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.

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