Friends, something truly wonderful has happened to me.
All my life, I’ve been plagued with a particular mental block when it comes to books; specifically, that if I start one and get past a certain point–around page 50–I must finish it, regardless of its quality. Because of this strange form of what often turns out to be terrible and un-metaphorical self-abuse, I have read a number of very bad, I mean really very, very terrible books. I have read books that fatally bored me, enraged me, irritated me so much I began expressing my reading irritation in my real life. I should not have done this, ever. Life is short. The list of books worth reading is very long.
But it’s not just about balancing one lifetime’s worth of reading against 50 lifetimes worth of books. It’s not only about not being mean to my husband because the dinks in that McEwan novel are being such pathetic losers to each other, and my irritation at them is so profound, that I start becoming like them in some kind of mysterious and disturbing literary alchemical process.
That McEwan novel is Enduring Love. I began reading it a few weeks ago–my plan had been to read a solidly written novel mostly devoid of substance so that I could get caught up on the other books I wanted to blog on and not worry about blogging on it.
I haven’t got caught up AND I’ve wasted 100 pages of reading time being pissed off. I was on the train last night, trying to force my way through McEwan’s smug smugness re: religion and (homo)sexuality when I felt the shackles of “should” fall off me. Screw it. I don’t care if the “Books Completed” pages on this site end up being half-filled with unfinished books. I will not foist bookish mediocrity (as I define it, obvi) on my poor brain anymore. No.
Last night, I gave the book one last shot. I read 10 more pages and decided a number of things: 1) That guy I went to high school with, who quit reading The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz 4 pages shy of the ending because he’d begun to hate it just that much–he was right. This leads to 2) I will quit a book that seems like a waste of my time no matter how far into it I am. I will not be ashamed. 3) I would prefer to be unable to find the time to write about books that really deserve to be written about, rather than read shit just to pen hate-filled screeds. I find hate-filled screeds much easier to churn out than thoughtful explorations of good or mostly good or at least interesting books, but that`s probably not the point; at least, I don`t want it to be my point.
It may seem this means I`ll read even more narrowly than I already do–which, I think, is shamefully narrow. But I think this resolution will have the opposite effect because (I hope) I`ll be more likely to take risks knowing I don`t need to commit to anything.
Maybe I`ll even try Margaret Atwood again.