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I Got Into A Fight Over A Book

September 27, 2015
Nobody really gets hurt in fight over a book. (image via wikimedia)

Nobody really gets hurt in fights over a book. (image via wikimedia)

I’m not the type of person who gets into fights, verbal or physical.  The last fist fight I got into was 30 years ago.  It wasn’t much of a fight.  It started off as an insult contest, and just as it was about to escalate into a fist fight, I thought to myself, “Why am I getting into a fist fight over something this stupid?”  By the time I figured out that I shouldn’t be getting into a fight, it had already started.  It was over pretty quickly.  The guy who wonders why he is getting into a fist fight always loses the fist fight.

Since arguments often escalate into fist fights, I tend to stay out of arguments too, especially at work. Even though fist fights are uncommon at work, people who get into stupid arguments still get fired.  I might grumble at stuff that I don’t like at work, but my job is too important to me for me to argue, especially when people get fired for arguing.    If anybody asks ask my opinion, I’ll give it, but I don’t argue.

This argument at work started when I saw a co-worker on break reading a James Patterson book.  I won’t give the title because I don’t want to inadvertently promote a James Patterson book while I’m criticizing him.  If it had been a boss reading a James Patterson book, I wouldn’t have said anything, but I was so outraged that this co-worker was reading a James Patterson book that I felt it was my duty to say something.

Looking back, I know I shouldn’t have said anything.  I hate it when others comment on the books I read in public.  That’s why the e-reader app on my phone is so great; nobody knows what I’m reading.  People could think I’m watching porn, and I wouldn’t care.  I’d rather strangers think I’m watching porn than talk to them about what book I’m reading.

“I can’t believe you’re falling for the James Patterson scam,” I said loudly to my co-worker.

“What are you talking about?” my co-worker said.  He was annoyed that I had interrupted him.  I normally wouldn’t do anything this rude, but James Patterson is too important to let slip by.

“James Patterson doesn’t write his own books,” I said.

“So?”

“Look at the cover,” I said.  “He has a co-author in fine print.”

My co-worker glanced at the cover.  “The co-author got more than fine print.”

“James Patterson has already published 12 books this year.  Nobody can write that many books in one year.  His co-authors are doing all the work, and James Patterson gets all the credit and publicity.”

“Do the co-authors get paid?” the co-worker asked.

“Probably,” I said.

“Then why do you care?”

“Because it’s a scam,” I said.  “You’re falling prey to a literary scam.”

“Did I use your money to purchase my book?” the co-worker said.

“No.”

“Then, again, why do you care?”

“Because I don’t like to see bad behavior get rewarded,” I said with great conviction.

“Then I shall no longer discuss this with you,” my co-worker said.  “You interrupted me, and I don’t want to reward your bad behavior.”

Okay, my co-worker scored a few points on that one, but I still knew that I was right.  I hate it when I lose an argument even though I’m right.  That’s another reason I don’t argue very often.

I was tempted to continue the argument, but he gave me a cold look.  If I said anything, he might have been angry enough to fist fight me, not because he liked James Patterson, but because I wouldn’t let him read quietly in public.  I’m too old to get into fist fights anymore, even if it’s about James Patterson, and we were at work anyway.  I can’t get into fights every time I see somebody reading a James Patterson book.  Even D’Artagnan would say that was foolish.

I blame James Patterson for this argument.  I know it’s not because I’m getting old.  I don’t care if kids run on my lawn, but now I yell at people for reading James Patterson books.  The thing is, I despise lit-shaming.  I believe reading is great and that everybody should read whatever they want, whether it’s sports magazines or comic books with 20-page fight scenes.  I don’t care if an adult is reading YA lit or if a guy is reading a Harlequin romance.  I might wonder about a middle-aged guy reading Lolita, but I wouldn’t say anything about it.

Yet if I see somebody reading a James Patterson book, I feel like I have to say something.  I know it’s wrong.  I know saying something to a person reading a James Patterson book is worse than reading a James Patterson book.  From now on, I’ll resist the urge to say anything.  It’s for my own good.  Now that I’m too old to get into fist fights, I’m too old to get into stupid arguments.  At least, I’m too old to get into fist fights over books.

*****

What do you think?  Is it wrong to lit-shame somebody for reading James Patterson?  What books/authors would cause you to start an argument?  When was the last time you got into a fist fight?

*****

If you see anybody reading Nice Things, don’t start a conversation.  Just let him or her read in peace and quiet.

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

52 Comments
  1. I just quietly laugh to myself. People watch/read horrible shit all the time. I gave up long ago.

    • James Patterson is probably quietly laughing to himself too, and that bugs me… but I guess I’ll have to learn to let it go and move on.

    • I do that, too, Gary. But I did almost get into a fight at a book sale. There’s only so many times that lady can cut me off and snatch a book out of my hands before I lose it lol.

  2. Only provide feedback if they start boasting about how amazing the book is. But even then avoid shaming the reader for enjoying a story.

    If you have to say anything, just suggest a title by another author.

  3. Is this a joke? If someone enjoys reading a book, regardless of who wrote it, then they enjoy reading it. People are not the same – everyone likes different things. I guess you’re technically allowed to say what you want, but you’re overtly being an asshole by verbally judging what others are reading. Charlotte Bronte talked smack about Jane Austen, and I think she didn’t understand how to read literature, despite being a talented literary creator herself. And also a bitch for rudely commenting on a fellow female author in public. You are entitled to your opinion, but your co-worker is also entitled to his.

  4. Matthew permalink

    I totally get what you are saying. People hate me for it, but I strongly dislike J.D Salinger. My theory, is that he aknowledged how horrible he was at writing and refused any other input.

    The people who usually love him say “I read his book in high school and fell in love with it, but haven’t read it a long time.”

    All this to say, I think questioning why read books, and encouraging dialogue about it is healthy.

    I already know that the majority of people would not like what I am reading. I sheepishly say “it is some black french humor from the early 20th century.” And leave it at that.

  5. I guess reading in a public/private space is a meditative time, so the reader should not be disturbed by unnecessary interjections. There are much better ways to educate people. But, having said that, I do agree that we readers and writers are sentimental to the core. We are too sensitive about books and authors, or any literary material. I remember talking to one of my relatives who claims to be a book lover. His lack of awareness about Haruki Murakami and denial of existence totally flabbergasted me, and that was the last day I ever spoke candidly to him. Therefore, I do understand from where you are coming!

  6. I’d say you won by not getting involved in a fist fight.

  7. The way you feel about Jimmy is the same way I feel about Stephanie Myers and Those 50 Shades books. I have an almost pathological need to slap the books out of the readers hands. I try to refrain from that kind of stuff because, hey!…fistfights!

    Also I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of people sneering at things I enjoy. It feels horrible and belittling and I’ve learned never to make others feel that way. The last time it happened to me, the woman and I didn’t speak to each other for years, because she sneered at me for not reading the kind of books she thought was important and I gave her the sharp end of my tongue for that.

    But, I work in a library, so I have a convenient outlet, though. I sublimate my need to insult their reading material by suggesting similar, but much better, books.

    • johnberk permalink

      It’s crazy how often one successful book starts a completely new branch literature, in which many not well known authors start to create their own stories based on the same concept. I remember that it happened after the success of the Twilight saga, when it suddenly became extremely popular to include a teen – vampire – romance – into every book for teen girls. It made me feel powerless. And now, it’s the Fifty Shades stupidity that starts a similar process again – I totally agree with you that there is an urge to slap this book and even tear it apart. I have to remember some calm scene just to control myself in such situation.

  8. Hey, I love the use of words ” literal scam.” but what I do not understand is was that book worth u hurting ur fist?
    I don’t think the sales of the book seems effected. So why bother?

  9. What about Patterson’s co-creators? Perhaps they are trying to do the best they can and also deserve a fair hearing on the art of the public.If you enjoy a book, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the cover. This may be the only way that a writer can get published, and it’s a career for somebody, even if you don’t like it.

  10. I have to say, this got my attention. The first book “by” James Patterson that I read was “Kill me if you can”, which I’d gotten as a gift from my brother-in-law. I didn’t know anything about James Patterson at the time. I loved the book despite the cheesy title, and bought another one. So much worse! This is when I looked into his writing career and found out he doesn’t exactly have one. He’s an entrepreneur, a project in himself or something. Thing is, I’m against this path in the book industry. What he does is the job of a publishing house, so indeed, I’m with you on the “scam” word. It’s indeed a scam, whether he credits the real writers or not. His name should not be on on the book.

  11. Lit- shaming? I never heard of that one… But to get in a fistfight over it? Shame on YOU for starting it. But you know it was a life lesson, a learning experience. Besides the older we get the more eccentric we get!

  12. Simply put, I just don’t get it. What does it matter what he’s reading? I don’t care if the book was composed by all Ghost Writers and the author who’s name is attached had NOTHING TO DO with the book, as long as everyone got paid, who cares? Some say Shakespere never wrote his own material either. So what? That’s a bit nit-picky to me – I say, look, there’s a person who is reading. Really, legitimately reading. A BOOK! Not a tweet or a text or something for work; but a book! And it’s got full words in it, no text abbreviations, no destruction of the English language, just words and his imagination. So leave him be.

    On a side note, I’d like to point out, that IMHO no one should have to be “shamed” for anything. All of this is just another way to hide being mean to other people. Fat-shaming, slut-shaming, now lit-shaming. Is this, honestly, the best humanity can do? How about accepting that you’re not perfect, your choices aren’t perfect, and that just because you feel a certain way about something doesn’t mean everyone else should feel the same. Live and let live, and mind your own business unless someone specifically asks for your opinion. On any subject.

    • Agree about real actual books. I have issues with E-reader. I am worried about the fate of books in this internet era.

      • I, too, prefer cracking open a real book. DH loves his tablet for his reading, I like real books. only problem I have is hard-back books; I like to fall asleep reading them, and if anyone has ever fell asleep on their back reading a book, you know what I mean: the abrupt wake-up call when the book smashes down on your poor nose. The good thing is, I’ve seen DH do it a few times with his tablet, and it makes me feel better, because I know his hurts more than mine — his is a computer, mine is a hard-back book. It gives me the giggles because he always makes fun of me when I do it.

        Also, I do not like e-readers for another reason. I few years back, I remember people purchased a book and then there was an uproar about said book — the e-book people pulled it off their e-readers even after they purchased it. When people noticed, they returned the purchase. Um…nope. Not for me. Give me a room, in my abode, with books floor to ceiling. No one can take them, and the smell of them is unmatched by anything else in this world. Keep your ‘new car’ smell; give me ‘books on a shelf’ 🙂

        • The smell, funny that you’ve mentioned the smell because I love them too! I open thumb the pages of the books rapidly close to my nose so I can savor the aroma.
          I have problem too holding a hardback cover books because I have small hands and suffering from RA. There is this special cushion (looks like a miniature bean bag) for reading in bed. Good for tablets as well. I think Ikea has a version of it for less amount of money.

          • Books smell amazing, although few people notice it.

            I don’t want to get the bean-bag, that would mean more hard-cover books, and I don’t live in a castle — I have limited room for my library, and it’s already overflowing. Plus, soft-covers are generally less expensive, so I can buy more books LOL But thank you for the idea. If I find I have more hard-backs to read back-to-back, I will purchase it. Thank you for the suggestion.

            • I tend to look for paper back novels as well in charity shops and flea markets or otherwise I will be bankrupt in no time. When we were still living in our country house, I had books in every available surface, old rare finds hard cover, but since we moved to the suburb due to health problem, I sold most of my books because I have no more space. I still keep a bookcase full though 🙂

              • OMG! I would have purchased almost all of them from you all at once! I LOVE new books (to me)!!

                • If I only know… I have first edition of Great Expectations.I don’t know where it is now. I don’t remember if I sold it or got lost in transition 🙂

                  • If you sold them online, there shouldn’t be any reason you couldn’t go back and see if you sold it or not…

                    • No, I sold it (I think) to some private collector or could be also that it is somewhere inside one of the boxes in the garage. All I know is when we moved some of my collection went to different people, some to charity shops and some still in storage.

                    • I could never do that — you’re way braver than me! I’d lug all those heavy boxes with me until I broke my back LOL Although, it does sound like you spread the joy, and that’s awesome!

                    • I only give them to people whom I know appreciate books the way I do. mind you I keep the ones that have special meaning to me/look good on my mantelpiece and bookcase/really rare finds 🙂

                    • That’s just it — book lovers or not — I’d leave my clothes behind before my books….although I am kind of a hoarder LOL

                    • Nothing wrong with that as long as it is not interfering with the flow of your life.

                    • No…just interferes with the amount of space left in my library lol

  13. You are correct. James Patterson is a marketing tool who may as well be an alien. The books are poorly written, which is the best way to end this fraud, buy a few hundred at library book sales during the bag sales, and review them: format, format, format. Read the same story again, again, again. Better yet go to bag sales at library book sales (generally the last day, during the final hours). Count the number of James Patterson volumes that nobody wants to buy at a nickel a piece. Publish those figures, dates, times, places.

  14. I think I’d have asked if they were enjoying the story first, and if they said yes, I’d then let drop, “Good, but you know Patterson didn’t write it. The publisher hired a guy to write it using Patterson’s name so people would buy the book. If you saw a book on the shelf with the other author’s name would you pick it up? Would you give it a chance?” Then I’d smile and say, “Enjoy the story. I love a good read, but give the real author the credit for it. James Patterson is just part of the title.” Then I’d walk away.

  15. I think I can only fight over a book I love so much. There is no need fighting over a lit shame of a book. It’s more like giving the author too much of an importance

  16. Reading is reading….it leads to more reading. That can’t be bad for any author, whether in fine print or large print! I’d say, “Let it go…” but I love your anger issues about James Patterson! It is entertaining. And let’s face it, we all are little angry at James Patterson in our own way.

  17. Hope permalink

    I’ve only read one James Patterson book, but I never knew that he did that! ヽ(゚〇゚)ノ

  18. Finally someone else who can’t stand James Patterson! Firstly, I didn’t know that little fact about him. But secondly, I guess I don’t even care, because his books aren’t good enough to make me care. A lady at work brought one of his books for me to read because she knows what a book worm I am. Let’s just say it was one painful reading experience. I ended up skimming through the end of the book instead of reading everything. It had no substance, it was way too easy to guess the “twists” and the characters were slightly elementary. In fact, the whole thing felt a little high school. I will never read another of his books again, nor will I encourage anyone else to.

    As for getting in fights with people over books, I can’t say I’ve done that often. But don’t get me started on “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That’s cause for some major fights if someone wants to tout that as an excellent book, which I’ve heard many people call it. Anyway, thanks for sharing this 🙂

  19. I think it is wrong to mind someone’s else’s business if it doesn’t directly concern you and the person is not doing anything that can be consider as morally wrong. But that’s me.
    The last time I’ve been in a fight was more than ten years ago. She attacked me and I had no choice but to depend myself. She ended up in a hospital (nothing serious, just few stitches and a tooth recap) and sued me for the damage but lost. I felt guilty about it afterwards but she’s so big and my hair was not tied up I cannot let her get near me and she scratched my face that’s why simply because I refused to acknowledge her status superiority.

  20. Can I just say at least your co-worker is reading a book and not some salacious gossipy magazine. I think you could have approached it better 😉 You could have name dropped a few credible authors or left your colleague a book as a present. I’ve never read what’s his name and I’m so glad I haven’t because I did not know he doesn’t write his own books! What is the point of becoming a writer if you don’t write your own books?

  21. girlunoccupied permalink

    I don’t tend to get into arguments for the same reasons you stated. I just silently judge he he.

  22. I have to admit, I love James Patterson novels. Of course, I don’t pay much attention to if he’s writing his own books or not; that’s his deal, not mine, and I don’t really care. All I know is that they’re a good read on a gross day.
    Though now that you’ve pointed out that he doesn’t write his own novels (which I DID already know, but just kind of shuffled away to the back of my mind), I can’t quite look at those books on my shelves the same way…

  23. I’m so torn on this one because I don’t think anyone should be shamed for what they like in terms of music, books, films etc. – but I feel EXACTLY the same whenever I see anyone reading 50 Shades. I think if content is genuinely detrimental or the author demonstrates terrible ideals then it SHOULD be talked about, and I think it’s okay to point this out to readers and non-readers alike as long as you’re not personally attacking them (after all, who doesn’t have a problematic fave? I enjoy many things, but also which I acknowledge their flaws and I think I would appreciate the education if someone else offered), but you also can’t help if people take an objective view on the material personally – like it seems your co-worker might have! 😉

  24. nemofreesheep permalink

    yeah- while this person was reading a horrid book, they were aware of it and they were also acknowledging the original author, however flippantly. i want to point out that they author DID sell their story to the james patterson name. when toyota puts out a new vehicle design, do we demand that the designer get their name put on the ass of the car? no. we assume they were compensated and the idea exchange was legal.

    lit shaming is something that will happen and we all need to get used to it. – just try not to DO it, please. i am tired of people thinking less of me because i read HOMESTUCK, when they know perfectly well that i also enjoy War and Peace just as much. we dont carry our entire libraries around with us- we carry one book, the one we felt like reading that day. how can a person be judged on so small a slice of their media preferences?

    we also have no idea WHY someone is reading a book. i read Moby Dick ironically. the author? i think is kind of a piece of human scum. i also am a staunch atheist- but i will read religious books if i feel like challenging my own opinions. yes- it sucks that getting access to these books supports the authors and publishing houses… but what are we supposed to do? steal? we cant always find used copies of the books we want!

  25. I’ve never read anything by James Patterson, if that makes you feel better. I judge books by their covers, and his always look menacing.

  26. I think you should let people read whatever they want, even if it’s distasteful to you. Yes, even James Patterson!!!

  27. James Patterson does do his own outlines. I read that in an article about his master class: https://www.masterclass.com/classes/james-patterson-teaches-writing.

  28. Hey! I’m relatively new to following your blog so I know I don’t have the full background for your opposition to James Patterson novels. Comes to think of it, I’m not even sure if I read any of his books (I try not to focus too much on the author unless it’s a really good book, then I find other titles by that author to read). My thing is, everyone has their own taste in literature – which now-a-days is hard to find since a lot of people just don’t have the time to sit and read books, or prefer watching the movie adaptation to reading the actual thing. Not everyone will have the same taste and eye when it comes to literature and writing styles. I am a paper book type of person (even though I have a Kindle collecting dust somewhere) so when I see someone reading an actual book I make sure not to interrupt them because it’s so very rare today and most likely that time they have reading now is probably the only time they have to read…so let them enjoy it.

    Also about your point that James Patterson drums out over 12+ books a year with the help of co-authors, my question is: are those well-known and established authors or up and comers? If they are up and comers, I think he is doing a great job in giving them that opportunity by putting their names next to his on novels that are on bookshelves in almost every major bookstores. If they are well-known and established authors, collaborations between professionals in the same fields are always encouraged to bring together different ideas and new styles. As Justin mentioned earlier in a comment, James Patterson completes the outlines of the novels to be written, which really don’t take all that long if you ever had to sit down and outline a writing assignment and just getting the main point down. I’m sure he does do his fair share of contribution to the works published.

    All that aside, it is really not worth you taking the time and energy to make someone read or not read something that you agree or disagree with. Accept that there are people out there that read James Patterson and are passionate about his books with about as much passion you against them. If you really feel the need to say something to someone, perhaps recommend books of the same genre and plots by other novelists that you enjoy doing, without seeming to attack the book(s) they are using.

    Thanks 🙂

  29. I got into fights all the time with my cousin over Twilight. I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t care so much about the story. I cared about the quality of writing. She always fought back. So obviously I’m not above lit shaming.

  30. Shreya Suravarjhula permalink

    Sounds good.Thank god u didn’t fight for your girlfriend or wife .

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Let’s stop attacking the work of a guy who keeps winning awards for his literary advocacy; in fact, let’s stop attacking people’s opinions altogether… « Bambi Quim

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