I have been 3/4’ths of the way through the following books for months:
A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Rewired, edited by my friend Stephanie Abbajay
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lit by Mary Karr
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
I will submit to you that SIX books is FIVE too many books with which to claim to be reading. Does anyone else do this? I have read at least four books during this same months’ long period. It is not that I am particularly well-read. In fact, I think the fact that I can’t seem to finish these books says something about my character. Although I’m not convinced of that either. The way this state of affairs mostly came about was that I never have the book I am reading at the time and place I get an opportunity to read. So, I just pick up what is handy. I’d forget to schlepp Lit to the gym for my stair master hour, or didn’t feel like reading about alcoholism when I was in the radiation waiting room. I didn’t remember to bring The Family Fang to my hair appointment, or want to commit an hour to reading about selfish performance artists. Piecemeal is not an ideal way to read anything.
I recall my first adult experience of reading a book I thought I should read, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. For some reason, I did not connect with that book at that time in my life. I say it that way because I feel like I should have loved it, this classic book by such an esteemed author. It was with a great feeling of emancipation that I realized, “I don’t have to finish this shitty book.” Books are like anything. (wasn’t that profound?) If you don’t pair the right book with the right mood or atmosphere, you are doomed to have a less than spectacular experience. You can’t read Anna Karenina on the beach. You shouldn’t waste a perfectly great fresh haircut by only going to the grocery store. Steak will not taste as good if you’re sitting on a subway bench.
Sometimes, however, books just suck. Other times, you suck, and no amount of Pulitzer Prize-winning prose is going to redeem you from your suckitude. I read a book once many years ago by an aspiring twenty-something Australian writer who described in numbing detail over the course of six pages about the Loser Protagonist pissing himself. That was an exceptionally shitty book. I’m glad I didn’t finish that book. My life is enriched because I quit reading that book. May you also be so spared.