Saturday, 19 October 2013

Book Rage - When Reading Goes Bad

Do you read? Of course you do, why would you be bothering with this old thing if you didn't at least have an appreciation for the written word? So let's assume that my question was a stupid one and agree that we're all people who like books. So I imagine that, on more than one occasion, you have found yourself nearly boiling over with rage as you encounter some book issue or other. Maybe you're annoyed at someone, or something, or even yourself, for pulling you out of whatever literary landscape you're wandering about in, forcing you back into the real world. Perhaps a book didn't end the way you wanted. Whatever gets your bookish goat, here's my (rather comprehensive) list of things that cause the red mist of Book Rage to descend on me: and I'm warning you, there's a lot here that will set me off.

1. So there I am, curled up on the sofa, or in bed, or wherever, and suddenly, someone comes in and starts a chat. I'm clearly in the Reading Position: book open, check. Eyes trained on page: check. Vacant expression on face as I'm clearly not quite 'in the room' right now: check. Yet, regardless of all this, it's apparently the perfect time for a chinwag. Don't they know that interrupting an engrossed reader is almost as dangerous as waking a sleepwalker?* Don't they understand what they might be barging into? If I want a chat, I'll come find you, but right now - I'M READING. GO AWAY.

2. Something of a subset to the above - so you're sat there, merrily reading away, not a care in the real world but plenty going on in the book world, and some bright spark asks, 'So, what're you reading?' WELL, I DON'T KNOW NOW, DO I, BECAUSE I'M NOT READING ANYMORE BECAUSE I'M HAVING TO TALK TO YOU. Oh, great, now I've lost my place and the Book Rage has got my blood up so I can't get back into it. Thanks a bunch. Doofus.

3. Public transport is, and always will be, the frenemy of the reader. Friend, because it's a great time to get stuck into a book - surely that fantasy world is a better place to be in than here, with my nose in that man's armpit, even with all the dragons and whatnot (in the book I mean, not in his armpit)? But enemy, because the better the book, the greater the possibility that you'll miss your stop, and end up in some godforsaken nowhere with only your book and that lonely figure in the shadows for company. Or, you could misjudge how long your journey is going to be, put your book away in determined anticipation that you won't miss your stop again, only to find you've put it away far too early and now you have to sit and do nothing for ages, except quietly seethe as you calculate how much you could've read if you'd timed it better. Or, even worse, you overshoot and think you can totally finish this chapter before the train arr- wait, what, we're here?! GREAT, now I have to stop in the middle of this really exciting bit because I have to negotiate getting off this damn thing. Excellent. See? Public transport - the ficklest of friends.

Me, with most books.
4. Book hangovers occur when you've been reading a book so mind-blowingly good that, when you finish, you spend up to several days after mooning around wishing you were still reading that book and regretting finishing it at all. This puts the kibosh on finding another book to read, because no other book measures up to it, meaning you spend several days bookless. Actually, the more I think about it, it's less of a book hangover and more a book break-up, but I don't like that way of describing it because then it sounds like you've had a bad experience with books, and it's actually quite the opposite. Anyway, I did touch on this subject a little while ago, but more in relation to the post-read world, and not the cause. The main gist though: you're sad when the book finishes and you can't settle on anything else to read, which sucks, because a reader without a book is like, I dunno, a hipster without a silly moustache/thick-framed glasses - something just seems off.

5. Everyone has a book they love that, inexplicably, no one else has heard of. For me, it's Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, which I talk about frequently, have mentioned several times on here, and has even made it very comfortably into my all-time favourite reads. And yet I've only ever met one other person who has read it. ONE. And that was the person who told me to read it in the first place! Okay, I get that maybe what I love, perhaps not everyone else loves - and I've made my peace with that. But it's so infuriating to find that a book you cannot stop raving about, somehow slipped under everyone else's radars - it's unfair that the author is not getting credit, and it's unfair that you haven't got anyone to talk to about it. (Incidentally, if you've got any books that you feel are underrated, head on over to, one of my favourite sites, where they are currently conducting a poll on the most underrated books - get in there quick though, it closes on 21st October).

6. Multiple Plot Syndrome, or MPS, is a condition resulting from having too many books on the go - or, as normal people might call it, being greedy. So you've come home with a great stash of new books and you can't choose which one to read first - so you compromise, and basically start them all around the same time. The result? You keep expecting the old-timey gent from Book #1 to reappear, only to realise you're on Book #4, which is about turn-of-the-century Japan, and categorically does not feature old-timey gents. And why has Book #2 stopped mentioning what happened to the wizard? Oh right, that's because the wizard is in Book #3, and of course Book #2 isn't going to mention wizards, it's set in 1930's Germany. Nice one, brains - you've just contracted MPS**.

7. Book envy. So you're reading a book, and someone else is reading a book. All is well in the world. Then, when you both reach a natural, uninterrupted break in your reads, you discuss what you're reading and oh, dear god, THEIRS SOUNDS BETTER AND I WANT IT. Suddenly, your poor book isn't good enough because whatever's going on in that one over there is where you want to be. Except you can't go there, because someone else is reading that and the third rule of book reading is "Thou shalt not start reading a book whilst someone else is reading it". So instead, you have to wait for them to finish, and in the meantime struggle through your now-inferior tome (which is doubly unfair because it was a good book before you found out about that other one).

Got your own bookish issues? Is there anything that someone can do whilst you're reading that might cause you to Hulk-out on them? Tell me - I want to know, then we can Hulk-out together.

*It's not, really. Well, maybe for the person doing the interrupting, but not the reader.
** Not a real condition, I made it up. Should be, though.

1 comment:

  1. No. 3 - I have an extra commuting problem in that I am totally comfortable reading sexually explicit material in books and if I've picked up a book without knowing the plot and then it gets weird then I'm cool with that, all realms of human experience and all that. BUT... I don't want everyone reading over my shoulder thinking I'm a twisted pervert. I'm currently having this problem with Lady Chatters - haven't gotten past chapter 4, because there's some silky thigh touching going on and I had to stop reading lest the 8.12 to London Waterloo thinks I'm a sex maniac!