I have to admit, I know this feeling Dorian Lynskey describes:
Time anxiety induces a perverse reaction to recommendations. Links to “must-read” articles or rave reviews of “must-see” box sets make me sigh. Must I? Conversely, if I hate, say, the first episode of a new TV drama I feel a thrill of elation: “Thank God for The Newsroom’s smug, self-parodic hokum! I’ve just saved myself hours.” Recently I was a few chapters into Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (which belongs alongside On the Road and The Magus in a subcategory of Books You Should Read Before You’re 18 or Not at All) when I realised I loathed it and could exile it to the charity shop with a clean conscience. It felt great.
When I hate something these days I find it liberating rather than disappointing because I like too much. It wasn’t just the deprivation that Reynolds mentions that guided my teenage choices; it was a certain militant narrow-mindedness. With cheerful ignorance I consigned vast swathes of culture to the Land of Not My Kind of Thing. Even though I missed out on countless books, films and albums that were, in fact, My Kind of Thing, I didn’t know that at the time, so I was free to go deep instead of broad. I never had the sense that the clock was ticking and Middlemarch wasn’t going to read itself.
When there’s so much to read, to watch, to listen to, it is liberating to come across something that you know you’re just not going to like — or not going to like the good parts of enough to make it worthwhile to slog through the bad parts. It took me two episodes of The Sopranos to realize: Not gonna happen. (Of course, then you have to suppress that little voice that says, But if you had just stuck with it a little longer….)
And one more thing: those three books he mentions in the first paragraph I quote? I read them all before eighteen, and loved them. I tried re-reading them all later, and … No. Just, No.