Thursday, November 19, 2009

In Which My Resolve Is Tested

So, it's easy to sit there and say, "I pull the plug on any book I don't enjoy." And it's easy to do it to a book I have no real connection with. I'm pretty random in selecting my reads from the library. If it grabs my eye and looks cool and I still have room in my bag, it comes home with me. Sometimes it stops looking cool almost immediately. Other times, I read it all the way through and it turns out to actually BE cool, like that fascinating book about turtles I read before I started this blog. But, you know, if it turns out to be lame, well, it was free to check out and it can go straight back, no harm, no foul.

But I don't select every book that way. There are some that I've planned to read for a while, or felt like I should read because it would be good for me. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was such a book, with the added dimension of it being a modern classic. Not only did I give up on a book that was listed as source material for one of my favorites, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, but I gave up on a classic of post-colonial literature. And, it's such a short book, too, only 117 pages, and I'd made it through 26.

But it took me a week and a half to get that far. I really, really don't enjoy blogging about classics. They make me sort of nervous. If I say something good about them, it sounds like "well...duh! Of course the characters were great, it's DICKENS!" If I say somehting bad about them, I feel like the moronic fifteen-year old who complains in English class that "Shakespeare's plots were, like, really unoriginal and lame," not understanding that it's the 500 years of literature, theater and movies that copied HIM, not the other way around.

But, I had a very hard time getting into this book. It didn't help that it was heavily annotated (I grabbed the Norton Critical Edition). I hate heavily annotated books. It's like having someone standing over your shoulder, tapping you every two seconds to announce some random fact: "Ironically, that character's name means 'peace'!" "Market day was the social and economic locus of the African village!" "Here, they're referring to a person, not the similar-sounding goddess!" Maybe it's a cultural thing, too, but I wasn't feeling the forward momentum. Nothing in the plot or the characters made me want to turn the page over to see what happened next; indeed, when I picked up the book tonight for one more attempt, I saw that I had abandoned it in the middle of a page last time.

But ultimately, life's too short. I have eight other books in my bin that I do want to read, and holding on to this one is keeping me from them. My apologies to Chinua Achebe, Barbara Kingsolver, the librarian who helped me track this book down, and my post-colonial lit professor from college. I tried. I really did.

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