Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Bulldozer Has Stalled

I can read just about anything:  cereal boxes, upside-down newspapers, phone books, toothpaste tubes, road signs, books.  When it comes to reading books, I tend to finish what I start.  Sometimes I'm disappointed for one reason or another with something I'm reading, but I still finish.

I'm consistent about the finishing part.  I've probably abandoned less than 10 books in my life, and maybe only half that many.

Much of the time I breeze through my reading.  That's not to say I'm not reading fully or not paying attention, just that the books are absorbing:   Harry Potter, Dante's Inferno, The Hunger Games, War and Peace, Shakespeare, etc.  When things get tough I go into snow-plow mode.  I can plow through just about anything:  The Faerie Queen, Dante's Purgatorio, A Pilgrim's Progress.  [I found out last Spring that even English professors don't read The Faerie Queen by choice, but I didn't think it was that bad.]

There are a few books that I have to be a bulldozer for, because a snow-plow just won't cut it.  While a snow-plow can take to the highway in a storm, a bulldozer never moves that fast.  I went bulldozing for much of William Blake, all of Sigmund Freud after the first week, William James, Dante's Paradiso, parts of Nietzsche, but I finished them.  All.

I've finally  found a book that I cannot finish.  It's been taking forever to read because it's never my first choice.  I've let it fester, half-finished on the top of my dresser for a week now, unsure what to do about it.   I've been coming to the sad conclusion that I'm going to abandon it, but I couldn't quite admit it.  I thought of writing about it here, and this morning I lay in bed thinking about getting some facts from the book for this blog, and that's when it hit me:  I have a physical aversion to opening that book again.  The bulldozer has stalled.

I've finished books I've been bored by, books I wasn't sure if I should bother, some that I wasn't sure if it made sense to finish.  And this is a "classic" international best-seller that I've come to hate and now (finally) refuse to finish.  Yes, the bulldozer has stalled, and not up against some huge and dense boulder-like tome, but against the almost fluffy little book "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."

I don't understand what prompted people to buy this book into best-sellerdom.  Did they read it?  I understand it's a philosophical novel, and how it's set in the Prague Spring, and that it's theme is love and sex... and that I can't stand it.  The author comes across as such a mysoginist it makes me want to scream (but it's probably okay because I get the idea that he's a misandrist too).  That, and the way he puts chapter breaks (and there are a lot of them) right in the middle of scenes -- even between two lines of conversation!  Oh, yeah -- and there are what seem like sloppy repetitions of phrases, but that might have been a conscious (though grating) stylistic choice.

This is not a review.  I'm perfectly willing to put the blame on myself for my failure to finish this book.  I simply do not understand what's so wonderful about it.  My son had to read it in High School, and he thought it was awful and unreadable, if I remember correctly.  I smiled when he told me that, and figured he just didn't have the maturity or the background to appreciate a great work of literature.  Now I know where he was coming from.

What am I missing?  I'm not lacking maturity and I'm not lacking background.  I'm not lacking an appreciation for good literature.  I don't know what it is, but...

I was wrong.


  1. I TOLD you it was a crappy book!

    Now maybe you won't blame me for not reading it for class, despite what I might have told you at the time.

    I thought you might be able to tough it out, or see whatever it is that makes it great and try to explain it to me. But apparently not. Make this one for the history books! I have finally found a book my father can't get through!

  2. I say flip to the last chapter to find out what happens and be done with it. I have a hard time not finishing a book. But there have been times I skipped to the end for some closure.

  3. Normally, your advice would be great, Wendy. However, in this case don't bother. As I recall, the ending made no sense anyway and really brought up more questions than it answered.

  4. It's already in the used bookstore pile. I had absolutely no interest in the characters or in how the author told the story (such as it was). So I won't look at the final chapter -- if I had any desire to see how it turned out, I would have read the whole thing.

  5. Hi Tbiz. Haven't seen you around in a while. Hope all is well.
    That's why I read romance. You know there's going to be a happy ending. So if the book is crap I flip to the last few pages. Boom. Closure. Then I promptly toss the book in the pile for the library's annual book sale.