The End

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.


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  1. ev

    I have a book going on my Nook color, Nook, Kindle Fire and at least one pb in my truck. And yes, I read them all, it’s not that I’m bored. I just don’t sit still long enough to read a book through all the time.

    I shy away from the award winners and Oprah type picks. I usually want to shoot myself after reading the descriptions alone.

    And if you add War and Peace to the mix- read it Book 2, Book 3 then Book 1. Makes so much more sense that way.

  2. Tricia P. Emch

    ha, good topic. i don’t intend this as bragging, more as a testimony of morphine, but after 17 hours of induced labor (10 of which i had an alleged epidural) they gave me morphine and my doctor was astounded to find me not only eating (big mistake) but finishing off my doris lessing book. and since i’m on the topic of child birth why does my husband give me things like Umberto Eco the name of the rose (after 2nd child’s birth) or the “national review” to read after the first? despite this he really hasn’t turned out to be an a.hole. thank god. confederacy of dunces has left me uninspired after 25 pages, as has catch 22 (ive tried 3 times), and i will confess only here that i’ve read Atlas Shrugged until the last 15% twice, still cant get through it. good reading is tough these days, it likely doesn’t make you feel comfortable, and if what we are all seeking is a little respite, then i think we have to stop looking at the “award winners” and reach for the NYT topseller list. Although i will now contradict myself, i will say there are a few that you can’t put down … “oscar and lucinda”, “cutting for stone”, and anything by david liss. Tricia

  3. 7946f1ee-79f8-11e1-b7f8-000bcdca4d7a

    You and I share a similar relationship with books. I went through an unexplained stint with Russian authors (Crime and Pinishment) while expecting my second child. Shitty timing.Thank you for articulating your thoughts so perfectly with an ideal balance of epiphany and use of the word ” shitty.” -Lisa Coffee-Smith

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