you can't read for love" books - please read them to get the tiny fragments of useful insight you can find, and ignore the tedium, the sexism, the racism, the logic gaps, the lies, and/or just plain bad writing that are most of the book.

I am several months behind on reading Grrl Power. One of my favorite fanfic authors has released a swarm of fic for the Three Musketeers tv series, which I haven't seen. MST3K has fourteen new episodes (!!) on Netflix, released last week. I have promised to write 5k words of fanfic in the next few months. I have a mini-zine to publish by June, and another a month after that. I've read the first third or so of Debt: The First 5000 years; it's on my ereader and I want to get through the rest, but it's a thinky text that requires pauses as I sort out how it applies to my real-world economic knowledge. I received Abhorsen as a gift last year; I've barely touched it (I barely read paper anymore), but it came highly recommended. I bought an HTP zine (initials only because if you don't know, you don't want to), full-color offset printing and haven't done more than flip through it (and wow that's some impressive art), because 1-paper and 2-can't read it in public.

My time is limited. Hate-reading needs to provide substantial value to be worth doing it, instead of any of the things I listed above, or any of the dozens of others I didn't list.

(Sorry about the rant. "But, the Bible is important literature!" hits my buttons hard.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:07 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]


Recently I was thinking how funny it was that I grew up in the Bible Belt but actually learned the story of the Passion from Jesus Christ Superstar. Unless you are a scholar, Bibles are for thumping or for cherry-picking, not reading.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:15 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


it's "hateful, exclusionary, privilege-laden."

Hmm. Yeah, I might buy some of the goods from those first two bins. Lots of exclusionary, hateful stuff. But the bible as a whole mostly reflects the thinking and culture of the poorest and most oppressed population living in the society that gave rise to it. There's a fair amount of bitter revenge fantasy and bizarre overreaching attempts to impose ingroup norms on the world at large in the text, but it's counterfactual and inaccurate to view it as a text produced by privilege. The role privilege plays in modern Christianity isn't in the text but in how facile some self identifying Christians are in interpreting and picking and choosing which moral lessons to emphasize and elevate to the status of a particular denominational dogma and in the lack of reflective humility and self doubt some Christians bring to their practice of the religion. A lot of what passes for mainstream Christian doctrine now--like Prosperity Gospel--might have even been viewed as heretical at other times in history.

Either way, calling either the older or newer scriptures a product of a privileged point of view is almost completely upside down with only a couple of exceptions (as a former Pharisee, arguably Paul represented a privileged point of view, but that's only one relatively minor strand in the overall narrative, which generally couldn't be more clearly about telling the stories of the most oppressed populations of that particular place and time.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:40 AM on April 19 [4 favorites]


My own hate-reading example that comes to mind is some of Vonnegut.

To.read Vonnegut is to hate-read Vonnegut, imho.
posted by y2karl at 12:11 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


calling either the older or newer scriptures a product of a privileged point of view is almost completely upside down with only a couple of exceptions

The original texts were not produced by privilege. The English translations were - and it was both translated and taught with an eye for supporting and promoting that privilege. The English bible is a remarkable example of white Europeans grabbing a text from dark-skinned oppressed people, and saying, "this is about us!"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:31 PM on April 19 [7 favorites]


Frowner: Obviously you don't have to like The Stars My Destination (i didn't, particularly), but i definitely don't think the reader is supposed to find Gully Foyle particularly sympathetic. I mean, the book is The Count of Monte Cristo in space, and Dantès isn't very sympathetic either.
posted by adrienneleigh at 12:57 PM on April 19


If you find hating a book to be a rare pleasure, I suspect that you should probably only be recommending reading choices to people in your support group.

Ouch. This seems unnecessarily harsh. I don't think someone having a different way to find enjoyment means that there is something wrong with them or that they only should interact with a support group.
posted by daybeforetheday at 1:50 PM on April 19


> From your thoughts, I loved this bit:
>> I loved Galt's 50-page speech. (I have an *incredible* fascination with arrogant white male pontificating. I have learned tricks to encourage it; took me a long time to figure out that other people take it *seriously*.)
> As an arrogant white male pontificator, I've found that I enjoy doing it more when I don't take it seriously, too.
I keep a plain text copy of that speech for the same reason I keep a treaty_of_westphalia.txt file. Occasionally they're useful for testing text-processing filters or text layouts, and both are better than Lorem Ipsum.
posted by runcifex at 10:50 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


The original texts were not produced by privilege. The English translations were - and it was both translated and taught with an eye for supporting and promoting that privilege. The English bible is a remarkable example of white Europeans grabbing a text from dark-skinned oppressed people, and saying, "this is about us!"

This seems a strong claim to make about the several hundred full English translations of the Bible. Particularly​ as the major impetus for such translations was frequently a resistance to the domination of the spiritual lives of the populace by a privileged priestly class. Christianity had also been part of European culture for approximately a thousand years before the major move to translate into vernacular tongues. Are there specific translations and examples that you're thinking of?

My personal feeling is that your claim is too broad to be sustainable, and doesn't adequately reflect the real historical facts relating to vernacular translation. Certainly one could make a case that certain translations of the Bible reflect certain forces of privilege, but I think you're projecting a modern context onto questions of privilege over hundreds of years of European history, questions that are much more complicated than a simple "White people = privileged people" assessment can account for.
posted by howfar at 6:08 AM on April 20 [5 favorites]


Frowner: Obviously you don't have to like The Stars My Destination (i didn't, particularly), but i definitely don't think the reader is supposed to find Gully Foyle particularly sympathetic.

But the rapes aren't, IMO, supposed to make him especially unsympathetic - they're just "what a man is pushed to in these dark and strenuous times" behavior. The part where he rapes the young Black woman after bullying information out of her is really almost a punch-line. He's all "Well, I'm just a mean person" and then he grabs her and dumps her on the bed. The text does not literally say "and then he rapes her" but that seems pretty clearly like what happens. It's either a punch line or just standard Golden Age SFnal "rape is just what happens in these brutal times"-ing, but the whole way that race is written into that sequence is on the one hand clearly Bester being all "but this society is the future and Not Racist" and extremely racist. "We'll give some depth to a Black woman character and then we end the section with her rape" is pretty...well, it shows some bad thinking about how you write race, IMO.
posted by Frowner at 8:56 AM on April 20 [2 favorites]


In TSMD's defense (and I say this as someone who didn't really like the book), IIRC, the woman in question tells Foyle later that he *did* rape her, so at least the book calls it out for what it is.

That said, in general, life is too short for hate reading, regardless of the reason.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:29 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Thomas Covenant: Hate-reading or regular reading?
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I really like Donaldson's prose, as arcane as it is. He has a gift for description that I find thrilling and vivid. I know that it's probably an unpopular opinion, but I really love the Covenant series, all 10 books. Plus basically everything else Donaldson has written. The Gap Series is horrifying, but ultimately rewarding. Mordant's Need is great. The short stories are groovy.

So, regular reading for me.
posted by hippybear at 5:52 AM on April 23


I fought my way through the first six Thomas Covenant books back in the early eighties for some misguided need to finish what I'd started and don't regret it but have zero interest in reading any of the newer ones. I did like the Mordant books quite a bit though.
posted by octothorpe at 6:16 AM on April 23


« Older Click "comments" for the fighting   |   Loco mía keeps your body movin' Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.