sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

August 30, 2007

i gave up on a book today
posted by soe 12:58 am

It doesn’t sound significant, does it?

But it is.

I hate to turn my back on a book. This is not to say that I have finished every book I’ve ever started. That would be laughable. Ha! (See?)

You could fill my apartment with the books I’ve left unfinished. Possibly, you could fill my whole building.

But that’s different.

I read multiple books at once. What I pick up at any given moment depends on a variety of circumstances that include mood, location, and political atmosphere, as well as how much I’m enjoying something. What that also means, of course, is that I have many books that I’m not reading at any given moment.

Sometimes I have to give a book back to the library before I’ve gotten back into the right moment. Sometimes a book doesn’t fit where I am in life right then and it goes back onto the shelf for something to change. Other times, I get bored with a book, and it simply fades away with the understanding that I may change my mind someday and recall it to me.

But it takes an extraordinary book for me to intentionally decide that we must part ways.

Since I moved down to D.C. four and a half years ago, it has only happened once before. In that instance, I was reading Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel. In that instance, I’d reached a remarkably stressful point in the story, a point where if the author proceeded as I suspected she was going to, we would not be able to continue having a civilized conversation. So, after much thought and angst, I asked her to leave.

Today’s decision was equally stressful, although it ought not to have been.

srclogo4.jpgThe Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, one of the latest books in Lilian Jackson Braun’s mystery series, was deplorable. It was riddled with grammatical and punctuation errors, almost as if someone had shot the book through with an AK47 of bad English usage.

Flow was lacking. Not just from section to section or chapter to chapter, but from sentence to sentence. You know how when you’re exhausted, you sometimes misread things so that they make utterly no sense? Well, the book was just like that, but it didn’t seem to matter how well-rested you were when you picked it up.

The margins were about two inches wide. The book was only 208 pages or so. I stopped somewhere around page 80 and no murder had yet occurred. I consulted the book flap, thinking perhaps I’d accidentally picked up a series of vignettes, as opposed to a mystery. But no! a murder was still to happen and to be solved in the 130 remaining pages.

I almost felt like the publisher called up the author and said, “You are the only writer left on the face of the earth, and we have hordes of angry, voracious readers holding our families hostage. Please send us anything you have.”

“But I’ve only just put together notes and briefly sketched out some ideas. It’s barely 50 pages of material.”

“It doesn’t matter. Send it over now.”

“Well, maybe after I’ve written some transitions and run the grammar-check…”

“No! Please! We don’t have time for that! Lives are at stake! We’re warming up the printing presses as we speak.”

Short of a scenario like this, I can’t understand why this drivel was published. (Incidentally, neither can anyone who reviewed the book over at Amazon.)

Yet, because I am a reader and I, to a certain extent, define myself in this way, it was almost painful to decide to close the book permanently and escort it from the premises. I asked friends how long they gave a book. I mulled it over. I spent more time thinking about the decision than it would have to finish the book, but I just could not force myself to pick it up from my desk and start reading again.

Life is short, after all, and books are plentiful. I’m fighting a losing battle to keep up with everything I want to read; it would be a shame to intentionally waste an extra moment on something so unworthy of my reading time. I’ll try to keep that in mind for the next time.

Category: books. There is/are 2 Comments.

I just looked, and it is the one I said had no resoluton…an empty book.

Comment by Mum 08.30.07 @ 9:55 am

it would be a shame to intentionally waste an extra moment on something so unworthy of my reading time.

I too hate giving up on a book, but this sums it up well. Think of all the good books out there, waiting for you – no need to feel guilty about giving up one so awful.

Comment by Jenn 08.30.07 @ 11:45 am