"this is the biggest library in the universe. so where is everyone?"

not to start out on a negative note, but i have hated quite a few books in my time.

movies and tv shows, too. not so much cds since i don’t buy them as frequently but the aforementioned? oh, yes, yes. but i have never gone to the extent that joseph sullivan at the book design review apparently did in buying pet hamsters just to destroy a book he didn’t like.

i’m kind of thrilled by it.
i’m not — either personally or professionally speaking — in line with the destruction of books, but this almost edges into performance art. and that it would be a heinlein novel, too — it probably makes me a bad geek on some level and most likely a bad genre geek, but i really don’t care for heinlein that much. or silverberg. or asimov. or any one of another of long list of genre masters. i know they’re great in some intellectual fashion but they speak to me not even the slightest bit. i don’t know why; they just don’t. i’ve stopped being upset by it. i’m more just mildly puzzled by it now.
i really did give heinlein more than a fair shot, too — i read stranger and the moon is a harsh mistress and friday and the number of the beast, some random novellas and short stories and an omnibus book club edition that put together several of his novels about the time-travelling whateveritis family that ends up having so much incest it isn’t even funny. and, really, they all blended together in the end. it was fun — sort of — but it wasn’t fun enough. there are books by authors i love stacking up and gathering dustbunnies; why should i slog through another silverberg tome when i could be reading the sons of heaven which i’ve been putting off for well over a year in the hopes that kage baker will write another “company” novel to follow it up and not leave me alone in the dark and the cold with no joseph, mendoza, or lewis to amuse me?
i’m not writing this to advocate for hamster-fuelled destruction of books you don’t like, but i really am intrigued by the question that sullivan asks at the end of his post:
tell us about the one (or two) novels that made you want to set yourself on fire, punch yourself in the face, or question why you learned to read in the first place.
i was thinking about this on and off while i was at work — tracking down orphan images isn’t that exciting of a job! — and i really couldn’t decide. bad books, too, i tend to forget; i read them, spew poison about them to whoever is standing nearby; and then allow my synapses to rinse themselves clean. bad movies, now, those i remember for years!
and, too, lately i have taken to abandoning bad books. as per the stuart evers piece from the guardian that i linked earlier — i’m not quite at the point in my life where i want to declare that time is all too short and i don’t have the time to waste but — there are other things i could be doing. unless the book is bad enough to be fun, why slog? for example, i recently gave up entirely on the dacre stoker/ian holt sequel dracula: the un-dead because…well, it was awful. it wasn’t even bad enough to be fun. it was just crap. it took the original characters, swung them around its head, and let go, landing them all in a nice ripe pile of — well, bad things.
but what book have i read and loathed enough to want to donate it to shred-happy rodents? hm. perhaps steinbeck’s the red pony, read under duress in freshman english in high school? or perhaps a separate peace, read under equal duress in sophomore english? or there’s always tess of the d’urbervilles — but i still don’t know that i would use any of them as animal bedding. after all, there’s probably someone out there who picked up one of those three and went, “my god! this is what the english language was meant to do!”

after all, dandelion wine doesn’t work for everyone.
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One thought on “"this is the biggest library in the universe. so where is everyone?"

  1. Re: your question about what books would you destroy (or erase from memory) having read . . . the first things two series that came to mind were

    a) the Mandie series, a Christian/historical fiction answer to Sweet Valley High, sort of, set in a nineteenth-century Christian finishing school for girls. I can't remember why I started reading this in my pre-adolescent years; I think possibly my grandma sent it to me because they were historical fiction. I ripped through them because they were mysteries and total brain candy; in retrospect they were chock full of stereotypes about Native Americans, missionizing Christians, conservative notions of gender roles, and God knows what else.

    b) along similar lines, a few years later, I discovered the Zion Chronicles. Christian romance/historical novels, I discovered them on the shelf of a friend's mother, who let me borrow them. I was going through a phase of rabid interest in the Holocaust, so started reading them because they were set in Europe and Israel during and post-WWII. I kept reading them for the sex. I say this with total, cringing honesty. They were the had explicit sex scenes I'd come across as a twelve-year-old. Looking back, I realize the books were heavily laden with pro-Zionist (yes, weird but true) Evangelical politics, conservative Christian sexual morality (okay to have sex, but you have to be married first) and anti-Semitism (Jews okay only if enabling the second coming and/or converting to Christianity). Blech.

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