I was moseying around on the Internet and came across this op-ed at the New York Times (yes, ew). It is entitled “Why You Should Read Books You Hate” and is written by Pamela Paul. (Here is an archive.is link for those who don’t want to give NYT the hits, or in case they put it behind a paywall.)
The point of the article, so that you don’t have to bother, is to know thy enemy.
“Still, I persisted. A hundred pages later, I was more of a French socialist than I’d ever been before or since. I finished every wretched page of “The Fountainhead” in alternating states of fury and despair, and when it was finally over, I tried to leave the vague echo of Dominique, stomping around in her evening gowns, behind. What stuck was the abiding knowledge that I was not, nor would I ever be, a libertarian.”
This is in reference to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. I rolled my eyes at this paragraph. Anyone declaring that they’d never be a libertarian is an idiot at best, and a tyrannical statist at worst. You are not required to like anything by Ayn Rand or agree with anything she’s written in order to be a libertarian.
I’d be a raging hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I essentially do the same thing. The author, however, is not quite willing to admit that she’s not interested in opening her mind as much as she’s interested in literally hate reading something. Or, as I said earlier, knowing the enemy.
I do the same thing. I’ve read a couple of essays in Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl – particularly the one where she details her alleged rape at the hands of a purple cowboy boot wearing Republican. I read Erika Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling, knowing that it’s a bunch of whiny leftist nonsense (and I was not wrong. That book is total ass). In fact, I am currently reading the sequel, Invasion of the Tearling and if I can survive that, I am going to read the last installment of the series, The Fate of the Tearling. Should be fun. /sarc
I’ve hate read a few other books, but I won’t get into it here. Here is another key difference between me and this woman. I’ve read books that have a lot of stuff I disagree with, and yet I enjoyed them. I liked Malinda Lo’s Adaptation duology, despite having serious problems with some aspects of the story (such as the whole notion that if everyone communicated telepathically, there’d be no bigotry or hatred). Oh, and to weave a quick update on the whole Laurie Forest saga – I am halfway through her book, The Black Witch, and some of the messaging is really heavy-handed but I like it anyway. Her writing is gorgeous. I am jealous.
I am going through my Read list on GoodReads and I’m seeing books I don’t remember reading. Wow.
Anyway, back to the op-ed. I did agree with this paragraph:
“As debaters know, sometimes you figure out your position only in opposition. All it takes is for me to read a book by Howard Zinn or Paul Johnson, each gleefully hate-worthy in its own polarizing way, to locate my own interpretation of history. This is what’s so invigorating about hate-reading. To actively grapple with your assumptions and defend your conclusions gives you a sense of purpose. You come to know where you stand, even if that means standing apart.”
Well, at least she acknowledges that Howard Zinn is full of shit. I don’t have the stomach to read his crap…not yet. I’ve honed my opinions after reading stuff I disagree with. I’ve also gained additional insight from my hate readings.
And then there’s reading stuff simply because you know it’s gonna be bad. Like Meghan McCain’s book Dirty Sexy Politics. Oh my goodness, that book is just bad. She’s a terrible writer, and her publisher either didn’t bother with an editor or got a really crappy one.
I wonder if she’s at all aware that libertarians and conservatives can essentially do the same thing. I bet she expects books like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas to totally change our minds and educate us! By the way, I’m gonna hate read that one too. I bet she would heavily criticize us for reading lefty books without changing our positions on certain issues, but that it’s totally okay to read Ayn Rand and go, “like, I’m never going to be a libertarian because they’re all patriarchal assholes!”
I would love to know if she thinks it’s okay for conservatives and libertarians to hate read lefty stuff and remain conservatives or libertarians. I wonder if she would react badly to someone like me reading The Handmaid’s Tale and being that much more determined to defend Christianity while simultaneously calling out Islam for the patriarchal death cult that it is? I bet she would, and that’s the issue I have with this op-ed and liberals in general.
Furthermore, would I or any other conservative or libertarian get credit for being open-minded enough to read a book we know will be offensive or disagreeable? Probably not.