Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Quitters and the Crazy Non-Quitters

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who will finish a disappointing book no matter how bad it is and those who will give up on a disappointing book the first chance we get. I've always been a member of that second group but as I've grown older and cheaper and more stubborn, I'm working hard to become a member of the first. The book that's causing me this reader's angst is Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I want to like this book. As I've mentioned a few times before, I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay so I've enjoyed Chabon's work but sweet fancy Moses, I just can't get into this thing.

Now, the old me would have just accepted it and put it aside and started something new. The new, cranky me can't get over the fact that I paid full price for a hardcover. For $23.99, I feel compelled to wring some sort of satisfaction out of this book beyond turning it into a coaster or a nice place to rest a geranium. So I've dedicated myself to finishing this damn thing. I'm trying everything. I've tried finding uncomfortable reading positions to prevent napping. I've tried greasing the reading wheels with a fresh blend of Mountain Dew and dark chocolate with a Red Bull chaser. While it does keep me bright eyed and bushy tailed for a few dozen pages, it also gives me the attention span of a hopped-up hamster -- bright lights! Ninja Warrior's on TV! I could scrub the bathtub! I can't sustain that kind of ADD and not, you know, pass out. I've also tried a reward system, telling myself that if I finish the book, I'll buy myself a David Sedaris book or that Pride and Prejudice DVD I've wanted to own for so long but as I'm sitting there, staring at the words on the page, trying to stir up some interest in the book's main mystery, it just doesn't seem worth it.

The only thing that's going to get me there is flat-out bullheaded persistance. I'm going to finish this book because I'm going to finish this book. It's not going to get the best of me. I paid $23.99 and I'm going to enjoy this goddamn thing if it kills me. And if that happens, I'm going to be really pissed off. Chabon's gonna owe me one...and it better have fewer big adjectives.


annie said...

Hm, maybe you should shelve it for a while.

I've put down two books that were "pleasure" novels (ie: not school-related). One was East of Eden. I've always intended to finish, but lost it before I got the chance.

The second was The Leopard which I bought while working at a bookstore because it was recommended by a customer.

I couldn't finish it the first time, but I gave it a second shot a year or so later. While I didn't end up loving it (more of a character piece than a page-turning novel), I'm glad i gave it another go.

Wait, I didn't finish Diary, and I never will.

Life's too short to force your way through every book you start.

Steve B said...

She would need to be 3yrs old to finish all the books in her office that she neer started or finished before dying at the ripe old age of 101. ;)

I know how you feel though Liz. My "book" is a patio! At least you started this.

What amazes me is that this is hard to get through but one of your 1000+ page biography on a President of the week is a breeze.

Scott said...

It's not so much that I give up on a disappointing or irritating book, but I do get strange looks from my neighbors when I take said bad book into the condo parking lot, douse it in lighter fluid and light up that sucker.

Nothing says "I hate this book" more than a mini-bonfire that the International Space Station astronauts can see.

Erin said...

I used to be a crazy non-quitter reader, but my oh my, has grad school changed things! I am thoroughly disappointed to hear from another person that Chabon's new novel stinks, as I also enjoyed The Amazing Adventures of K&C.

Unless you're in dire need of something to stick under a wobbly chair leg, there's always! Get rid of your unwanted books and get better ones in return! It's treated me well since I mooched my first book nearly a year ago.