Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Art of Hate-Reading.


As I wrote my review for Kiersten White’s latest YA novel “Mind Games”, I thought about what my review said about myself. Of all the things I’ve been accused of being since I started YA blogging (and that’s a very interesting list of names), the most common one levelled at me is that of a snarky figure who deliberately seeks out books I know I’ll hate to review for comedic purposes. This accusation is usually used as a way to discredit other things I say, so I’m used to it. The truth is I’m not 100% innocent on this front. When I began reviewing, I did seek out books for the Sparkle Project that I knew I probably wouldn’t like. The purpose of those reviews was to tackle the material from a specific point of view that was both informative and entertaining. While I haven’t done a so-called snarky review in a while (I think my “Fifty Shades of Grey”one was the most recent example), I do read books that I know I probably won’t like for the purposes of reviewing. Is this hate-reading?

I would argue that it isn't  I stick to certain rules when I pick up a book for review. The first rule, and the one that raises a few eyebrows, is that I will finish it whether I enjoy the experience or not. If you follow me on GoodReads or Twitter then you’ll have seen my complaints as I read certain books. I haven’t left a book unfinished in quite a while. For me, it’s a commitment and a crucial part of the reviewing process. I fully support a blogger’s right to review a book they didn’t finish. That’s a personal choice. For me, I prefer to have all the information at hand. Honestly, I want to see just how much worse it can get. There’s definitely an element of masochism involved in my process. As someone who’s also fascinated by pop culture and the evolution of trends, particularly in YA, I feel a desire to keep up-to-date with it all, even though I know these trends aren’t really my thing. That’s why I read all those embarrassingly insulting and terrible New Adult novels. I want to know what the big deal is.

Hate-reading (or the more commonly discussed hate-watching of movies and TV shows) has multiple definitions. There are the things that you watch for the train wreck glory, such as reality TV shows. Sometimes you watch something for glorious Schadenfreude. I’m a politics geek and I love to watch politicians I hate squirm when they’re caught out lying or in the midst of a display of what has come to be known as an omnishambles. Even though I seriously dislike these people, I enjoy their misery (I also dare someone to tell me they don’t watch “Question Time” for hate purposes. It’s impossible). I guess this is similar to things like “X Factor” and “Big Brother”. Other hate-reads for me are Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP website, Meghan McCain’s blogs for the Daily Beast, and anything ever written, said or passed off as art by James Franco. Their complete lack of self-awareness and stench of unacknowledged privilege both rile me up like crazy and make me laugh like a loon.

Then again, these aren’t experiences of hate for me, at least not in the traditional sense. There are some things that are so awful in terms of quality yet remain incredibly entertaining. Watching “The Room” in a room full of people screaming along at the terrible dialogue and throwing plastic spoons at the screen is un-ironically entertaining. The Merry Gentry novels by Laurell K Hamilton (at least the first three that I’ve actually read) are pretty awful but delightfully so. The later Anita Blake books are a hate-read pleasure for many because they’ve witnessed the series descend into parody and can’t stop looking.

I think we all enjoy things considered bad, but we also enjoy ragging on things that are considered bad. That Guy with the Glasses made their name in this field, and if I’m being honest, so did I (I did read three books in the Hush Hush series, after all). Quality is not an instant marker of a good hate-watch/read. There’s an undeniable satisfaction in seeing something you can’t stand be metaphorically torn apart in the most skilful and hilarious manner possible, particularly if said thing is extremely popular.

For YA purposes, I’m not really into hate-reading, per se. as I said above, I’m a literary masochist who must finish a book, no matter how bad it gets, because I wish to have all the information at hand for the purposes of my articles. Sometimes this does involve me hating the experience of reading that book, so I guess by default I am guilty of this. Then again, this isn’t often an enjoyable experience like it is when I read bad fan-fiction or Gwyneth Paltrow’s preaching of detoxes and $125 t-shirts.

While I don’t pick up a book with the explicit intent of hating it these days (believe it or not, I do try to give each book a fair chance), I definitely see the appeal, and I am guilty of doing it with other forms of media. It can be a delightfully cathartic experience, and one I often greatly enjoy. As long as you don’t let it consume you and become something more akin to self-loathing and cruelty, go for it. Life may be too short for things you don’t like but face it, sometimes you just can’t resist!