Monday, October 20, 2014

Bless me, librarians, for I have sinned.

I have long reached the age where my courage has failed, my awareness of mortality become more acute, and my patience shortened---in other words, when I turned 35---and decided I was not going to finish every book I started. There, I've admitted it.

For years it was a point of honor for me that if I picked up a book voluntarily I would see it through to the end. I took it quite seriously. Now, not so much.

It's not that some books start off dragging. I know that not every book begins with the hero being thrown out of an airplane; some take quite a while to get going, and that's how they should be. They reward patience. I know that some books are going to have unique styles or odd word usage or other methods of storytelling that make it rough sledding until you get into the lingo, and they too are as they should be, and usually reward persistence. So I don't just chuck a book to the side if no one's bleeding or naked by page 5, as I fear many of our modern readers do. Some books, like some works of music, unfold in their own time and their own way, and must be seen through.

And some just stink on ice.

Sometimes books are just not to one's taste. Nothing wrong with that. Mrs. Key had a college English professor who stressed the difference between appreciation and opinion, which was very wise; you can appreciate a book and the author's achievement without necessarily enjoying it. The ability to discern that is one of the things that distinguishes the casual reader from the book lover.

Here are some classics I started but could not get through*, and probably never will unless I am stranded with them on the proverbial desert island:

Crime and Punishment
Doctor Zhivago**
Pilgrim's Progress
Memento Mori
This Side of Paradise
Unfinished Tales (Tolkien---remained unfinished here)
Varieties of Religious Experience
The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb
At the Back of the North Wind
Le Morte D'Arthur
Don Quixote

It's not that I don't think they're worth another shot; it's just that there are so many other books I want to read. I can only hope you, fair librarians, will forgive my sins of omission in lights of the thousands of books I have read and enjoyed.*** Thank you for your mercy.

*I'm not counting assigned reading for school, like Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers, which I would have been unlikely to start on my own anyhow.

**I'm not anti-Russian; I loved The Brothers Karamazov, but my edition may have had a superior translator.

***Of course, there were many books I got through only by the skin of my teeth, like The Turn of the Screw, but that's another confession. Anyway, I made it. 

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