Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hate Reads

Pamela Paul thinks you should read books you hate. She has done her time in book purgatory hell.

My taste for hate reading began with “The Fountainhead,” which I opened in a state of complete ignorance as bonus material for a college class on 20th-century architecture. I knew nothing of Ayn Rand or of objectivism. I thought it was a book about building things. I even showed it off to a French friend, an architect and a die-hard socialist, thinking he’d be impressed.

“How could you bring that into our house?” he asked in disgust. “But it’s about architecture,” I replied weakly. Or was it? Within pages, I found myself suffering at the hands of its tyrannical egomaniac of a protagonist, Howard Roark, forever plunging a fist into soil and holding forth. The lead female character, Dominique, who naturally took second place to the godlike Roark, kept striding across rooms in long, column-like gowns.

Still, I persisted. A hundred pages later, I was more of a French socialist than I’d ever been before or since. I finished every wretched page of “The Fountainhead” in alternating states of fury and despair, and when it was finally over, I tried to leave the vague echo of Dominique, stomping around in her evening gowns, behind. What stuck was the abiding knowledge that I was not, nor would I ever be, a libertarian.

Well, me too. But I was already old when I read Rand's even longer dreadful brick, Atlas Shrugged, and I already knew that I would never be a libertarian.

But I'm too old and life is too short. If I read another book I hate it had better be short, and interesting. So forget about it James Joyce - I will never finish Ulysses.

Paul, of course, is a professional critic and editor of the NYT Book Review. So I assume she actually gets paid to read bad books.