Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Breaking up is Hard to Do

This week I did something that I never thought I would do: I stopped reading a book that I started. The book was called World and Town by Gish Jen and had been recommended to me by a friend who never leads me astray where books are concerned. She'd warned me that the book would take a bit longer to take hold but that once it hit, the pages would fly by and I'd be immersed in the action. Kinda like a hit of acid. But this book was like a bad batch mixed in a dirty bathtub: it just nver got off the ground. So I did the unthinkable: I took myself out of my misery and put the old dog down. For good(insert "Old Yeller" reference here).

Actually, to be fair, it wasn't the first time I've put a book down and not picked it up. In fact, my book shelf is lousy with half- or part-way read books. Here is just a random shout out to the ones I can find within grabbing distance:

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
(Started reading it in Paris. Brought it back over to the other side of the Atlantic where it's been gathering dust ever since.)

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
(Has anybody gotten all the way through this thing?!)

Colours Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson
(Three times started. Three times put down.)

Anything by Richard Powers, Don DeLillo and Jodi Picoult.
(No excuse, here. And, yes, I do own a Jodi Picoult book.)

Sad, huh? The difference between now and then, though, is that I always closed each book with the half-baked promise that one day, some time in the deep, dark, unknown future, I would pick it up and read it again. But no more. I've broken up with World and Town for good, y'all. Do I feel guilty? A little. Do I have regret? Some. Do you know how I'll get over it? I'll pick up another book and start reading it.

My inspiration for my new rule was a little book that I read while I waited for my son to pick out his book as the bookstore. Book Lust and was written by my new hero, Nancy Pearl. Nancy is a librarian /book barbarian who came up what is now famously known as "The 50 PageRule". The idea behind this rule is that if you are 50 years or younger, you should read 50 pages of a book before you decide whether or not you are going finish a book. It's not an entirely new idea but it's reasonable and -Damn! - if it isn't freeing beyond belief. Thanks, Nancy!

Now can you come up with a rule for unused kitchen appliances? Thanks.

(N.B. It should be noted that the exception to this rule for me will be book club books because if I've learned anything from book club it's that the duds bring on the best conversation. Just sayin'.)


  1. LOL for real! I remember the first time I abandoned a book. Thought I'd be struck by lightning. Seven years later and I still struggle with that particular issue.

    I finished reading The Postmistress three nights ago and I wish I'd slung it out into the back pasture atop a cow pat instead of wasting my time. Only problem is I don't have a pasture. Make that two problems, because my slinging arm is busted. :)

    I think I like you! It takes courage to admit out loud that you don't like a book, but I am a Picoult reader. I don't like the idea of being a fan(atic) but I think she's pretty good most of the time. Am beginning to think I'm outgrowing her, too.

    Who are some of your favorite authors?

  2. Here are a just a few of my favorites: Tobias Woolf, Jhumpa Lahiri, Roddy Doyle, Alice Munro, Elisabeth Strout, Tony Earley, Murcus Zuzak, Meg Wolitzer, Lisa See.

    I've never stopped reading during any one of these author's books which is high praise, indeed!

  3. Hey! I can match your Tobias Wolff, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro and Meg Wolitzer, if she's the author of The Wife. I'll have to check out the others. Thanks for sharing.

  4. No problem. If you are going to read Tony Earley start with Jim the Boy. Marcus Zuzak, The Book Theif. Both fantastic reads.