Thursday, December 29, 2005

Books I have known and hated

Recent entries on pixxiefish in the stacks notwithstanding, I tend to make a point of finishing books I have started reading. And if I do stop reading a book, it is usually a result of lack of time more than lack of interest. Sometimes I've had to shelve a book (pun fully intended) for a chunk of time only to return to it and realize I have to start over from the beginning, which is not always appealing. Or I just get caught up in too many other things. Some books I read over a very loooong period of time, just reading here and there, now and again. Most books, however, I will try to read in a concentrated chunk of time, which is why I try (as you will note from my "Currently Reading" sidebar) not to read more than a few books at a time. Even if I'm desperate to stop reading the book.*

Three notable exceptions:

1- Beach Music by Pat Conroy. First, I must apologize to my aunt, who gave this to me about seven years ago for Christmas. I settled down one night in my Halifax apartment to read it. It's a big book (about 800 pages) and Pat Conroy is apparently "America's preeminent storyteller" (according to the jacket cover). But I should have known - he also wrote Prince of Tides. Anyway, to make a long story short, I lasted about 13 pages whereupon I am ashamed to admit to hurling the book across the room and later quickly hustling it into a bag of items that were being given away to charity. There was just something about Conroy's tone that rubbed me the wrong way (to put it lightly), and his characters made me want to scream.

2- Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. I don't think I can really find the proper words to express my disgust with this book. However, the revulsion was not as sudden as in the case of Beach Music, though it is now no less developed. In this case, I felt I ought to read some Salman Rushdie and so, despite the dire forebodings of my good friend Paul who warned me at length about Rushdie, I dove in. My brother will attest to the one week I spent trying to read Midnight's Children. Every morning on the subway (we commuted to downtown Toronto together for a few months) I would take it out and start reading, choosing to fall asleep instead for the remainder of the ride about 3 subway stops into the trip. By Friday, I confessed to him that I wasn't going to continue at all. His sage advice: "Yeah, why read a book you don't enjoy?"

3- That advice was exactly what I heeded about two hours ago when I decided, about 112 pages in (with another 170 or so to go), that I was not going to continue reading No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life by Heather Menzies. Please note - and rejoice in! - its removal from my "Currently Reading" list. I have decided that I, in fact, have no time to read No Time. You know there's a problem with a book about the need to destress and uncomplicate life when every second sentence is roundabout, confusing and just plain perplexing. The introduction to the book caused me to have a minor panic attack. The sentence that caused me to quit? "The nanosecond speed with which symbols can move, morph and be recombined into new patterns of daunting complexity leaves no pause in which these largely anonymous abstractions can be checked out for their relevance to us personally, or as professional teams or institutions." 'Nuff said.

* The book that I finished but desperately wanted to "kill off" much, much sooner: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Soooo disappointing. I'd wanted to read it for a long time. It sure was a nice thought, me having one 800-page book to read during my 24-hour train trip home from Halifax to Toronto. By about page 500 (I can't believe I even lasted that long!), I was desperate to find a way to throw myself from the train. I had ceased caring about the characters by about page 350. But I was bound and determined to finish it ... and I did. I quite enjoy the Indo-Canadian writers that have been around the past few years, but man oh man, that book was lacking both fine-ness and any sort of balance whatsoever. It still makes me shudder.


jerome said...

These sound like great gift ideas!

julie said...

oh good - 'cuz they're in the mail ... :)