Books Magazine

Bookish Pet Peeve #4: The One Upper

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

Tell me if you know this guy.

You’re out to lunch, maybe shooting the breeze over the water cooler at work, chatting with a friend about the books you’ve recently read.

This guy, the annoying guy known as the “One Upper” approaches at about the same time you mention reading A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

“That’s the first time I’ve read James Joyce,” you say to your friend.

Like a literary bloodhound, the One-Upper sniffs an opportunity to inflate his ginormous ego.

“Portrait!” he says. “I read that Joyce in 9th grade. It’s so simple compared to Ulysses. You must read Ulysses if you really want to see Joyce in his element.”

At this point, feeling a little dejected, you nod your head. “Thanks,” you say.

Your friend pipes in. “I read Ulysses last summer,” he says.

“Did you?” the One-Upper responds. “How would you say it compares to Finnegans Wake—a true Joycean masterpiece?”

“I can’t say I’ve read Finnegans Wake,” your friend responds.

“Pity” says the One-Upper. “I thought most every serious reader had read Finnegans Wake! It’s such a light, charming story!”

And on and on the conversation goes, eventually coming to a halt when the One Upper claims to have read every single volume of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

“It’s great reading for the weekend,” he says.

Everybody knows a one-upper, right? This skit on Portlandia does a much better job of illustrating these annoying people.

Books might not be their thing. Maybe it’s telling you about how awesome their weekend was, or how much more smarter or beautiful their kids are than yours.

Oh, they don’t say they think your kids are ugly. They don’t outright say they think their taste in reading is infinitely better than yours. But that’s basically what they’re saying.

Stupid one uppers.

The temptation is to compete with the One Upper, but by playing their game, you become a One Upper yourself. Don’t do that.

A battle between two one uppers is like watching two douchebag gym rats debate who has the bigger muscles and better hair. Really, they’re debating is who has the lower self-esteem.

Do not engage the One Uppers. Do not look them directly in the eye. You cannot win.

Down with the One Uppers!

Previous Bookish Pet Peeves:

#3 The Book Snob

#2 The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

#1 Bookstore Cell Phone Blabbermouth

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog