Friday, June 7, 2013

Guilty or Am I the Only Soul Who Doesn't Like James Herriot???

I have a confession to make:  I do not enjoy stories by James Herriot.  As a veterinarian and writer and someone who enjoys the British countryside and is a decent, kind, caring person, I understand that this makes no sense.  He should be my idol. 

For those of you living under some sort of mega-rock for the past half century (or maybe you're just not into books about animals, I guess - I shouldn't be so harsh), James Herriot was a mid-20th century British veterinarian who wrote a series of semi-autobiographical books about being a vet in the British countryside.  His most popular book, All Creatures Great and Small, also became the name of the TV series on the BBC based on his stories. 

I feel that everyone loves James Herriot.  You are supposed to love James Herriot.  What's there not to love?  His stories are down to earth, humorous, and filled with little British-y quirks and mannerisms that make Americans squirm with delight. 

James Herriot - see? What's there not to like? And yet somehow...
And yet.... I first tried Herriot when I was in middle school, per recommendation from my mom.  I recall plucking an old, weathered paperback from the immense book shelf in our family room and settling down one evening to read all about vet adventures, adventures just like I dreamed for myself one day.... And after about thirty pages, that was it.  I was done.  I just.  Didn't.  Like.  It.

Haven't you ever started a book and you get this feeling like: eh, this doesn't feel like me.... and then sure enough, something just doesn't click and no matter what, you can't muster the gumption to finish the darn thing?  Rarely do I get that feeling, but when I do, man, it's impossible to kick and the book just languishes.  Life is way too short to waste time on books that don't "click", that's what I say. 

Given the fact that I was only a pre-teen when this occurred, I sensibly tried to give the book another shot when I was in college.  Home for summer vacation, again I picked up the same weathered paperback and tried (harder this time) to like it. 


And that's it.  No three-strikes-you're-out thing for me.  Two tries - that should be enough.  Herriot and myself were just not meant to be.  It's like how some people just can't stand Hemingway or Shakespeare. 

This topic comes up occasionally.  It's like whenever people find out I'm a vet and love to read, they automatically ask about Herriot: "oh you must love James Herriot" or "you must've read all the James Herriot books."  And the truth, as you've learned, is: nope.  Then, when I openly admit I actually don't care for these books, the reaction is normally a shocked facial expression and an uncomfortable: "Oh, really?  Oh.... well...."  It's like I admitted I kill people and eat them or something.  (Which I don't, internet.  I don't.) 

And so, to keep random conversations with clients and other animal-loving people pleasant, when asked about Herriot, I sort of mumble something about how I've never really read any of his books, and then comment on the weather or scream: THERE'S A SPIDER OVER THERE which creates the perfect diversion.

The perfect diversion for awkward conversations
Now that I've come clean, I'm wondering if there's anyone else out there who isn't a fan of the lovable James Herriot.  When I Google "James Herriot bad reviews" or "people who don't like James Herriot", I get nothing.  Not even Google admits there are people out there like me.  But, if you're reading this and find yourself nodding in agreement to my riveting text, maybe we can form a support group or something... I'm thinking some sort of social event involving cookies.... 

And now I'm done hating on books.  Because the truth is, of course, I love books.  I live for books.  And I'd much rather talk about books I love than the ones I don't.  So this is the last time you'll hear me moan and groan about a book.  Well, except for Dickens.  I can't stand Dickens.  But that's for another blog...

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