Books I wanted to hate
The omnivore approach to literature
It still sits in me and persists. That stubborn and defiant aversion to book recommendations. Who the heck knows why. I’ve always had a peculiar taste in books.
An omnivore child who would walk through the entire small village library and sniff out interesting titles, covers and names. Yes. Exactly that. Much of my literary explorations as a young girl were based on author names, the look of the book, and the sound of the title. I read everything from comic books to thick novels. I read a lot. Except one thing: classics and fables. I abhored talking animals. Naturally I would later on write a book about two talking pigs. Life.
So I had a bit of catching up to do as I got older. I still have a bit of catching up to do. In fact, I have miles and miles of catching up to do. Because I stopped reading paper books. Something (internet) happened and I lost the momentum. Not a unique thing nowadays, I’ve heard.
To me it’s a source of shame, especially since I enjoy writing so much. Don’t get me wrong - I read lots of things online. I just have strayed away from the quiet and meditative act of reading paper books. And that needs to be remedied. It is, in fact being remedied and as you know, there is nothing quite like reading a paper book.
So, this is not a book recommendation list. I still feel a tinge of that blargh whenever I see book recommendation lists, but I have learned to ignore that feeling at least a little. This is instead a list of books that I thought I would hate, because they were recommended to me. And instead of hating them I loved them more than the person who recommended them did!
These books form some sort of pillar system in the boggy library of my mind. There is no system. In fact, I am not even sure if this list is the list. It’s a bog, you know. One day one book sticks up out of the water and another day another one pops up. I never took time or interest in being systematic about anything I read. I was and am too curious for that sort of thing. I roam. I am an omnivore.
One thing all these books have in common, except for ‘Things Hidden...’ is that they’re examples of what can be accomplished by brilliant writers. All these books made me exclaim: “How is it possible for anyone to write so well? How can they understand us humans so well? What’s up with that? Huh?”
‘Things Hidden…’ is brilliant in its own way — in the ideas expressed by René Girard. An arduous read, like a hike up a stone mountain that you begin to love and find life changing. To me it, and the books I listed above, opened up my understanding of what it means to be human. And the only way to expand our understanding of what it means to be human, is to read.
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In Girard’s book on Shakespeare, specifically on Much Ado About Nothing, he discusses “true love” as a subject of trash literature, which great authors learn to get past. One character is consumed with possessing another, who is repelled. The object of love runs away, either because they have an excited live of themselves that gets excited by the lover, or because they see in the lover a dangerous process that is focused not on achieving some sort of reciprocal concern, but instead on the lover taking over the identity of his object.
I think I read for many years with this Romantic lie in mind, in that I saw all literature as stories of great feelings being repulsed and then revealed later as heroic and true. I expected my great desire to become revealed as truth and honesty and others would want it.
I think this is true much of the time when we try to sell our art and the consequence is mostly desperation and deception on our part.