Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Franzen’

I’ve had company from out of town and been hanging out with friends, which puts me behind on reading and writing. But there’s been lots of talking about books — who’s reading what, can’t stand this, what do you think of that. One question invariably arises: When do you give up on a book?

Several of my friends always finish what they start, trudging on to the bitter end. This book isn’t going to beat me, they declare, even as they put it down to read a magazine or turn on the TV. Others admit to skimming but vow to finish. Then there are those who feel no guilt about setting aside a book they don’t like or in which they’ve lost interest.

Over the years, I’ve finally become a setter-aside, believing that life is too short for bad books. I don’t necessarily mean “bad,” in that I’m sorry a poor tree gave its life for this tripe, although there are way too many of those non-starters around. No, I mean “bad,” as in wrong for me at this particular time for whatever reason. So I give a book 30 minutes or 30 pages, and if I’m not hooked, I’m outta there.

I never finished Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, even though people whose opinion I respect think it’s a masterpiece. I made it about halfway before deciding this was not the book for me, that I disliked all the characters and the plot was a downer. I had my own family dramas, thank you very much. I wanted escape, entertainment. I just wasn’t in the mood.

I may go back to it someday, but then again, there are way too many books I want to read, that are intellectually stimulating, wonderfully written and keep me turning pages. That’s the way I feel about John Banville’s new novel, The Infinities, in which several Greek gods insert themselves into human lives. It even sent me back to to Roberto Calasso’s splendid narrative meditation on the meaning of myth, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. I may even pick up Edith Hamilton’s Mythology before I’m finished with this tangent.

Not your cup of tea? Sip it, turn up your nose, move on.  Tastes vary. I admit to being disappointed when a longtime friend whose reading almost always matches mine disliked Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which is one of my favorite novels of the last decade. Then again, I think she liked The Corrections. So there.

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