Literature is an odd thing. I try to read a lot, but I never quite make it through a whole book. I have â€œreadâ€ hundreds of novels that have been left unfinished on my bookshelf. That shelf, overtime, has become a sort of makeshift graveyard for these books. Itâ€™s like the island of misfit toys. Rejected, dog-eared pages constantly reminding them of how inadequate they are (some only paragraphs in), and left to never be revisited.
The saddest part (for me at least) is the fact that I count some of these unread books amoung my all time favorites. For example, Nick Hornby (the contemporary British author) is one of my favorite writers. However, despite owning all of his works (both fiction and non) I have only ever completed one of them. High Fidelity is my favorite book (or work of literature) of all time. The character of Rob - during more than one period of my life - has mirrored my feelings about my day-to-day exactly. Its the single strongest connection I have had to book ever. Therefore, I rank it above all of my other favorites: Fitzgeraldâ€™s The Great Gatsby, Knowlesâ€™ A Separate Peace (which is most certainly a close second), and anything Iâ€™ve ever read by Shakespeare â€“ and I love Billy Shakespeare. But for as much as I praise Hornby, my "favorite" writer, I canâ€™t seem to get through another one of his works. I have tried a bunch of them: About A Boy, How To Be Good, Long Way Down, and even Songbook (a collection of essays about his favorite songs of all time - which by all acounts I should bask in). It is wildly discouraging, and what is worse is that I didnâ€™t even realize my problem until a couple of years ago.
I was dating this girl at the time that was trying to get me to read some Chuck Palahniuk. Quite stubbornly, I was refusing to even give him a second look. She didn't know this, but I had originally visited his work years earlier and I didnâ€™t enjoy it, most specifically I was uncomfortable with the graphic nature of the dialogue, but this girl seemed to think I would love his novel Choke. So, I told her, â€œAlright, Iâ€™ll give it a shot, but you have to check out one of my favoritesâ€¦ hereâ€™s About A Boyâ€.
A few days later, Choke was still in the backseat of my car, on the waiting line for that shelf, when she called me and said, â€œLook, I canâ€™t get into this book, what was it that you loved so much about it? It seems really slow. Just tell me what happensâ€. Thats when it hit me that I too had never been able to get into that book and, in turn, I never finished it. I couldnâ€™t even tell her the ending of one of my favorite books? I was embarrassed. I started to think about which other books I had stranded in limboâ€¦ and the titles started racking up.
I came to the realization that I had about 50 books on a this shelf that Iâ€™d read a chapter of. The only books Iâ€™d managed to finish were a few various biographies of musical figures (*sigh* - Kurt Cobain a couple of times over), some David Sedaris collections, and a couple of British authors' books (all bearing names that are beyond me right now). As a â€œreaderâ€ - and more specifically an â€œEnglish Majorâ€ - this affliction is crippling.
What really bothers me though is that I have absolutely no reason why this should be an issue. I really enjoy reading and I really enjoy the art of fiction, but I know that any books I start have a slim chance of reaching completion. It has gotten to be so bad that now this â€œprophecyâ€ has taken over and, more or less, dictates the fate of the reading before I even start the book. And now, this issue simply turns me off from starting new readings at all, which is sad. I would liken it to taking a shot of something that might be a little harder than you really want to take â€“ weâ€™ll say tequila for argument's sakeâ€¦ but mostly because I hate tequila. If you think youâ€™re going to gag on it, than youâ€™ll probably gag on it. But if you donâ€™t think about it, youâ€™re fine! So, since I think I might not finish these books, I gag on them and leave them. Itâ€™s a psychological hang-up that I cannot get past.
I donâ€™t really know where Iâ€™m going with this, which I guess is apropos. Much like my reading habits, now my writing canâ€™t find itâ€™s way to a conclusion. I guess this â€œincompleteâ€ motif â€“ that began in my reading - is beginning to penetrate other aspects of life. Itâ€™s a little scary. Knowing I have this problem is like staring down the barrel of a shotgun. But in an effort to live life to the fullest, Iâ€™m going to let it go and try not to think about it, much like that shot of tequila. However, let me say this in closing - I can only hope that this inability to finish things never finds its way into my sexual life.
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 Dan Maxwell
Unfinished: A Tale Of Tales' Tails
Why reading a novel is like taking a shot of tequila...
Copyright © 2010 Dan Maxwell
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