Mallory Ortberg at The Toast is a wry, honest author who has been more than usually funny on the subject of literature and art lately (see: Every English Novel Ever and Women Listening to Men in Western Art History as representative examples). Today, though, she broke through the, “Oh isn’t that funny – I have that same experience too” filter and went straight to the middle of my brain in a post called Let’s Talk About the Books You Hate the Most:
As a young woman, the book I hated more than anything in the world was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I wanted to love it. I was prepared to love it. I opened the book expecting to love it (the cover is of a woman in a gown carrying a sword riding a majestic white horse! I wished to love it), and was horrified by my own disgust when I began to read it. It is ten million pages of nothing happening over and over again.
Everything about what she describes, I felt: I will add that the weight and heft of the trade paperback promised me hours of immersion in a world where a woman in a gown carrying a sword riding a majestic horse (or the many women who this woman clearly represented) would enthrall me.
Reader, this did not happen.
Instead, I had I don’t know how many hours of tedium where, as Ortberg relates:
Powerful witches sit around casting no spells while the world falls apart around their ears. A great many characters almost have sex, and then don’t. Eventually someone has sex in a muddy field, then for about four hundred pages Queen Guinevere (Gwynhywywhfarre in the book, I believe) is afraid to go outside. Then she does not go outside. Then Christianity ruins everything, and Morgaine continues to do absolutely nothing with all the magic she’s full of.
Now, a lot of people like this book. A lot of people whose taste and intellect I admire really like this book (and others that I also hate or merely aggressively didn’t enjoy – I’m looking at you, Middlemarch). For a long time, I felt this must be a profound lapse of taste or intellect in me. While this may in fact, be true, I prefer to take another mental and psychological path for several reasons. I am now proposing the “mellow hate.” Here are the tenets of the doctrine of the mellow hate (applicable only to things, I note, not people):
- I (or you) hate a thing,
- This hate has only to do with the thing in question,
- It has nothing to do with those who may love it,
- It also has nothing to do with those who may also hate it,
- For the loving and the hating of a thing is personal and the reasons of either do not transfer lightly or easily or even sometimes at all from person to person,
- So do not try to argue a person into the loving or the hating of something, for verily it will not work,
- And it may piss that person off, for few if any appreciate incursions into their personal preferences.
- So if a person loves or hates and you disagree, leave them to their love or hate as they should leave you to love or hate.
- But if in the fulness of time you find another that hates the thing you hate and are able to muster arguments that make sense to you as to the reasons why your hate burns with such passion or sluggish loathing, by all means make common cause with that person and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
- Same for those who love what you love, but you probably don’t need a rule for that.