Monday, March 17, 2008

guilty as charged: abandoning books

I'm a dedicated reader and normally give authors a LOT of latitude. I'll finish a book even if I'm not particularly enjoying it. (Did anyone like Rushdie's Midnight's Children? I mean really? Not just because it was hip?) I can't recall the last time I abandonded a book without finishing it. That is, until the last six months. I've abandoned not one, not two, nor three, but four books!

Maybe I've had a stretch of really poor luck, or I've become more discriminate, or I've lost patience. Or all three. Not sure. Whatever the reason, the following four books have been real stinkers for me to finish.

Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. 98% complete. Not a bad book; I think I just forgot to finish it. I probably only have 10 pages left but I'd have to backtrack and re-read a bunch to pick up the thread again. Nah.

Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace. (60%) Wallace was recommended to me based on my appreciation for Neal Stephenson. I found this short story collection while looking for Inifinite Jest at Half Price Books (more on that book below). The first four stories are phenomenal. After that, not so much. I still have a bookmark inserted at page 245 but it has been in the same spot for 6 months. It doesn't look good for the home team. Oh well.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (15%). I really wanted to like this book but I had to keep re-reading the same pages over and over each time I picked it up to remind myself of where I was in the "story." If you could call it that. I confessed my difficulty with this book to a 20-something and she let me in on a secret: NO ONE has ever finished this book. It is a posture prop to demonstrate lit cred. Carry it around and read it in coffee shops when you have need to demonstrate lit hipness. Thank god I never went in public with the damn thing. It is waaaay too wordy, and that is saying something from a reader of Stephenson. How this book made it past a big publishing house editor is a mystery. It would make a good door stop.

Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski. (5%) I liked Danielewski's cult-like House of Leaves for it's brave creativity and bold approach to storytelling (although uneven). So I was looking forward to reading this National Book Award winner. What a shock. Oh my god, it is Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (or perhaps Ulysses) all over again! I hated the stream-of-consciousness bullsh*t years ago, and still don't like it now that I'm all growed up. This book might be ok if you approach it expecting the s-o-c thing mixed in with pretension and lame pseudo poetry in attempt to pander to the critics (which I guess worked). Did anyone ever finish this book, or is it secretly in the same category as Inifinite Jest?

So I've a bunch of stinkers kicked under my bed on my nightstand. I can hardly believe I abandoned so many books in the last six months. More recently than in the whole of my reading years prior. I'm a little sheepish about it, but life is too short to waste discretionary time reading cr*p.

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