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.