Book Rage

Everyone knows about Road Rage – where all other drivers are idiots, your blood pressure soars, you discover swear words you weren’t aware you knew and, when you glance in the rear view mirror to glare at another driver, you don’t recognise the face looking back at you.

But you may be less familiar with Book Rage. Some of the symptoms are similar, but it usually happens at a book club, surrounded by friends, eating delicious nibbly things, sipping wine and doing what you love best – talking about books. And then WHAM, out of the blue, Book Rage flares up.

I’ve belonged to reading groups most of my adult life and here are four of the books that nearly tore those groups asunder:

  • Cover of The SlapThe Slap (Christos Tsiolkas). You don’t know who you are as a parent until someone else slaps your child. At a barbie. The discussion might start out civilised, but child rearing practices can divide even loving couples, never mind a group of ladies only loosely linked by their love of books. Be warned, it could turn ugly.
  • Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen). No one saw this coming, but in retrospect, books about animals do run the risk of degenerating into  emotionally charged “cruelty to animals” accusations. These are always taken personally. You may not get offered a second glass of wine.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James). This was a particularly tricky one for me as I had already taken a vow not to even touch the book. So this book was already causing me significant stress in the workplace. When it showed up at my book group, I launched into a vitriolic attack on it – even though I had not read it, and never ever would. This stance neatly divides people  into those who believe you can’t have an opinion on something you haven’t tried, and the rest of the thinking world.
  • Cover of The Grass Is SingingThe Grass is Singing (Doris Lessing). Most Book Rage starts like this. One person (in this case me) puts a book she loves into the club. Someone in the group responds with comments like: “I never knew any Rhodesians like that” or: “This book is rubbish“.  Next thing I hear myself saying: “Well, you’re wrong” and recklessly amping it up to – “You’re all wrong“. Then I stomped out of the room to the toilet where I tearfully felt I would have to leave any book group that did not appreciate a Nobel Prize winning author. When I looked in the mirror, I saw staring back at me a person I barely recognised. A horrible book snob. I returned to the group. They gave me a cupcake and a coffee. I took Doris Lessing out of the club. We never spoke of it again.

How about you? Do you have any books that have have caused harsh words to be said, that have cut deep beneath the veneer of  civilised behaviour, that have lost you friends?

A book that maybe made you learn something about yourself?

14 thoughts on “Book Rage

  1. bibliobishi 3 April 2014 / 9:27 am

    I will have to put my hand up to being a book snob and occasionally find myself very close to questioning the borrower’s good sense and do they really want to bother with actually reserving “Shades”?? or something lip curlingly similar. One doesn’t need to read these books to know they are trash Roberta! Its obvious eh?

    • robertafsmith 3 April 2014 / 12:15 pm

      It’s a wide old reading world out there, that is for sure. I think my problem is I want all my friends to love the books I love. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, apparently it sometimes is!

  2. keenanj 3 April 2014 / 1:57 pm

    Interestingly stats show that erotic woman’s fiction is by far the most popular book to be borrowed or bought as an e book. Nice and anonymous and means that the book can be read without anyone curling their lips or similar!

    I sadly am a non bookgroup type of gal as I just can’t cope with people not loving the books I love, so you are not alone Roberta. At least you keep going which is better than me!

    • robertafsmith 3 April 2014 / 2:14 pm

      Very interesting stats – maybe that’s what my book group ladies have opted to do! Not loving the books I love is like not loving my child. This can’t be normal, but I am being honest here.

  3. Allison Broster 3 April 2014 / 9:44 pm

    Yup, that’s me! Guilty as charged. Book snob of the first water. At first I thought it came from all those years of studying literature and that it would wear off once I’d distanced myself from academia. But no. What I have learned though is to keep my opinions to myself when I can see that the book club tide of opinion is running against me. Cowardly, you say? True. I’ve became that horrible creature, a closet book snob! You see, I can’t even tell you the names of the books that I’ve judged people for reading.

    • robertafsmith 4 April 2014 / 7:42 am

      Closet Book Snob is an even rarer creature, Now I have something to aspire to! Very occasionally there are books I will not read because I disdain the cover design. For the longest time I would not read books with raised puffy lettering in the title. In fact, if I closed my eyes and ran my fingers over the cover and felt any raised protuberances at all. I just put the book straight back on the shelf. Is there such a thing as an Epicurean Closet Book Snob?

  4. mette bunyan 4 April 2014 / 3:01 am

    I’m not a snob about WHAT people read (unless it’s about Kung Fu fighting, or a Mills & Boone type of read),but HOW they read. Skimming Harlan Corben and Michael Connelly is fine, but don’t tender a J.C. Oates, Justin Cartwright or Lionell Shriver with “I can’t remember this book, but I know it was very good”. I’m not closeted in my response, either – more top-of-a-Victorian billiard-table type reaction.

    • robertafsmith 4 April 2014 / 12:09 pm

      How a Book is Read is a whole new blog topic waiting in the wings ……..

  5. Ping 4 April 2014 / 8:16 am

    I picked up a book in Exclusives the other day and it had spellings like ‘cuz’ for because. I nearly spat as I wiped my hands after shoving it back on the shelf. I’m no book snob, in fact I lean perilously towards the other end of the scale, but I’d get vicious about cellphone text-speak in a book. Ugh.

    • robertafsmith 4 April 2014 / 12:10 pm

      Physical reactions to books is a field of study that has received insufficient attention, in my opinion!

  6. Alice 4 April 2014 / 9:25 am

    What about the reverse book snob – i.e. being forced to read Booker prize winners and the ilk when on a long weekend away with hubbies posh college friends instead of more relaxing chick lit because you know the criticism you will get if you do.

    • robertafsmith 4 April 2014 / 12:07 pm

      Isn’t that when an e-reader becomes handy?

  7. Steve Meikle 6 April 2014 / 8:11 pm

    . .. and here am I, still tending to naively think that people only really argued about really important things, like politics or religion . . . .. more fool me

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