Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I have this thing about books. I have to finish them. Even if I hate them. I trap myself in books. I love books, but in the last year I've managed to end up in a few situations where I was deliberately turning reading into work.

I don't know where that obsession comes from. It definitely is an obsession, since the idea of not finishing a book gives me the same sense as believing I have left the garage door open or a curling iron plugged in.

And yet, in the last six months, I've deliberately not finished at least four books. Here goes -

The Life and Opinions Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
Why I started reading the book:
I only started reading it so I could see the movie. Which is ridiculous. More often than not, I would actually much rather see the movie first and then read the book. Crazy, I know. But I find that movies don't actually influence my experience that deeply. And I have a hard time remembering plot (seriously) if more than a week goes by after I've read a book (seriously) so I spend most of the movie going "Wait. Do I remember what happens?"
Why I stopped reading the book:
Samuel Johnnson's review: "Nothing odd will do long." Tedious.
Why I tell myself it's okay:
I'll read it someday, right?

Iris Murdoch: A Life - The Authorized Biography by Peter Conradi
Why I started reading it:
It's possible Iris Murdoch is my favorite writer. I read one of her books - and only one - every year. It's a special thing.
Why I stopped reading it:
I think sometimes biographers forget they are also writing books. And spending 100+ pages addressing the geneology and the god-awful boring family history of an interesting person really isn't fair, no matter how long it took you to come up with that information or how much the subject told you that's what is really important. Congratulations you know how to use archives. Nobody needs to know that shit.
Why I tell myself it's okay:
The book also kept giving away plot points for Murdoch's novels. Also, authorized is, like, the death knell for a biography.

Oh man. I just got sassy.

The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe by R. I. Moore
Why I started:
I basically read this book through excerpts in college. Also, I have kind of a thing for R. I. Moore. That guy just doesn't care what rabbles he rouses.
Why I stopped:
Um, I basically read this book through excerpts in college. Some medieval history books are just better read that way. The garage door stays open.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Why I started:
I liked The Final Solution. And all you people everywhere keep talking about this book.
Why I stopped:
Well. It's complicated. Controversy time - I wasn't loving this book, you guys.
It is very realistically possible that my lack of love for narrative in improv might be born from a lack of love for long narrative in all storytelling. (Note: It also might be possible that by the time that revelation gets read by a certain someone, I will be single again.) Gah. But more importantly, my living situation called for the sudden and dramatic throwing away of much of my material possessions and this book might have accidentally been tossed out in the purge. Accidentally. I swear.
Why I tell myself it's okay:
Because, like, I don't have the book anymore.

I'm also still stuck on the Book of Genesis, Chapter One of some American Government book that I started looking at one night and, like, book one of the Iliad.

This whole entry feels incredibly indulgent. Oh well.


benzado said...

It is OK to not finish a book. You are more important than the books are.

Kathryn Michaelis said...

I didn't like Kavalier and Clay either. I thought I was the only one.

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Brooke said...

I'm the same way about movies.

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