On Page 188 of This 351 Page Book, I’m Quitting

Is it like eating Thanksgiving dinner? Every bite is wonderful, but no one

The bookcase behind my desk.

The bookcase behind my desk.

wants the same meal forever? I’m satiated? I’m full of excellent writing? Is this writer an old aunt nearing dementia whose ideas are no longer as captivating and others give me conversation and hugs? On page 188 of this 351 page book, I’m quitting.

The book has an interesting storyline set in a dystopian future. There’s family intrigue, world-wide political implications, selfish proclivities of the super wealthy, and rich landscapes, all as promised by the description on the back cover. The characters are drawn deeply enough that I can care about what happens to them. The writing style is excellent, which wasn’t surprising by this well-known international author.

My long bookcase.

My long bookcase.

I’m putting this paperback that I’ve wanted to read for several months down without intention of picking it back up again. Under cover of night when my husband was asleep and I wouldn’t be caught, I did skip to the back to read the last chapter, but that was after I decided not to finish reading it. I don’t feel a bit bad which surprised me. It’s my habit to approach a book I’m having second thoughts about as though it’s an old aunt on the verge of dementia. She was always interesting and fun when I was a kid as she offered me hugs, and a change from my mother’s thinking. But through the years we’ve changed. Now I have a lot of other interests and responsibilities, and sometimes she’s lucid and entertaining and sometimes she’s repetitious and boring. But Mother taught me to be polite to old relatives and loyalties, and I’ve continued to be patient to the bitter end of 99.5% of every book I’ve picked up to read.

Though it had everything to offer, the book just didn’t capture me. It was as

There's even an open shelf on this bookcase, due to my diligent trimming during the move.

There’s even an open shelf on this bookcase, due to my diligent trimming during the move.

promised on the back, “graceful, poetic, and a book of accelerating tension.” So what was my problem? Isn’t that about as much as any fiction book can offer? I’m exhausted by the enormity of what has been prepared and delivered as reading material in books of four dozen genres, ebooks, magazines, blogs and newspapers. I’ve always wanted to keep up with all of it, but now perhaps Thanksgiving is over and I feel the need for a long reader’s nap.

Maybe I’m envious. The book is excellently written, lauded by many, in several languages, and whatever this author publishes is read by millions. I imagine a plush and private writing room with a fine Turkish carpet and a window that overlooks a lush garden with hydrangeas still dripping from a predawn rain. I see a calendar with a dinner date at a nice restaurant with a bald, devoted editor, and waiting at an office is a staff of eager proofreaders that will fix grammar mistakes. Yes, now that I put that picture into existence, if I wasn’t already, I am now envious.

My books to read stacked two deep in a closet.

My books to read stacked two deep in a closet.

That also feels like an easy admission. When in doubt blame yourself and the world often forgives. I’ve used the ruse before even when it only partly fit. That’s an easy conclusion, but the sub-story is hovering within me in a stew of order and chaos. Where does a fiction book fit with all the other books of four dozen genres, magazines, blogs, and newspapers? Where does the written word fall into place in meaning, value, necessity? Where and how in the universe does this matter?

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11 Responses to On Page 188 of This 351 Page Book, I’m Quitting

  1. Curt Mekemson says:

    Have to confess, I’ve abandoned many books over the years. There are just too many that truly capture me to spend time on one that doesn’t. And I don’t even feel guilty. I realize what an author puts into a book, but other people will be captured and be driven to read each page until the end.

  2. Smaktakula says:

    You don’t like what you don’t like. Sometimes with a book or movie, I’ll scratch my head and wonder “what the heck is everybody so crazy about?”
    I also feel the “I can’t abandon this” gut-reaction, even though I know it’s wrong. Stephen King said (I believe in your recently-reviewed ‘On Writing’) something to the effect of “Life is too short to waste on a bad book.”

    • Yes! Thank you for reminding me about Stephen King. It never bothers me when people disagree with my opinions, (in fact it can be fun) so it doesn’t follow that I should be feel bad about disagreeing on a book like I’m going to be sent to a corner if I don’t finish it.

      • Smaktakula says:

        And like so many useless, guilt-type sensations, it stems from a noble sentiment–the idea that books are to be finished. Books, great books even, can sometimes be challenging, and I think a good reader conditions himself (or herself) to equate quitting with failure, which in that case, it is. So I think the “failure hormones” kick in, even though nobody’s failed (including the author–one man’s trash, after all).

  3. In all my life, I recall abandoning less than a handful of books before I finished them. Recently, I struggled with one to the bitter end and felt bad I didn’t like it–after all the work and time it took the author to write it.

    • I understand completely, but like the two guys above told me, other people will be captured, and it’s okay to be the one who doesn’t understand why everybody’s so crazy about a book. That’s also why I didn’t name the book, and won’t review a book I didn’t enjoy. I also don’t rip up ugly dresses in clothing stores. Someone else will think they’re pretty.

  4. I used to be so stubborn that the minute I cracked a spine, or opened the e-reader, I felt compelled to finish before I could move to another book. I’ve gotten over that. I’d say if you gave it 188 pages, you have done more than enough for the author to pull you into the story. Sometimes making a point becomes a bigger driving force than the story. Or if it is a non-fiction book, it is just dry facts that put me to sleep. Life is short. There are too many books waiting. Good for you.

  5. Outlier Babe says:

    This one made me laugh. When a teen, I slogged through half of War and Peace to see what all the fuss was about, and hated every moment wasted on that overly-wordy soap opera. Bo-ring!! I finally quit, and from then on, have followed my fifty-page rule: That’s all you get. If you haven’t convinced me by then, I’m outta there.

  6. Good rule to follow. Just like a bad party. If it doesn’t feel right at 9:00 p.m., it sure won’t at midnight.

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