About the time I deleted my Goodreads ratings (and how that backfired)

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It took at least half an hour. One by one, I clicked on all the books that I had ever marked as ‘read’ on Goodreads, deleted my ratings so that all the stars disappeared, unchecked the box that said ‘add to my update feed’ so that my friends on Goodreads wouldn’t get the 188 notifications, and saved my changes. And that almost 200 times. I also put the books on the right ‘bookshelf’ if that was necessary: novels on the novel shelf, poems on the poem shelf. In the meantime, I listened to music, I thought about all the books that I had read and above all, I felt like it was an act of resistance.

Ever since I made an account on the book-centered social medium, I rated every book from 1 to 5 stars. Thoughtless, because it was an option, and because it felt complete. I rarely gave 1 star (who am to think a book is so shite?), same story with 5 stars (it’s gotta stay special). 2 only when highly irritated, and I found 3 all but easy. 4 stars. I only really gave 4 stars. Because I think giving stars is awkward. A book can speak to you because of so many reasons, and that doesn’t fit inside a small symbol. And mainly, I don’t want to rate my books. Why does everything have to be judged? And why the hell do I have to judge it?

I now have a ratings-free Goodreads. The books are lined up securely. It feels good and organized. I don’t wanna say that I enjoyed it, but I sure was pleased with myself. Until I started the book I’m reading right now, as I now realize that I got myself in principled trouble.

I’m reading Tim Key’s ‘He used thought as a wife’ (what a title!) and I enjoy reading it to a ridiculous degree. Tim Key is a British poet and comedian, and this book is a fat collection of poems and conversations. The book is dedicated to ‘all those who got involved with the lockdown’. Absurd pieces of work wrap a report of lockdown I, including all its loneliness and madness. The lines are ludicrous at times, but equally funny and touching. In the run-up to the first lockdown, his mother asked ‘Well, are we locking our doors ourselves or are they coming round in a truck and locking us in from the outside with new locks?’

I feel joy while reading it. That may sound a bit ordinary, but I don’t think ‘joy’ is a typical reading experience. But now it is joy. I often chuckle out loud, much I read for a second time, and I constantly feel like sharing pieces with others. I do share quite some pieces with others. I think about it almost constantly, the whole day through. In principle I’d say that no one wants to read books about the lockdown, – I faintly feel averted from any ads for yet another collection of columns about corona – but this works. The absurdity creates distance from it all and space to breathe. It makes it stranger, but more sincere as well. It is extremely funny, and weirdly comforting.

It’s very pleasing in appearance as well. It has been designed by the ‘sickeningly talented’ Emily Juniper. I love holding the book. Incredible design, beautiful paper, best kind of blue. I sometimes flip through it, just for the sake of it. I take it with me from the living room to the bedroom and vice versa, also if I don’t plan on reading in it.

If I weren’t a slave to my own literary-critical (?) choice, I’d straight up give this book 5 stars. But what do I have to do with my revolting enthusiasm now?

Buy the book. Become my friend on Goodreads.

Translation by my beloved brother Wouter.