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Quitting’s Alright By Me

I’ve started thinking that it’s okay to quit on a book that I don’t particularly enjoy. I used to think that I needed to power through, thinking & hoping that there was something of inherent value within that I was so far missing. This isn’t a new topic here on the Catapult – I wrote this in 2007:

In 2003, I stopped reading Lawrence Norfolk’s 574 page The Pope’s Rhinoceros on page 549. I really actually tell myself that I’ll finish it some day. One day my life will come full circle, back to “aught three”, and I will be inextricably drawn back to the soothing tones of Lawrence Norfolk and his rhino. No one else believes me though…

“Don’t you love me anymore, Seth?”
Hell, I don’t even believe me. I haven’t touched that book since I wrote that 4 years ago – and I hadn’t made an honest attempt to read any of it for at least 3 years before that. So why the guilt? Who cares? Norfolk got paid & has moved on to other things (whatever they are), so why do I think of every book-quit as a failure on my part?
I do often feel almost guilty for quitting on a book. It’s ridiculous. How could I possibly be letting the author down in any way? I really so badly wanted to love The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, but I only lasted halfway. I’m sorry, Orhan! With John Sayles’ Moment in the Sun I fell just short of halfway (albeit 400+ pages.) Mr. Sayles, your bonecrushing handshake tells me that you would smash me to bits if you found out! I even felt a little bad for only reading 126 pages of the ARC of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while on a plane in 2008 – that is until that whole thing blew up and every soccer mom in America started telling me that I HAD to read it. Now I’m glad I quit. Besides, Stieg’s dead anyway. Off the hook, there.

There are certainly books in recent years that I should have quit on, but didn’t. Franzen’s Freedom, Point Omega by Don Delillo, Summertime by Coetzee, to name a few. All penned by respected, “literary” authors that I, as a bookseller & a self-respecting reader, felt I needed to read to have a broader scope of the world of contemporary literature. Bullshit. I hated all three of them, let’s be honest.

I bring this up because I have experienced a rash of books fitting into the “unfinishable” category of late. Or, maybe they’re just books that I’ve stumbled along in, never gaining traction & needed to put aside. Just in the last month or so, I’ve read 200 pages of Neil Stephenson’s Reamde, a good chunk of Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, and 144 pages of the mystery novel, Utu by Caryl Férey. And now, 127 pages of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – one of my personally most-anticipated books of the year. I’m just bored to tears by it – despite all the critical praise being heaped upon it. (I actually doubt very much that the folks at Amazon who voted 1Q84 the #2 book of 2011 actually plodded their way through the whole thing.)
Yet bookmarks still reside in each of those books, as if I will return to their unwelcoming prose on some rare rainy, Southern Cali day. Maybe I’d be better off saving them for a snow day. Either way, after writing this all out, I feel like I’ve come through some sort of tunnel of light or enchanted forest, where on the other side I get to read whatever the hell I want.

2 comments on “Quitting’s Alright By Me

  1. warwickian
    November 11, 2011

    Instead of feeling that some how the failure is yours, have you ever considered that the failure is theirs? Yes, these are amazing authors some of whom you anticipate because in the past they have fulfilled their literary promise. Or perhaps the buzz leads you to believe that this is the next great literary adventure. No one is perfect authors included. And like a lover with whom you have an intense, but not necessarily satisfactory relationship, authors will disappoint. There is nothing wrong with leaving that lover who has disappointed one too many times.

  2. Seth Marko
    November 11, 2011

    Well, yeah, that's what I'm sayin'. I was being dramatic – the guilt isn't really “guilt,” like. I just always want to see things through – especially if it's a book that I've read & heard good things about. It's an “Am I missing something?” sort of a thing. But now I'm saying, screw that, I'm not going to waste any more time with this crap & I'm going to read whatever I want.

    Which I already do. Like I said, I was being dramatic.

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2011 by in http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post.
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