“Books are like people…”

Last quotation from Stop What You’re Doing And Read This!, promise.  Well, there definitely won’t be more than one after this, anyway.  Probably.  Back to Mark Haddon’s wonderful essay, definitely the jewel in this crown, and more book thoughts which both strike a chord and make me think more deeply about my reading.  I seem to have run out of bookish paintings very quickly, so instead here is a musical painting by one of my favourite artists: it’s Raoul Dufy’s Tribute to Mozart.

“What I didn’t yet understand was the importance of taste and timing.  Books are like people.  Some look deceptively attractive from a distance, some deceptively unappealing; some are easy company, some demand hard work that isn’t guaranteed to pay off.  Some become friends and stay friends for life.  Some change in our absence – or perhaps it’s we who change in theirs – and we meet up again only to find that we don’t get along any more, an experience that I had when I returned to both Gravity’s Rainbow and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  Unlike people, one can at least dump them or hand them to a friend without causing offence or feeling guilt.  Indeed, we forget sometimes that a vital part of loving literature is hating certain books and certain writers, just as hating Spurs is an important part of supporting Arsenal; and the embarrassing truth is that I have probably got far more satisfaction out of trying to persuade friends that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a tawdry piece of misogynistic torture porn than I have out of discussing the reasons why Wolf Hall is a masterpiece.”

–Mark Haddon, ‘The Right Words in the Right Order’
Stop What You’re Doing And Read This!

12 thoughts on ““Books are like people…”

  • January 13, 2012 at 1:18 am
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    This piece reminds me why I’m keen to re-read more often. There are plenty of books on my shelves that I’m a little scared of picking up again as I worry I won’t like them as much, but I should really get stuck in again and find out the truth! As for Gravity’s Rainbow, I’ve never got along with it and never got beyond the first twenty pages in numerous attempts – but I’m hoping one day I'm clever enough to like it!

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  • January 13, 2012 at 9:23 am
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    I'm relieved that I'm not alone on disliking "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Mark Haddon expresses my feelings precisely & I will refer friends who are fans to his words.

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    • September 22, 2012 at 12:46 am
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      Hallelujah. I've to get through the first few chapters a couple of times, but just couldn't stand the pain… weirdly enough, I have the same trouble with Wuthering Heights, but I think I may be lonely on that one..

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    • September 22, 2012 at 12:48 am
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      Hallelujah! I've tried to get through the first few chapters a few times, and just couldn't stand the pain… Weirdly enough I have a similar experience with Wuthering Heights. I get the feeling I may be pretty lonely on that one…

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  • January 13, 2012 at 10:09 am
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    I totally agree that Mark Haddon's comment on "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is on the nail. I would add that the characters are cardboard caricatures in a simplistic world of goodies and baddies. The book does not bear comparison with Henning Mankell's "Wallender" series, where even the minor regular characters come across as real flesh and blood individuals.

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  • January 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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    Count me in as another person happy to find like-minded readers on the subject of Dragon Tattoo. I made it through 100 pages of pedestrian writing before I skipped ahead to see if it was worth going on. It took a matter of seconds to reach the conclusion that the answer was no. It is still prurient and pandering to readers' basest instincts even if — as several of the book's defenders have pointed out — the girl gets her revenge. It's as much a fantasy as The Bridges of Madison County. There are fairy tales that are more honest depictions of human behavior and better reading.

    Although I am a Californian a little bit younger than the Mary Ann of Tales, I am only now reading Tales for the first time. A bit of a time capsule, enjoyable, but not the kind of book that will keep its space on my Kindle.

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  • January 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm
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    I really liked the artwork so went off to see more. It's the most colourful thing I'll see around here today with the wind howling and snow flying! His bouquets are especially pretty.

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  • January 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm
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    Love these quotes, and would not be upset in the least if you kept going with them. It's true a reread can change the way you thought about a book, but sometimes, also like friendship, can make you discover something entirely different, especially if it's been years and years since you've last "seen" them.

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  • January 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm
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    This is so true. Appreciating literature doesn't only mean liking everything in print.

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  • January 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm
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    The last line made me lol, and I haven't read the Dragon Tatoo (probably never will). ;)

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  • April 12, 2012 at 6:52 am
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    So relieved to read that I am not the only one to have noticed GWDT perhaps not what it seems. When I sit myself down to indulge in some me time with a good book I don't choose to read about women being raped, tortured and murdered (in multiples) written under the strange guise of caring about the fate of the women of our world. It concerns me that most missed this and raved about how good the book is – good for who or what..

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