Today I took my paperback copy of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and ripped it in half and then ripped each piece in half again. I have never before ripped up a book. As a lifelong bibliophile I’ve always felt a certain sense of sacredness around all books, even something as pedestrian as the phone book. I never imagined myself disliking a book so much that I would feel compelled to destroy it.
Lots of other folks, far more articulate than myself, have already attacked The Happiness Project for Rubin’s personal wealth and the way in which it was acquired; however, I want to distance myself from those critics. Plenty of our great writers over the years fit Rubin’s socioeconmic portrait, and to critique her for being not-quite-happy-enough while being born to privilege is a bit unfair since that concept is one of the mains reasons why we are all watching Downton Abbey week after week. Rather, let’s just look at the text itself.
Rubin says that unhappy people get a rush of energy from being unkind to others (the Gweneth Paltrow effect), but if by chance you ever read this, Gretchen Rubin, it’s not you I don’t like ( I don’t know you) its that I find the persona you have created in The Happiness Project to be highly unlikable. How many times do we have to hear that you once clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor? Trust that your reader is smart enough to discern your intellectual capabilities, we are after all reading your book and looking to you for some sagely advice. Moreover, know your audience. Most of your readers are middle class and your pretentious side comments, most memorable being the one about bargain clutter and how you don’t personally suffer from this problem but, you knows other people who do, creates an unnecessarily deep divide between you and your reader.
There was something titillating and liberating about ripping apart this book, similar to the feeling of cutting a Barbie doll’s hair or giving your porcelain faced baby doll the chicken pox with some red nail polish (both of which I did as a child). My anger at this one, rather silly paperback, is part of a deeper frustration in my increasing inability to find a good read. My book club month after month seems equally discontented with all of our choices. Even books like Jeffery Eugenides The Marriage Plot, which was reviewed as one of the best books of the year, felt very predictable (And in the even more unlikely chance the Eugenides ever reads my blog: please know that I think Middlesex best book of the 21st. C., so far, and perhaps this is why I found The Marriage Plot to be such a let down).
My inability to choose a good read and tonight’s bibliocide has led me to ponder purchasing a Kindle, something I would have never before considered. It’s important for us to have some books with us along for the journey and its agonizing trying to decide what texts to lug with us as we head on our three week trip across the British countryside. With limited space available to us, we can’t take any chances with our literature. I don’t know what I would do if I were stuck for three weeks with a book I detested. Furthermore, we devour books. I don’t think we’re going to have enough room to bring along multiple texts.
So if you have any thoughts on good reads or thoughts about backpacking with a Kindle in a foreign country, I’d love to hear your insights.