what to read when

What to Read When: You Want to Be Passive Aggressive Towards Your Lover

A picture's worth a thousand words, but often a title says enough. Affect an allusive bitchiness by curling up with these literary twists of the knife.

by Lauren Oyler
06 July 2015, 8:00pm

Image by Kat Aileen

Sometimes you read books for wisdom and insight; other times you read them so people will see you reading them and think significant thoughts about you. All the better if the person who sees you reading is likely to think particularly significant thoughts about you because you two just got in a huge fight about the gross lack of respect s/he has for your work. Love sucks!!!! Instead of retreating to "cool off," affect an allusive bitchiness by curling up with a literary twist of the knife.

Against Love
by Laura Kipnis

Although "against love" is not quite what this self-aware polemic is arguing, it will definitely freak out anyone who has ever dated you, anyone who dates you currently, anyone who wants to date you, anyone who might want to date you, anyone who has imagined dating you because you once made out at a party and it was kind of bad but probably just because you were both really drunk, or your mother. The actual text is worth reading beyond the opportunities for psychological manipulation it offers, too. Fast, funny, and a reality check for serial monogamists who swear they just don't want to sleep with other people!, Against Love is peak Kipnis. It attacks conventional interpretations of love as equivalent to long-term monogamy in thorough, damning fashion.

I'm Trying to Reach You
by Barbara Browning

If the tenor of your tiff is more wistful disappointment than furious malcontent, consider this bizarre thrilleresque blend of passions professional and romantic. The person trying to reach the protagonist isn't an argument-weary lover but rather an enigmatic dancer posting YouTube videos that suggest crime-related intrigue; however, there's also a sad long-distance relationship that'll appeal to your turmoil.

I Regret Everything
by Seth Greenland

Beneath the cover illustration of a wilting rose shedding a single lament-petal is a "love story" between a 33-year-old trusts and estates lawyer-cum-pseudonymous poet and his boss's 19-year-old daughter. It's actually really touching as it takes you through the throes of the inevitable emotional hellscape that is L.O.V.E., but the asshole you sleep with other doesn't need to know that.

I Love Dick
by Chris Kraus

Everyone's favorite sassy subway read is also a great way to threaten partners of either gender, though this obviously works particularly well for lesbians. Dick refers to a human male, not the slang for human male genitalia, but either way works. The book is an autobiographical novel about how Kraus collaborated with her husband-with whom she hadn't really been having sex at that point-on a series of love letters to the titular Dick, in hopes of diffusing the intensity of the immediate psychosexual fixation she developed for him. Perfect!

by Hanif Kureishi

"What's that about?" he asks, hopeful but wary, looking up from his iPhone, on which is paused one of several games he plays on annoying rotation.

"A man who has a bunch of affairs with younger women and then wants to leave his wife and two children. I'm only halfway done obviously, but I think the takeaway is that infidelity makes you a better person."


"At one point he says, 'You don't stop loving somebody just because you hate them.'"

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