Friday, December 2, 2011

Books I Never Finished (2011)

Since I shared some of my favorite books, I thought I'd share a list of the books I started to read this year and just could not finish.

Yes, OK, fine, it gets better after the first 50 pages or so.  That's what I've heard. But, dammit, those first 50 pages are dreadful. DREADFUL and BORING. I've actually tried to read this book several times since 2009 when I first picked it up. I tried to read it that winter and I told myself I couldn't finish it because I was too distracted by mourning Charles and hating my job and crying in the shower. Plus, all those Swedish names made me want to drive to Atlanta and burn down Ikea.

So I set the book down and picked it up later to try again. And again. Each time, I fell into a coma. The doctors were extremely worried. Thank God I pulled through.

This year I tried again and then I decided that this book, the girl with the stupid dragon tattoo, and every person who has a bunch of unnecessary consonants in their last name (I'm looking at you, every single person in Sweden) can just bite me. I'll see the movie instead. Not because it looks good but because it has Christopher Plummer in it. Hello, Captain Von Trapp. How you doin'?

I checked this book out of the library, super excited to find it on the new books shelf. I'd read good reviews and I was willing to forgive the unnecessary use of an exclamation mark in the title. Let's leave the exclamation marks to Herman Cain, people.

It started out promising. The setting is unusual and intriguing. The main character is likable.

Maybe it was too whimsical. I've worked with copy editors who hate that word and I see why. It's just too full of damn whimsy. The book attempts to straddle a line between reality and fantasy and it does a good job. Maybe I got tired of the fantasy.

Honestly, I don't know what happened. I didn't hate it. I just lost interest about halfway through, set it down, and never went back. Sorry, Swamplandia! Maybe we can try this again another time!

I think a lot of people either love or hate Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife. I loved it. So I was optimistic about her second novel. Again, I scored a copy from the new books shelf at the Hoover Library. (I love that place.)

I didn't get very far into it. I didn't feel bad about it, though. The reviews were only so-so. There is no rule that says I have to finish every book I start.

I used to always finish books even if I was hating them. Then I realized that reading for pleasure is not homework. I can put that boring book down if I want to. It's not like that awful week I had to trudge through William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and felt like I was lying down dying from boredom in my dorm room twin bed. I had to finish that book so I could write a paper on it and take a test and pass a required course at Louisiana Tech. But school's out. Boredom is not a requirement of my adult life. And, thank God, neither is Faulkner.

I love me some Pat Conroy. I've read everything he's ever written. I've read Beach Music three times (so far). He overwrites with abandon. He simultaneously romanticizes and vilifies the South in language too lush and lyrical to resist. It was 14 years between the release of Beach Music and the release of South of Broad on August 11, 2009 and I waited impatiently.

My friend Lollie got tickets for me and my friend Stephanie to hear Pat Conroy speak at an event in downtown Birmingham celebrating the release of the novel. It was my first outing after Charles died. It was spectacular. We each got autographed copies of the book.

I started to read it right away but it begins with a suicide. I couldn't do it.

So I tried again this year. I got a little farther this time but, still, I set it down and didn't come back to it. I realized that there is a suicide in Beach Music, too. There is also one in The Prince of Tides. Pat's brother committed suicide and he keeps writing about it in some form.

I have had the sad realization that I might not be finished once I complete my own book. I might have to keep writing about what happened. I might make it happen to fictional characters in various places around the world. And, still, I might never make sense of it. I don't know how I feel about this.

Because I love Pat, I'm going to try again to finish South of Broad in 2012.

My father-in-law used to have a bumper sticker that read "Who is John Galt?" If I asked him who it was, he'd say, "Read the book."  I got to pg. 295 out of the book's total 1,168 pages.

I tried. I really did. But I will never finish this book. Never ever ever ever. EVER.

I don't give a rat's ass who John Galt is. John Galt can suck it. Ayn Rand can suck it. Objectivists can suck it.

My father-in-law, however, is one of the world's most loving and wonderful people. Because of this, I will forgive him for his poor taste in bumper stickers.


  1. I, too, loved The Time Traveler's Wife, and I've read it at least five times. But I don't think you're missing anything by abandoning Her Fearful Symmetry. It was entertaining enough, but truly is so-so.

  2. I could not for the life of me get thru the first 5 pages of the The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. I too tried and tried. I even told my aunt, I just cannot do it. She said. "why because of the cuss words...oh the cussing is horrible but I just skipped right over it." Im sorry did you say theres some f bombs in there? I didnt even get to those. I have the next book as well and here it sits. CANT DO IT.


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