Thursday, June 23, 2016

Buried in Books (and it's a lovely way to go).

By Catriona

Do I always finish a book I've started? And if not, what makes me lay it down?

No. Ever since I first got my three orange library tickets, I've now and then failed to finish reading the books I've chosen.

What's changed is whether I feel particularly guilty. See that last paragraph? See that word "failed"? That's as neutral as I can get it; "flaked out" and "fell short" went through my head too. Oh, I used to beat myself up something chronic about not finishing books. The BR pile (being read) was as tall as the TBR pile. And the BR pile was big lie. All it did was use up bookmarks, as I kept my place year after year in books that I was never going to go back to. These days I admit it and reshelve the books. (Why not donate them? Keep reading and see.)

As to what makes me give up? Well, I think joyful reading is a three-legged stool: there's the book, the reader and the moment.

I'm sure there are bad books. Somewhere sometime a book must have been published that no one liked enough to finish. I don't think I've ever stopped reading because I was turning the pages of a bad book, though. I turned thirteen pages of 50 SHADES OF GREY and gave up on page fourteen. But 46,472 and counting people liked it enough to tell Amazon.

And I'm not a perfect reader. I'm uninterested in some things (Middle Earth, for instance). My heart sinks when faced with some things (long poems, for instance. Anything much longer than a sonnet pretty much makes me glaze over. Poems that go over the page to the next page leave me behind.)
But I'm not self-regarding enough to think The Lord of The Rings and Paradise Lost are no good because they're no good for me. So I wasn't that surprised when I used Simon Armitage's Sir Gawain and The Green Knight as a bookmark park for a year and a half.

But then there's that third thing - the moment. The season, the day of the week, the time of the day, what you read last, what you're writing, whether the world seems to be going to hell in a handcart all around you and no one has noticed . . . there are so many ways a reading experience can be derailed.
And the proof of it is when a book I tried and failed with (Failed I tell you! Failed like a big honking FAILURE) comes back in another guise and shows itself to be delightful.

I've lost count of the number of times I've been handed a moderating gig , or even an interviewing gig, and on my bookshelf is something by one of the panelists (or the sole interviewee) that I started and laid down unfinished. I pick it up again and adore it! Devour it! Buy the backlist and bore everyone on Facebook with how fantabulous this author is.

Nothing ever makes me feel like a bigger idiot than realizing that I had treasure on my bookshelf and didn't know.


Ann in Rochester said...

You got farther than I did in some number of Shade of Grey. Brava. I read to be entertained and/or informed. If that isn't happening, then the author has failed ME. Doesn't mean it's a bad book. This is purely personal.

Karen in Ohio said...

There are only so many reading hours in one's life, I've decided. It's impossible to read every good book, as hard as I try.

Susan C Shea said...

Yes: The moment really matters. I've had that experience too, although sometimes the lag time between the wrong and the right moment is years.