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Giving Up

This book list is going a little slower than the last one. I know I don’t have a set schedule or due dates or anything but I’m the type of person that will take as long as possible to complete something, which is why I try and set myself some sort of time line. That chronology is based around the notebooks that I carry. I write down a list of books and then fill notebook’s pages with quotes and thoughts from the book. Sometimes I read a lot and fill them or in the case of some books, a lot of notes can come from a small number of books.

I suppose I should just get into the digital revolution full bore, but I find the reliance on battery power to be an albatross. This is why I don’t constantly scrawl notes into my Dell Axim. Pen and paper aren’t hard to find, and they don’t require plugs. Given that I take this approach to reading I wonder at what point with a book does the average person just give up?

For example, my current list includes Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, which I began as an exercise in curiosity. For the ignorant,* this is the book that earned Rushdie a death sentence by Ayatollah in Iran which has been officially revoked. I began the book slowly trudging through the introductory pages, and then on P. 182 I closed the book and returned it to the library. I couldn’t take it anymore.

It’s not that Rushdie is a bad writer, I’ve read several of his essays that were both well written and though provoking it’s that I couldn’t take that book anymore. The main problem is that I know I was reading it because of the controversy, I can honestly admit that, but the book just gets weirder and weirder until I began to realize that I was reading words on a page and not just a story. It’s that awareness that makes me stop reading a book.

I end a reading session when one of two things happens, little Gwen is no longer distracted by whatever it is that she was doing, or when I come the awareness that I’m just flipping pages and looking at words rather than seeing them.

I still look back at the Satanic Verses as a failure on my part. I should note that was the first time I ever set down a book with no intention of ever picking it up again. There are several books on my shelf that are “unfinished,” but I just haven’t gotten back to them yet. Some, are just massive collections of one particular author’s work so I haven’t read all of them but I also don’t intend to either. The reason being that I most likely bought the book for one or two works and not the others. Then there are the others, the “lost,” the books that I am not sure why i have them they don’t exactly count. So Rushdie’s book does have the distinction in my mind of being the first.

Recently I picked up “The Years of Talking Dangerously” by Nunberg. It promised to be a linguist’s take on modern language, which was sort of true. I mean, it did hit upon some interesting topics, like the filler phrases “um” and “uh” are different in other languages thus meaning that people actually have to learn them. This also means that if you know the filler phrases in other languages you can tell where they are from. Also that brand name’s aren’t really “names” in the common sense but actually more akin to adjectives. It’s not “Oreos” it’s “Oreo Cookies,” or “Oreo brand sandwich cookies.” With always a qualifier behind the name to denote what it actually is versus just the trademarked legal name. However the book isn’t really a book, it’s a collection of the author’s contribution essays to Vanity Fair, NPR, and the New York Times.

This was a let down because although the book was segregated by subject this was a looser collection than I would have liked. As opposed to a thirty page chapter on the internet, text speak, and blog writing it’s two pages transcribed from NPR three years ago. This wasn’t the book i was looking for. Last week Friday, I decided to give up on the book. I felt I had too many pages left, and was only reading the book because i had checked it out of the library. It was more duty than pleasure, and if I’m going to read for duty it better be for a class.

At what point though does the invested time already put into the book become worth more than the time you could spend skipping the rest of it? I’m not that into economics so I’m not sure if I’m being clear. I began the book, then felt I would lose nothing by not finishing it. Books aren’t like movies, they aren’t over in three hours so patience costs a bit more. I’ve never walked out of a movie in my life, even the free ones, but the fact that a 300 page novel takes about 10 times as long as the movie it will be eventually made into changes the equation.

Maybe I should return to The Satanic Verses, but then again there is no good reason to do it other than to say that I finished the book, and wrote a review of it on this; and that isn’t good enough.

*And it’s amazing how using that word in the correct manner still carries the judgment value with it.

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