The (un)finishing school

What do you do when you’re reading a book that’s all too easy to put down? Do you keep going, hoping it’s going to get better? Or do you give in to temptation and move on to newer, more alluring literary pastures?

I think of myself as the former, although evidence shows I have been the latter. In principle, I want to finish every book I begin. I don’t want to force mysef to have a good opinion of a book, but I do want to be able to have a valid opinion of it – to know that I’m not missing out, or find out if I am. Sometime going forward pays off – Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls was a book I initially hated, and then found absolutely sublime and touching. (I wouldn’t read it again though. Thank god it’s not an Apocalypse Book.)

Most of all, I always want to finish what I’ve started. Unfinished projects, loose ends, problematic relationships, scraps on a dinner plate… I want to tie up and/or polish them all off, and hopefully attain a tidier mind while I’m at it. (And probably a few extra kilos, if I keep eating past the point of being full. Then again there’s also food regret, when you’re starving later and wistfully think of that delicious bit of halloumi you scraped into the compost bin. I digress. Unless this could be an analogy for reading habits?)

But even when you have the best intentions, stuff happens. You get distracted by something more pressing – or simply more interesting. You drop the book in the bath and it becomes distorted beyond recognition. (Oops!) You leave it on a train, and feel secretly relieved that fate has other plans for you both. (Maybe it will find a reader who will appreciate it for what it is, instead of viewing it as a chore to conquer!) Or it’s just too difficult and disheartening, and you feel like life would improve hundredfold if you put it back on the shelf. Which you do, “for now”.

When it come to the Apocalypse Books I’ve started and stopped, that “for now” is going to be now. Due to the challenge, I’m going have to finish them anyway, so it might as well be sooner rather than later, lest they become seemingly unsurmountable obstacles towards the end of 2012. I’ve also generally been feeling into a spring-cleaning sort of mood. (Cluttered closet, watch out!) So, for the second and hopefully final time (unless they become must-rereads), I’ll be tackling Catch-22, On the Road, Heart of Darkness, Possession, Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Vanity Fair and 1984*. I’m actually surprised at how few there are, compared to how many I imagined there would be – my compulsiveness must usually reign supreme, after all. I had a range of reasons for abandoning these, and will be sharing/excusing myself in the relevant posts.

Which books, Apocalypse or not, have you started and not been able to finish? Do you think it’s worth ploughing on, or better to move on?

*Emma should technically be on there too – but I’m saving it for the upcoming Jane Austen special.

What is Apocalypse Book? Find out here.

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