Nearly a year ago, I was spending time with a man who kept mentioning Somerset Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage (1915). So frequently did it enter conversations in fact, that eventually I felt obliged to buy a copy. Reading it would - or so my sketchy reasoning went - somehow, get to his “essence”.
Psychic abilities of course, weren’t needed to predict that by the time my online purchase arrived, we’d have relegated each other to the friend zone; that his essence no longer really interested me much. (Quietly, I suspect my interest died the second I realised the book had nothing to do with kink).
So the spine never got cracked and this man/book conundrum, alas - but thoroughly predictably - reared its head again.
It’s essential to preface this discussion by noting that there have only been two occasions when I’ve been attracted to a man before speaking to him. Generally I only ever swoon after a good and fiery discussion.
The second of the two blips mentioned Neil Strauss’s book The Game (2005). A lot. Each conversation and there’d be at least one or two references. The subtitle, it’s important to note, is worth of neon.
Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.
To give you the briefest of summaries, apparently - hidden in major cities the world over - exist lairs where men practice the skills of, I kid you not, unlocking ladies’ hearts and legs. These men live together in (what I imagine to be hideously decorated sanctums of latent homosexuality) communes called Projects. Together they spend lashings of time (de)grading women using a variety of egregious formula.
Akin to being unable to resist looking at a car accident, being unable to not touch the wet paint or to not sniff the whiteboard marker, of course I had to read the book.
The Strauss monstrosity is ten years old now so its thorough hideousness has been well-documented elsewhere. I, thankfully, need not waste keystrokes giving it further attention here.
Much more interesting however, is this concept of taste and about what having (at least one example of) extraordinarily hideous taste reveals about a person.
I’ve written about the near-impossible challenge of any single book or song adequately describing us; of doing justice to our depth.
If this is the case, then presumably I need to contend that no single much-loved book should completely condemn a person either.
So just how bad would a book need to be to justify doing so? Just how grievously would it need to conflict with our values to prove it a complete deal breaker?
Overthinking it, as I do, I realised I could, if I cared enough, quite easily forgive a man having read this crap. It’s just a book afterall; the power of media is limited.
Forgiving him for deploying the bad book’s advice on me? Oh no. So very unforgiveable.