notes from
the MUCK . . .

How does your garden grow? With muck, muck and more muck! I spent much of today finishing the final muck box and then shifting muck from one box to the next. The first box, which the Big Lad is enthusiastically pointing out, has been rotting down for two years now and once we’d removed the top quarter of unrotted material, we found we’d hit the pay dirt.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Quitting Books

Do you ever stop reading a book half-way through? I do, though I never feel good about myself afterwards. Sometimes, I even quit books that I like.

Recently, I quit two books in a row. They were both part of my reading project: Rabbit, Run (John Updike) and Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome). The former I dumped because I found it tedious, uninteresting, and pretentious. The latter I just got tired of looking at. Both of them are quite short and should have been able to at least hold my interest to the end. Rabbit, stylistically, gave me a headache with its verbose sentences and heavy handed approach to what should have been a great story - a 26 year old man impulsively abandons his wife and child and hooks up with a prostitute. It's a shame I couldn't get into it. I love Updike's short stories. What works well in short form begins to feel like a homework assignment after about 100 pages. So I dropped it and moved on (I imagine Rabbit would do the same).

Jerome's Three Men in a Boat held more promise. It's the light, comedic tale of three British indoor types (and their dog, who goes by the name Montmorency) who go on a boat trip down the river Thames. Hilarity ensues, mostly in the form of Jerome's witty digressions and observations. It's actually really funny, and doesn't feel outdated despite being originally published in 1889.

And yet, I couldn't finish it. I don't know what the problem was. I could only seem to read a couple of pages at a time, and I never got excited about picking it up. A good book, perhaps, but it failed to ever truly grab me. I don't think I would have gained more by continuing.

Like almost everything I do, quitting books makes me feel guilty. I should get over that. Life is too short to waste time trudging through mediocre books, especially since there are so many great ones patiently waiting to find their ways into my hands.

Here's a short list of other books that I liked, but for one reason or another quit reading half way through:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Book of Jamaica Russell Banks

I'm sure there are many more. Strikingly, there seems to no rhyme or reason behind my decision to quit a book. I'll quit good books and bad books, short books and long books, fiction, non-fiction, contemporaries, classics...I even quit a backgammon book once. You name it, I'll quit it. To my credit, however, I will sometimes pick a book back up and finish it, sometimes starting where I left off and other times going back to the beginning. I finished A Constant Gardener and Tropic of Capricorn by these methods. Just because I put something down doesn't necessarily mean I'll never finish it. It might happen months or years later. Then again, it might never happen at all.

Anyways, I'm glad to be moving on. I'm pretty enthused about the next book, as it's the first one of the project to have been published in my lifetime: