Back in college several of us would gather in the common area of our dorm suite and watch the community television. I honestly can’t remember if people had TVs in their rooms–if they were even allowed. But there was a tv in the area that 8 of us shared and we usually gathered there like an ersatz family. There was one girl who would plop down with her scissors and bridal magazines, readying to cut out all the pictures of the wedding she was going to have with her boyfriend back home. She’d watch the show we all were watching but then make loud comments about not knowing why we bothered and wasn’t it pointless and so on. We were forever treated to a running commentary about how stupid the show was. When I finally asked her why she watched if it bugged her that much she replied “because it’s on right in the middle of everything.”
Between magazine ads and lurid covers and word of mouth there seem to be a few books that are on right in the middle of everything. And more and more often there seem to be a lot of Julies, who take up those books in an adversarial stance. I mean, honestly. Goodness knows there are books I’ve hated. (Gone Girl being a recent example.) Fortunately the books I’ve loved–or at the very least ENJOYED–outnumber the disliked books by about 10:1.
But now there’s Hate-reading. It’s nothing more than the mean-spirited act of finding a book you don’t enjoy and then reading it to pick it apart and mock. The most popular reviews on Goodreads and book-review blogs are Hate-read reviews that make an art of running down the primary work.
I’ll grant you that many times the primary work is demonstrably awful. In those cases, however, I don’t understand the point of giving them your time. As noble as people make it sound*, you’re still wasting your time on something you hate. I’m a critical person in the sense that it is in my nature to analyse any system or work for flaws or areas of improvement. Over the years I’ve tried very hard to train my critical nature into its most constructive possible form. It doesn’t always work, but my hope is that when I say something as a criticism I do so in what I believe to be a helpful manner. That means I’m not going to spend hours of my life on the 50 Shades series just so I can write a pithy Hate-read article about it.
Reading is growing in popularity again, thanks to Kindles and sex and the burgeoning popularity of YA. Busy folks are dialing back into the pleasure of leisure reading and you’d think as a writer I’d be grateful and pleased. Honestly, though, I’m starting to wish that all the people who have returned to reading would go back to whatever it was they used to do. If they’re just going to pick up books for the purposes of having a whole new crop of things to ridicule I want them to go away.
*Few things bug me as much as people who say “I just have to finish a book once I start it.” My husband and sister both do this and it makes me nuts. No. You don’t “have” to. There isn’t a law. No one is killing your auntie if you put the thing aside. You will never have enough time to read all the good books in the world. If you’ve got a book you don’t like just walk away. It’s not noble to keep reading it. It’s not a sign of good character. IT IS NOTHING MORE THAN A BLEEDING WASTE OF VALUABLE, PRECIOUS TIME.