x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The seven types of book bore

Feature Is it possible that your love of literature has turned you into a book bore? If so, fear not: it's not too late. Like ambiguities, there are seven types of book bore. Read, learn, know the enemy - and make sure they are not you.

Examine yourself closely. Search the murky corners of your psyche. Is it possible that your love of literature has turned you into a book bore? If so, fear not: it's not too late. I used to be one myself, but now I'm really, really interesting. And that's because I learnt to recognise that, like ambiguities, there are seven types of book bore. Read, learn, know the enemy - and make sure they are not you. By Sam Leith The Highbrow Bore. You know this character. He's the sort of person you suspect sits in his bedroom on his own, watching his reflection in the mirror as he practises arching one eyebrow. He is never just reading a book. He - it's normally a he - is always "re-reading" a book. And it's normally a book you haven't read even once. He pronounces Sebald "Zebald", Nabokov "Naborrkuff" and calls W H Auden "Wystan". He's sniffy about the Man Booker Prize, but takes a close interest in the Nobel - he thinks Elfriede Jelinek has lost her edge - and a closer one in le prix Goncourt. If he reads anything by a living writer it will be in translation. Secretly, he collects back-issues of children's comics. His nemesis is the Book Group Bore. This one's usually female, and she's boring about books by more or less never talking about them. What she talks about is what happens in her book group. She's seldom seen without an anxious expression and an unread copy of a recent winner of the Orange Prize. "I love it, because it makes me read things I otherwise wouldn't, and it's a great way of hanging out with my friends," she says of her monthly session. What she means is: "I hate it because it makes me feel panicky about not having read things I otherwise wouldn't mind not having read, and it's a great way of feeling competitive and resentful of my friends." Still, at least she aspires to read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Not so the Single Author Bore. This is the person - and they come in both sexes, though they are seldom under 50 - who, beaming with self-congratulation, announces that "I really don't read new books at all, now. I find more and more, these days, I just go back to Trollope/ Dickens/ P G Wodehouse." They think this says something interesting about their character. It does. Most dreadful are the Janeites, who refer to their heroine as "the Divine Jane", and can go on for hours about the inadequacies of the latest Austen adaptation on telly, or the "sublime" wisdom found in these slight comedies of manners. That said, Sherlockians (or Holmesians as they are called in the UK) are pretty ghastly, and the less said about Mervyn Peake enthusiasts, the better. Then there's the Genre Bore. Instead of reading a single author, they read a single genre: usually crime or science fiction. The former are chippy about the injustice of Ian Rankin never having won the Booker Prize; the latter wax titanically dull about "space opera", "steampunk", and how wrong it is to say "sci-fi": it's "sf", apparently, with lower-case letters. See off both by declaring: "I only read pornography." The Writer is a particularly deadly species of book bore, and the less successful the writer, the bigger the bore he is. The notion, regrettably widely publicised, that "everyone has a novel inside them" has done a lot of damage to marriages, dinner parties and forests over the years. If you are unlucky, they will tell you all about it. If you are really unlucky, they will have self-published their book, and at the end of a bitter disquisition on the cliquishness of "mainstream publishing", will press a copy on you and ask you to let them know what you think. The worst, worst, worst subspecies of this category is the poet. Sometimes they recite. And even the published ones are bitter. The Insider is that cliquey figure loathed by the unpublished author - or, at least, he wishes he was. He's the guy who blags his way into publishing parties on the strength of his books blog, and is always talking about "Salman" and "Zadie" with ostentatious familiarity. He has actually met Salman and Zadie - when he queued up in a bookshop to get them to sign his copy of one of their books. He doesn't read. The final bore is the First Edition Bore. Like people who think it's "naughty" to eat a cream bun, he affects shame about an activity in which he blatantly rejoices. "I'm addicted!" he says joyfully. He's always trying to kick the habit, but tells you about the signed first edition of Yeats he "couldn't resist", and how much it cost him. Still, he admits, these things do appreciate in value- This is all a way of telling you that he is rich, sophisticated, and helplessly in thrall to his love of literature. Sod's Law: Why Life Always Lands Butter Side Down by Sam Leith (Atlantic Books) is available to order from Magrudy's (Dh52).