Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Those books make nice decorative objects...

Over at Guardian Books there's a really interesting article, The Great Unread, surveying the books Britons own but don't finish. The book that topped the poll was kind of unexpected, but not that surprising, in my view. I was not impressed at all by Vernon God Little. In fact, I can't even remember why I was so unimpressed beyond a vague recollection of wanting to throttle the annoying narrator! It's hilarious though, that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is on the list - c'mon people, it's nowhere near that bad!

But for all those who couldn't make it to the end Ullyses and Satanic Verses, I sympathise. I didn't even bother trying to get beyond the first paragraph of the former! And SV is a tough read, what with the similar sounding names and interspersed narratives. Actually, Rushdie can only be taken in small doses, anything more will leave you more light-headed than is actually healthy.

I used to feel more guilty about not finishing a book than I am now. Then again, in recent years I've picked up a horrible habit of reading 3 or 4 books, sometimes more, at once. I think I always felt an obligation to get to the end once I've started. Sometimes the trip is worthwhile - after a slow beginning, there's no doubt I'm glad I persevered with To Kill a Mockingbird! Sometimes it was more akin to a marathon - you've started, so may as well keep going. I got lost halfway through Graham Greene's Brighton Rock but managed to get to the last page.Hmmm, maybe I'll reread it someday.

Reading the confessions of others have assuaged my guilt slightly. My favourite comment was the one by magdalenrose: "The only reason there's no Dickens on there is because people are LYING. :)" LOL. Self-confession time - I failed to get through even a quarter of Pickwick Papers and still had the temerity to quote it in a first-year exam paper. (Hey, I did finish Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and David Copperfield, that's my defense! Just don't tell a certain friend of mine who wrote his Masters dissertation on Dickens!)

Another book I really hated was Tristram Shandy. Everyone was going on about it being the first truly great experimental novel, all I saw was squiggly lines and an incontrovertible desire to hurl it across the room. (I did better, I sold it off!)

So, over to you! Which books have you not been able to finish? (I've restricted my remarks to fiction, but all genres welcome!) Have you ever bought books simply to display your intellectual credibility - it's ok, be honest! Why couldn't you finish them, and would you give them another shot?

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