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Monday, October 23, 2017

Unfinished: A Tale Of Tales' Tails

by Dan Maxwell (writer), Hoboken, NJ/NYC, February 13, 2008

Why reading a novel is like taking a shot of tequila...

Literature is an odd thing. I try to read a lot, but I never quite make it through a whole book. I have “read” hundreds of novels that have been left unfinished on my bookshelf. That shelf, overtime, has become a sort of makeshift graveyard for these books. It’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: Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Knowles’ A Separate Peace (which is most certainly a close second), and anything I’ve ever read by Shakespeare – and I love Billy Shakespeare. But for as much as I praise Hornby, my "favorite" writer, I can’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 didn’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 didn’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, “Alright, I’ll give it a shot, but you have to check out one of my favorites… here’s About A Boy”.

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, “Look, I can’t get into this book, what was it that you loved so much about it? It seems really slow. Just tell me what happens”. 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 couldn’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 limbo… and the titles started racking up.

I came to the realization that I had about 50 books on a this shelf that I’d read a chapter of. The only books I’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 “reader” - and more specifically an “English Major” - 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 “prophecy” 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 – we’ll say tequila for argument's sake… but mostly because I hate tequila. If you think you’re going to gag on it, than you’ll probably gag on it. But if you don’t think about it, you’re fine! So, since I think I might not finish these books, I gag on them and leave them. It’s a psychological hang-up that I cannot get past.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, which I guess is apropos. Much like my reading habits, now my writing can’t find it’s way to a conclusion. I guess this “incomplete” motif – that began in my reading - is beginning to penetrate other aspects of life. It’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, I’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.


About the Writer

Dan Maxwell is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Unfinished: A Tale Of Tales' Tails

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Credo on February 13, 2008 at 07:50 pm

You certainly have a unique predicament but it is one that only you can solve. I was fascinated by this article and your conclusion to the article was right on point.

Credo

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