Would You Wish a Book Away?

August 16, 2006 @ 9:42 am | Filed under:

One of the questions on Kelly’s stolen books meme has got us talking in the comments. The question was, "Name one book you wish had never been written."

My answer was:

I have thought long and hard about this one since I first saw this
meme, and I can’t do it. I can’t wish a book unwritten. There are books
I dislike and books that I think have done outright harm. But still,
something in me recoils from the idea of entirely erasing one from
existence. What if IT was the book that sparked the idea for another
book by another author down the line? I’m picturing literary dominoes
that poof one another out of existence as they topple down
the line. If I wish my most hated book away, I might take something
precious with it.

Jennifer replied:

I guess without Mein Kampf there would be no Number the Stars or Diary of Anne Frank…but still…

Which is an excellent point. I responded (not terribly articulately):

Well, strictly speaking I was sticking to children’s books in the meme.
But I did think about the question you raise—without Mein Kampf would
there have been no Holocaust? If so, that’s a domino worth knocking
over. Impossible to know, though, if unmaking the book would have
unmade the atrocities, or might in some way have made things (hard to
imagine) worse. I dunno.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, here’s a look at how other people answered the question. Some responded lightheartedly, identifying poorly written books they’d just as soon not have had to endure. (I could certainly come up with a long list of those.)

Others seemed to select books they perceive as harmful in some way. Here’s an incomplete survey, with links to the source:

Big A little a: First choice: Notes from the Underground, by Dostoevsky. Second choice? Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! by Katharine DeBrecht and Jim Hummel (I see there’s a sequel to this one: Help! Mom! Hollywood’s in my Hamper! I’ll put that on the list too.) 

Blog from the Windowsill: The horrific, claustrophobia-inducing Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. At any rate, I wish I had never read it.

Tockla’s World: I was totally creeped out by reading Helter Skelter about the
Charles Manson murders. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been
written. Even more controversially, perhaps we’d be better off without
some religious texts (Bible?) for all the trouble it’s caused.

Scholar Blog: Oh Pamela – that book bored me stupid at college – I stopped half way through to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban !!

Journey Woman: So many choices for so many different reasons.  Perhaps any book by Madonna.  [Interjection from Lissa: Ha!]

Jen Robinson: Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson. It’s a serial
killer/predator novel set at Duke, where I did my undergrad degree.
While I couldn’t help finishing it (because it was compelling), it made
my skin crawl. I did really like Patterson’s Maximum Ride, however, so I’m not holding it against him.

Children’s Literature Book Club: Ugh, gee, let’s think about this one.  I know a million people love the book Love You Forever
by Robert Munsch, but I CAN"T STAND IT! Yes, it makes moms everywhere
cry, but come on, an elderly mother breaking into her adult son’s house
to hold him while he’s sleeping and chant, "love you forever"? Creepy!

Farm School: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch; Disney’s Princess Storybook Collection; The Sesame Street Treasury. Oh dear.  Is that more than one?

Becky Levine: I don’t know that I think any book should never have
been written. A book I wish I’d never read…? Nope, can’t think of
one. Okay, sure, I’ve read and partially read lots of badly written
books, but they just needed a lot more rewriting!

Tasha of KidsLit: This will probably seem strange.  But I wish that Lowry had never written a sequel to The Giver.
I loved the ambiguity of the ending, the gasp that would escape
readers, and the fact that they alone had to wrestle with the
possibilities of what may have happened.

MotherReader: If you’re a reader of my blog, you’ll know the answer. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Stupid bunny book.

A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy: There are books that I finish reading and think, well, there’s three
hours of my life I wont’ get back. But often it turns out that my hate
is another’s love, so I don’t wish any book unwritten.

Gail Gauthier: The fourth Artemis Fowl book. I found it very, very weak. A sad decline.

A Year in Reading: Not a wish I am philosophically able to make. (ML) The new NANCY DREW books–I liked the old ones! (F)

Little Willow: There are many books which I dislike, but they may be loved by others
and were most likely valued by their authors, so I do not want to
condemn anything to "never written" status. If the question posed was,
"What famous, popular, or critically acclaimed novels do you dislike?"
I would have many, many answers.

Real Learning: Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown

Cottage Blessings: Misty’s Twilight by Marguerite Henry. This is admittedly a quirky pick on my part, but I so loved the Misty of Chincoteague series, and Misty’s Twilight, written by Ms. Henry much later in life, was disappointing in the extreme.

Mozart & Mud Pies: The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. Blech. The worst sort of book. And made more so by the sad, but not surprising, way that so many clung to its message as truth. Demoralizing twaddle.(Also, I’d like to include every Social Studies textbook I ever had to suffer through in middle school.)

Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler. I’m sorry but it doesn’t even deserve a link—am I a meanie, or what!

Karen Edmisten: Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi; Salem’s Lot, Stephen King. (Both gave me endless nightmares in high school.)

The Bookworm: The Antiquary by Walter Scott. I had to study it for an exam during my school days and have never been able to bring myself to read anything by Scott since.

Kate’s Book Blog: I could name a few books that I wish I hadn’t read but I wouldn’t go so
far as to say that I wish they had never been written. Just because I
didn’t like them doesn’t mean that others who did or would should be
deprived of their enjoyment. I’m not sure that I would wish out of
existence even those books full of political ideas that appal me. I
struggle with this issue, but I’m inclined toward the view that it’s
better to have the ideas out in the open where they can be combated as
opposed to leaving them to fester beneath the surface.

Marihalo Jen (writing at sea):
Stove by a Whale
by Heffernan, just the title is horrifying!

There are many more, and if I’ve left you out it’s only because following these link chains is time-consuming, and I’ve consumed every morsel of my portion of time. Maybe I’ll add more later. I so enjoy this food for thought (not to mention the chuckles—thanks, Jen!) For now—speaking of food and time—we’ll give Susan of Chicken Spaghetti the last word (and since she names my favorite herb, I’m glad this is just an exercise):

Rather than books, I am going to talk about a herb. Specifically,
thyme. I wish it had not been invented because it crops up when I least
expect it. Some people feel this way about raisins, but those I don’t
mind. Tarragon, dill, cumin, curry, cilantro: thumbs up. But spare me
the thyme.

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2 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Becky says:

    Aside from the fact that I don’t even consider my suggestions to be real books lol, here’s another question for you — as if you didn’t have enough to do! How do you “wish away” real live twaddle received as gifts by members of your household, usually the junior members? This is always a chore I dislike. I never feel good about regifting something (uninscribed, it goes without saying) I wouldn’t want as a gift, so it’s generally off to the Goodwill or the library’s discard sale, which raises money to buy good (we hope) books. But still…

  2. nrkii says:

    Here was one suggestion I got in the comments: any book where a violent criminal made money from its publication…

    But I also had trouble answering this one. It is tough to wish a book away.