Yesterday, my brother called and, for some reason, asked what I was up to. The answer was, of course, that I was reading. (The answer is always, “I’m reading.” Unless the answer is “I’m at work. Why the hell are you calling me?”) When I told him that I was rereading The Scarlet Letter, he told me that he hated that book because an English teacher tortured him with it by making the class elucidate every symbol in the first chapter. This conversation led to me playing Authors We Hate with friends on Twitter and Facebook. I had fun but, after a while, I felt guilty as the lists got longer and longer.
Some of the authors on the list, I have disliked for years. I haven’t gone back to read anything by James Joyce or Marcel Proust or Herman Melville. Maybe I was too immature or ignorant to appreciate them at the time. (There are some people who’d say I’m too immature now.) I can remember clearly why I don’t like these authors. In the case of Joyce, for example, it’s because I’m pretty sure that Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake are literary pranks. When I encountered these authors the first time, they made such a hugely negative impact on me that I’m reluctant to give them a second look.
But should I give these authors a second chance? I’d feel less guilty about ragging on them on Twitter if I fail to get through their works a second time. I’d at least then I could say I tried. I’d be more likely to try if there weren’t so many other books out there I really do want to read.
But for the record, I really don’t like James Joyce.