Monday, August 30, 2010

On throwing in the towel

One of these days, I'll actually do one on Thursday again, but here's this week's BTT question:

Giving Up August 26, 2010

If you’re not enjoying a book, will you stop mid-way? Or do you push through to the end? What makes you decide to stop?

For many years after one of my graduate school professors died, I stopped wasting time on bad books, or thought I did. His goal was to read every book, and judging by the state of his office and the fact that it took his widow the rest of the academic year to go through and determine the disposition of all of his books, he came as close as anyone.

I've said often on here that it was the suddenness of his death that was the most shocking. He was killed when a young heroin addict drifted into his lane and hit him head-on. The heroin addict was also killed. When we found out, we were all at a barbeque to welcome the new students, wondering why none of our professors had shown up yet. Then, someone came to tell us. I kept asking people how he could possibly be dead when I'd just seen him yesterday, even knowing how stupid that sounded. And I kept thinking how he'd wanted to read every book, and wondered how much time he wasted on bad ones, and vowed to myself not to do that.

Except. Sometimes it's easier said than done. When it's a random book from the library and it proves to be bad, I have no problem putting it away. I have no particular relationship with it at that point. It looked interesting, but it wasn't, oh well. It's when I've been looking forward to the book that it's harder to pull the plug. For example, The Swan Thieves. I could tell early on that it wasn't good. But yet, I turned the last page, still surprised that it never gotten any better.

I also made a very valiant attempt with Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart because it's considered a modern classic and an important piece of colonial literature. And to say I don't like a book like that makes me sound like a whiny high school sophomore who thinks that Shakespeare is a shitty writer. But I couldn't do it. I tried repeatedly, much harder than I would have tried if it was just a random book and not something I'd wanted to read ever since I read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

So, to sum up, it depends on whether or not I think the book has real potential or is at least something I should read before I plug-pull.

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