Sunday, January 18, 2009

Giving Up On a Book

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Kevin that I was having a hard time getting through the novel I was reading, and he asked why I didn't just put it down. He mentioned a former professor of his, who said that if you didn't get anything .

Now, not reading books you don't want to read is one of the two great pleasures of the post-English-major reading life. (The other is reading whatever the hell you want again, the way you did when you were a kid). But I feel bad when I do it. Part of this is my penchant since childhood for anthropomorphizing inanimate objects—yes, I'm worried that the book will feel bad—and part of it is feeling bad for the author.

And this mixture of obligation, compassion, and hope gets me through a lot. I will put up with sentimental chick lit; with memoirs whose narrators seem to lack the basic self-awareness needed to write a memoir; with books that attempt big things and fall a little short of the mark.

There are books I've seen all the way through to the end and been very glad I did, and others (which shall remain nameless) where I closed the book and thought, "Well, there's another several hours I won't be getting back."

When, if ever, do you give up on a book?

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