Monday, February 28, 2011

The Dirty Little Secret of the Avid Reader

It's Friday night. You and your loved ones have settled in for a nice movie. It starts off okay, with talking monkeys and spaceships. You sure do like spaceships. But wait, Adam Sandler does a cameo and it's all downhill from there. The forty-five minute mark of this ninety minute movie and you can't help noticing that your fingernails could use a good trimming. Your spouse is resuming work on his/her knitting project and the kids are making promises to finish the dinner vegetables you already slopped into the garbage if you will pleeeeease turn the movie off. What do you do, sparky? WHAT DO YOU DO?!?!

You probably finish the movie. You did pay five bucks for it, after all. It's almost over and the alternative -actually talking to your kids- is too grim to consider at the end of a grueling work week.

I'm sure you savvy readers have figured this out by now, but when I say "movie", I actually mean "book".  If a movie is a one-night stand then a book is a marriage with children. So what happens when you are more than halfway through a book and you suddenly realize that you can't stand what you are reading.....

Exhibit "A" 
You probably give up on it. The act of reading should be enjoyable, right? The average trade paperback is about twenty bucks and it takes the average reader about three weeks to read it. That is a pretty big investment. So what did I do? I didn't finish it. I have been defeated and shamed by a book that the New York Times calls "..hilarious and heart wrenching..". The glowing reviews splashed across the cover lied to me. It was not "a beguiling first novel". It was a huge waste of time for someone who has three kids and a full time job. I just can't afford to spend three weeks of scarce, valuable leisure time beating my head against this literary wall.

Of course, the enjoyment of all art is subjective. You might like it. the critics sure did. Let's just say: caveat emptor.

So I won't be reviewing this book. I do have some principles. Judgment may only be passed on those books that I actually finish. This one will go on my shelf of shame, beside Nikolski, Beatrice and Virgil and Against the Day. My father calls this "putting it in the vault". The assumption being that he will remove it and  finish it in the future. Let's not kid ourselves. We won't. Life is too short and there are too many good books out there.

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