Thursday, October 07, 2010

Or Perhaps Not...

I'm never going to finish Freedom.

Honestly, people, I can't even get past the first chapter.

I have tried. Maybe I haven't done my best, but I have tried. I have tried in all different moods, all different places, all different weather (okay, that's not true because we've only had one kind of weather here for the last month: sunny and unseasonably hot), and I cannot find my way into this damn book.

There's nothing to grab onto. Nothing.

I feel like I'm missing something.

I've felt this way before: The Corrections. Cold Mountain. Memoirs of A Geisha. Twilight (although that's just poorly written, so I actually don't feel like I'm missing something so much as attempting to save whatever brain cells are left at this point in my life by giving it a pass). Anything by William Faulkner or Richard Ford. I can probably think of more -- books that I just don't get and can't understand their appeal, that is.

I used to beat myself up about it. But sometime around page 37 of Cold Mountain, I gave myself permission not to do this anymore -- not to force myself to read books just because everyone else was reading them, or because a bunch of people told me they were good. I gave myself permission to read books the way I read them growing up, back before the phrase Required Reading came along and tried to suck all the pleasure out of books (whose idea, by the way, was it that I major in English Lit in college? Because I'm pretty sure it wasn't mine!). I gave myself permission to not finish the book if it still sucked after 20-some-odd pages. And I wasn't going to feel like a failure if I didn't quite get into a critically acclaimed book. Those critics are reading for a paycheck anyway -- they aren't reading solely because it's fun. And you can't tell me that doesn't make a difference.

But still. This time I feel like kind of a failure.

I mean, how hard is it to just make a decision to read a book and then read the damn book???

I've read 71 books since late January. I'm midway through the 72nd. I'm (obviously) not counting Freedom. So clearly committing is not the issue. Doing the work is not the issue.

The fact is, the book doesn't speak to me. Several pages into the first chapter, I'm still confused about which family this book is actually about; nothing has really happened and there's all this backstory about people I don't know or care about. The sentences are well-constructed but they're sterile. There's no feeling. And not surprisingly, that was the same major issue I had with The Corrections. I don't think you can distance yourself this much from your narrative and your characters and still get your readers to give a damn about any of it.

So I quit. I give up. I hope everyone else really enjoys "the book of the century" (pfffft). I will not be enjoying with you.

Instead, I am going to finish this awesome biography of Walt Disney that I've been reading.

Maybe that explains everything...


Lisa said...

Well, can I read it since you're not?

Shannon said...

You could but it's on my Kindle.

An unforeseen consequence of reading everything on Kindle is that I can no longer lend out my books when I'm done with them. *sigh*

Tami said...

I'm in awe that you have read 71 books this year! Most books I attempt to read are put down so I can go do something to keep me "busy." Sounds like this one doesn't deserve your time. Enjoy your date with Mr. Disney!

The Wife said...

I have no idea what this book is, have no desire to figure out what this book is. I've not read any of the others you've mentioned, either. I'll stick to my mindless romances, I think. I mean, with those, even when you're let down, you don't feel too let down. Not if you get a good quote out of it.