We talk a great deal about the books we are reading here, and also the books we love to reread, and the books we aspire to someday read when we are the right kind of person, but I think we should set aside today to the books we hate so much it makes us glad to exist, that we can play host to so pure and so fervent a hatred it feels like a blessing.
I don’t just mean books we object to or find philosophically disagreeable; I personally find John Updike very silly but he doesn’t bother me, the lost little lamb. There are certain genres and styles that I know as a rule I’m unlikely to care for, and in general I don’t go out of my way to read something I know I won’t like. But every once in a while, finding something you hate and finishing it anyhow for the sole purpose of hating it more thoroughly is like coming across a pearl of great price.
A book doesn’t have to be bad or objectionable or even poorly written in order for you to hate it. You just have to hate it. Wanting to hate is enough.
As a girl, the book I hated more than anything in the world was Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, with “the entire back catalog of Avi” running a close second. I no longer remember what I hated about Jacob Have I Loved or why; the substance of the-thing-itself has melted away and only the outline of the thing remains, like a footprint in the snow.
As a young woman, the book I hated more than anything in the world was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I wanted to love it. I was prepared to love it. I opened the book expecting to love it (the cover is of a woman in a gown carrying a sword riding a majestic white horse! I wished to love it), and was horrified by my own disgust when I began to read it. It is ten million pages of nothing happening over and over again. Powerful witches sit around casting no spells while the world falls apart around their ears. A great many characters almost have sex, and then don’t. Eventually someone has sex in a muddy field, then for about four hundred pages Queen Guinevere (Gwynhywywhfarre in the book, I believe) is afraid to go outside. Then she does not go outside. Then Christianity ruins everything, and Morgaine continues to do absolutely nothing with all the magic she’s full of. I read the entire thing in a weekend, such was the force and urgency of my hatred for it.
Sometimes, when I have the time, I like to take a minute or two to hate Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook. I cannot quite bring myself to hate The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, but I think another year or two will do the trick in shoving me out of profound annoyance and into light hatred. I casually hate, in equal amounts, Ender’s Game, The Lovely Bones, Prep, and everything written by Stieg Larsson.
I hate Wide Sargasso Sea and I hate Jean Rhys; I am glad that I am alive and she is dead. She was allergic to fun and she sucked eggs.
Having reached woman’s estate, I choose to hate Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water more than all the others. There were times, reading it, that I had to shut the pages and close my eyes in order to focus every cell in the weak and mortal vessel I call my body on hating it.
Please share with me the books you hate. Hold nothing back.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.