Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Unfinished Books of My Life

now reading: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Well, I may have reached the page where I stopped reading in my USC English class. Page 81/82 was folded, not in the corner-folded-I-need-to-remember-this-quote way (that Joe and Jodi hate!) but in the folded-in-half-I'm-too-lazy-to-go-find-a-bookmark way. I'm sort of disappointed that I didn't read any further, but I shouldn't have been expecting much more. I know I skipped ahead and read some of the later whale/ship/climax stuff, but it appears this is where I stopped actually reading reading. So sad. At least, that time. I really don't know at all what/how much I read the other time I "read" it in college, or the time I "read" it in high school.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about other books I have started but not finished. Of course, life as an English major is different because you're reading several books all the time, but elsewhere in life I have started books and then just not finished them. I thought I'd try to remember and go over the list to see if I should go back and revisit them, too. Let's have a look; these are pretty much in chronological order, too, as near as I can remember:

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
(p.s. It's so weird that it's called that, when we all totally call it The Diary of Anne Frank.)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Naked by David Sedaris
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by some lady
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
White Dog by Romain Gary
Annals of the Former World by John McPhee
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

So I didn't count books that I idly picked up at someone's house and read only a few pages while waiting for them or something, because then this list would be twenty times this length. These are all books that I legitimately was reading and then, for one reason or another, didn't continue.

There were all sorts of different reasons. I was too young for it (Jaws, around age 10?), I was bored (Anne, Ayn), I was bored twice - once in English and once in Spanish (Harry), or even that I bloody detested it and wanted desperately to throw it across the room and stop all others from making the mistake of investing the precious time in it that I had (The Memory Keeper's Daughter, The Almost Moon).

I think maybe I should start a new paragraph to really drive home this point: The Memory Keeper's Daughter and The Almost Moon are two of the worst books I have ever attempted to read. I got about 50-60 pages into TMKD and 200 or so into TAM and they both were just so awful that nothing, not will power or guilt or perseverance or ANYthing could make me want to finish them. Awful awful awful. Like, majorly philosophically flawed and a deep disservice to humanity and stuff.

But the others on my list aren't that at all. Many of them -- The Elegant Universe, Fierce Invalids..., White Dog, Naked, I greatly enjoyed what I read of them but circumstances just somehow forced me to put them down.

Then there are the averages: not throw-across-the-room awful, but not exactly calling out to me to finish. Kavalier and Clay - I'm sorry, Michael Chabon, because I adored every word you had written up to that point, but comic books? Really? Ugh. I tried, but I loathe comic books, I really do, and I also loathe all the comic-book-derived art that tries to invade my mind. AND you had to go and set it all WWII-ish...and my wall...anyway, you know I'll get back to you because it won the freakin' Pulitzer, so I WILL read it - like, after I read the Pulitzer fiction winners from 1917-2000 first. (Actually I've read a bunch of those already, making my way though the rest, so this really will happen.)

Don Quixote - one of my more recent ones. Since I read about 350 pages of it, I kind of feel I should get some credit seeing as if it were a normal length book then I would have finished it! (Same goes for Atlas Shrugged, by the way.) It was really entertaining but - I don't know. I'm actually considering redoing that one in Spanish because I heard it loses a lot in translation. That will happen soon; I was going to re-read Don Quixote for my big book this year in fact, but I am "re"-reading Moby Dick instead.

So, what do you think? Which ones should I quickly get back to? Which ones am I crazy for abandoning? Which times did I make the right choice? I'd love to hear your thoughts! But if you have anything positive to say about The Almost Moon then I'm scared of you. As for The Memory Keeper's Daughter, if you buy that this jackass could or should in any way tell such a lie to his wife and build their lives on such a lie, and you find this in any way acceptable, then you can just go ride off into the sunset with Benjamin Linus right now because ewwww. Move on folks. Nothing to be redeemed here.


Mordena said...

Don Quixote is actually worth going on with, because book 2 is fascinating and goes somewhere rather unexpected (reality TV, kind of). But only if you want.

Marcia Salomon said...

Read Harry Potter!

raine said...

I loved The Fountainhead, but also couldn't finish Atlas Shrugged. Maybe I'll do it with you, if you do do it.