Books of Pain • 4 February 2007 • The SnowBlog

Books of Pain


I've just emailed Scott at TFP to ask for the name of his chippie that he recommended because our shelves in our spare bedroom at home are so over-stocked that they're hanging off the wall at a very odd angle, ready to fall off and smash into bits any moment now. They're practically defying gravity, when you look at them. I always tread very carefully when I go in. And no, I didn't finish In Search of Lost Time. 

And creeping about under them reminds me of a time when I was grubbing around under a shelf, stood up too quickly and knocked the Reader's Digest Book of DIY off its perch, which fell on my head and cut it open. I still have the scar and a sore patch, five years later. It got me thinking: what other books have led to pain and misery? Here are my top five. 1) Reader's Digest DIY book, as above. 

2) Jane Austen's Emma. I couldn't stop reading it when I was meant to be revising for my mock A levels. I did very badly as a result, and didn't realise that those results would be used as my forecast grades for my UCCA form. Cue a lot of hard work and begging and heartache that could have been avoided. 

3) The Good News Bible. I was given one when I got confirmed when I was 14 or so, and read it - twice. It made absolutely no sense to me at all. I really wanted to believe in god because I thought I would burn in a firey fireball of fire for all eternity if I didn't, but the bible gave me nothing to believe in. I genuinely went through a lot of anguish until I started my history A level, put it all in context, and formed my current atheistic view of religion. It makes me very, er, cross that the church should put a child through that, at the same time as all those hormones and hard academic work.

4)  Martin Amis' London Fields.  It thoroughly depressed me and touched a nerve as at the time I was feeling very anti-London. For weeks afterwards everywhere I went I saw blackness and dirt and cruelty in people and sordidity. Maybe that makes it a good book, in that it stays with you, but I wished it would leave me alone. 

5) Retail Therapy by Rob Jones. This is an all-ends-well story because it resulted in the formation of Snowbooks, which I'm obviously very happy about - but at the time it was very sad. Rob got a publishing deal (with a very unimpressive advance) for this book, which he spent a good 6 months writing. It is a seminal work, in terms of both content and style, and could easily have been a cross-over mass market success.  However, the experience with the publisher was ghastly. They put it out as a hardback, gave it a bland cover, and tried hard to shoe-horn it into their useless series brand. I remember Rob telling me what happened in an editorial meeting. The editor was flicking through the manuscript and said 'Could you just put in, you know, a few more graphs?' Rob readily agreed, being an affable type, and asked which points the editor felt required support. 'Oh, nothing in particular - we would just like to see a few more pictures.' Pity the poor reader of that series. Rob's experience - and, as I'm his best pal, my experience too - was so rotten and demeaning and saddening that we thought we could easily do better. And we do! How's about that then. 

So those are mine. What about yours? We might have to do books of pleasure soon, to counter all this misery! 


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