Author Topic: Giving up books a third of the way in  (Read 1149 times)

Famous Mortimer

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Giving up books a third of the way in
« on: June 22, 2020, 07:49:10 PM »
I just abandoned "The Melancholy of Resistance" about a third of the way through because I realised I didn't give a shit about how it ended, and the writing style was beginning to bore me to tears.

I'm 44 now, and perhaps when I was a younger man I'd have powered through it. But every book I'm not interested in becomes a slightly larger portion of my remaining years wasted, and I'm not bothered about impressing people any more with the books I've read.

So, do you abandon books? What's your limit? Any notable recent abandonments?

Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2020, 07:51:20 PM »
Yeah abandoned Les Miserables about halfway through, just due to the sheer amount of pointless shite in it, the actual cat and mouse story of redemption and struggle is brilliant.

Since abandoning that, I struggled to even read The Wastelands and I last read it about 6 months ago. Books are really fucking hard.

Poirots BigGarlickyCorpse

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2020, 08:32:33 PM »
I quit 1984. Right at the bit where Winston was reminiscing about stealing his little sister's chocolate ration and his mother yelling "Winston! Give your little sister back her chocolate!" and then the mother and sister died or something soon afterwards. Too miserable. V for Vendetta was better.

However, this does mean that I've read more of 1984 than 95% of the reactionary edgelords who bring it up in conjuction with "SJWs" and "woke Stasi".

Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2020, 08:33:38 PM »
I really enjoyed 1984 myself.

buttgammon

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2020, 08:39:47 PM »
Not very often, but that's because I'm enough of a judgemental reader that I'm not likely to read something that will annoy me that much. The last book I remember giving up was The Apes of God, but there's probably been some since; that book is notable for not only boring me, but also making me quite angry. I've written some unflattering stuff about Lewis since, so I've had the last laugh there.

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2020, 08:41:03 PM »
I used to be awful at this, bitterly sticking with a book even if meant I only read a few pages every so often, but now I give it around 50 pages at the most and if it's not something I'm enjoying I bin it (well, charity shop it, anyhow). Most recently this applied to The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, I'd asked on facebook for some recommendations of easy to read fun long novels and a couple of people suggested this, but unfortunately I found it quite annoying and the science bits really tedious so after sixty pages decided to quit. I respect the people who suggested it so put it down to my brain being annoying, I like science fiction but the sci-fi here was of the hard variety and just not something I clicked with.

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2020, 08:41:22 PM »
I chopped my way into William Gibson's post-2000 material with a machete, but I can never make it more than about a third in. It's a great shame, as I love his '80s and '90s stuff, but now I just get bored. I'm more likely to just read the Bridge trilogy again, then make another foray into The Peripheral or Pattern Recognition.

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2020, 09:07:19 PM »
I cheat.  If I’m really really struggling with a book I’ll skim read it.  I did a course I know what I'm doing.  Looking back over my Serge-inspired book lists over the last couple of years I’ve skimmed through:

Dear Fatty – Dawn French
The Anecdotes of Abraham Lincoln
The Man Who Loved Children – Christina Stead

Looks like the only one I’ve just chucked in was ‘Limbo’ by Bernard Wolfe, I had to give that one back to the library and just, no.  Such an impressive premise and it’s like watching paint dry. 

Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2020, 08:59:10 PM »
I chopped my way into William Gibson's post-2000 material with a machete, but I can never make it more than about a third in. It's a great shame, as I love his '80s and '90s stuff, but now I just get bored. I'm more likely to just read the Bridge trilogy again, then make another foray into The Peripheral or Pattern Recognition.

This is a shame to hear as I loved the Sprawl trilogy and Bridge trilogy. Hoped I had a host of riches ahead of me but must admit I got  a bit flicky when I read Pattern Recognition and haven't had any urge to keep going since. 

Retinend

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2020, 09:29:47 PM »
William Gaddis's "Carpenter's Gothic". I thought it was drivel.
John Fowles's "The Magus." What is the point?
James Joyce's "The Exiles." Complete waste of time.

Aside from these I'm quite good at judging what I will like to read.

buttgammon

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2020, 10:21:08 PM »
William Gaddis's "Carpenter's Gothic". I thought it was drivel.
John Fowles's "The Magus." What is the point?
James Joyce's "The Exiles." Complete waste of time.

Aside from these I'm quite good at judging what I will like to read.


Despite the fact that Joyce is my absolutely favourite writer and I have multiple copies of everything else he ever published (including Stephen Hero, his poetry and his non-fiction ), I've never actually read it. It's got to the point now that I'm partially embarrassed and partially not arsed, especially if it's that bad.

As for Gaddis, I gave up on JR. It sounded like something I should love but it just gave me a headache.

Jockice

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2020, 10:33:05 PM »
No doubt I've mentioned this before but there are three acclaimed novels I own and have tried reading several times but have never got more than about a third through. So Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, American Psycho and The Secret History come on down.

Ulysses I only tried reading once but I deliberately left it in a drawer in a hotel room in Budapest just so I would never pick it up again.

Retinend

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2020, 09:31:41 AM »
I think Joyce's "Ulysses" would probably win this if put to a poll. Which other book demands to be read so much, but demands so much to be read?

I read it at a young age when I hardly had any preconceptions of what a novel was. Until that age I was more into art than literature and so when I read it I said to myself "groovy, this is just like painting with words." Was I truly reading it? I definitely pointed my eyes at every page. I think I took the phrase "stream of consciousness" as a license to not really burden myself with the normal job of reading, which is to decode sentences into meaning: instead, I took it in the spirit of a piece of music, or a painting, which can "wash over you" leaving an imprint.

That's what I did aged 16 and that's my advice for anyone who gave it up after a third. I've read it since and I've enjoyed it more every time, because I just flick through it as I know that there's not much of a plot to it.



Was going to leave it there, but my relationship with the book actually goes further, and I have a lot of thoughts:

I got more into literature during my A-Levels and ending up studying it at university. Lawrence Rainey at the University of York taught an entire 10-week term on the book, and sitting in these lectures I quickly realised that there was a whole plot to it: e.g. Bloom's wife was cheating on him with a man she worked with; many characters that seem to only appear once actually do reappear if you are paying attention (the medical student and headmaster, for example); Bloom, when he's on the beach, is in fact wanking off. And so on.

What's more, parts of it, according to Rainey, barely belonged to the book: it began as a sequel to "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (hence the initial focus on the supporting characters in Dedalus's life, such as the medical student and the headmaster) and it evolved away from that as it went on. Once he had a literary journal publishing him monthly he had a steady paycheck to fund his lifestyle.

Rainey explained that Joyce had a complete pushover for a publisher, and, when he was offered previews of his manuscripts, always took the opportunity to add unnecessary parenthetic elements, giving the work an overworked quality that indulgent contemporaries failed to criticise.[1]

The journal was very appropriate to his tastes, named The Little Review: A Magazine of the Arts―Making No Compromise with the Public Taste / The Magazine That is Read by Those who Write the Others and featured the serialised instalments of "Ulysses" alongside his Modernist contemporaries such as Pound and Lewis.

Joyce was therefore in his element in roaring-20s Paris, and able to abandon the uninspiring original intent of the work (a sequel to Portrait of the Artist) in order to fit in better with the style of the journal and explore experimentalism. I recommend reading/flicking through the journal to get an idea of the literary culture of the age, since it was in some sense a flower that only bloomed once: an intense sense that literature could change the world, or lead the world.

Anyway, I wrote this meaning to explain why I think people wrongly give up on this book - which is of course a classic - and why it can give some consolation to know why it's as hard as it is: it is not a book, it's a document of its age.


edit: removed broken link
 1. Incidentally, this is also the same story as what happened to Hegel's work when his lectures were put to the press.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 01:22:05 PM by Retinend »

buttgammon

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2020, 12:29:16 PM »
Interesting post, Retinend.

One thing I like about the serialised bits of Ulysses from the Little Review is that, even within that very open-minded publication, you can still see him pushing boundaries as far as he could. Some things (like Bloom going to the toilet and talking about "the grey sunken cunt of the world") were simply too much. There's also lots and lots of typos; there's a book which reproduces all of them in one volume, preserving all of the errors. It's also interesting that Joyce added more and more to the later episodes, and the most stylistically and conceptually extreme parts of the book weren't serialised at all. The direction it took was very different.

It's understandably a book that people often give up on. From my experience, there are three points where this normally happens: the third chapter, 'Proteus', where the dense aesthetic and philosophical stuff comes as a shock, the ninth chapter, 'Scylla and Charybdis', with another shift in style and focus to Stephen's discussion on Shakespeare, and the fourteenth chapter, 'Oxen of the Sun', simply because the language is so difficult. I always say that there's no shame in not understanding what's going on, particularly during 'Oxen', and that it's still a very rewarding and worthwhile book to read even though there are (sometimes deliberately) confusing bits. I've never tried this out myself but I suspect an interesting approach would be to start at the fourth chapter when Bloom appears, read a few chapter and then flip back to the first three first chapters. They happen to take place concurrently, so it would not cause too many complications in terms of time, and there's the benefit that the Bloom sections are generally more lucid and immediately accessible than the Stephen ones.

Retinend

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2020, 01:06:02 PM »
Agreed. I'd class the Dedalus chapters as a false start that could be regarded as a small sequel to "Portrait of the Artist". As a sequel, it dampens some of the naivite at the end of that novel and it points to a rather dark, suicidal future for the character. He is trapped by his countrymen and did not escape, as Joyce himself did.

It is possible that he felt like he might have ended up in the shoes of Stephen. And then his big break came, thanks to the Little Review, and he basically forgot about  depressed academic Stephen: started writing about the middle-aged fuddy duddy, Bloom, instead. These two characters do not seem to have parallels in literary history: I therefore view them as a sort of conversation with himself. Almost everything in Joyce's writings demands to be read as a study of his life, I find. In this regard he is similar to Hemingway. There are probably others like this but I think it is a 20th century development in "Outsiderdom".

Fr.Bigley

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2020, 01:28:56 PM »
The Hungry Caterpillar- Straight up unrealistic.

buttgammon

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2020, 05:51:00 PM »
Agreed. I'd class the Dedalus chapters as a false start that could be regarded as a small sequel to "Portrait of the Artist". As a sequel, it dampens some of the naivite at the end of that novel and it points to a rather dark, suicidal future for the character. He is trapped by his countrymen and did not escape, as Joyce himself did.

It is possible that he felt like he might have ended up in the shoes of Stephen. And then his big break came, thanks to the Little Review, and he basically forgot about  depressed academic Stephen: started writing about the middle-aged fuddy duddy, Bloom, instead. These two characters do not seem to have parallels in literary history: I therefore view them as a sort of conversation with himself. Almost everything in Joyce's writings demands to be read as a study of his life, I find. In this regard he is similar to Hemingway. There are probably others like this but I think it is a 20th century development in "Outsiderdom".

My own theory is sort of similar - that there's an increasing sense of self-awareness - maybe even self-mockery - in the Stephen of Ulysses versus the Stephen of A Portrait. In essence, it's the point at which Joyce and Stephen split, perhaps because Joyce has a different perspective on his past at this stage.

Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #17 on: June 25, 2020, 04:51:22 AM »
I do this all the time. I have a really bad habit of being excited to read something, not wanting to put it down once I've started, but then once I do put it down for more than a few days (work, family, life etc.) I find it basically impossible to go back to. Usually happens about a third of the way through, sometimes just a quarter or so. I procrastinate because I wonder if neglecting it for a while means I'll have forgotten plots or characters, so it sits untouched for a few more days, then weeks, years. Probably half the books on my shelf currently fall into that category. Right now I've got Tristram Shandy open to page 122 on my desk - it's been there for about two months.

I was far better at reading and finishing books when I was a teenager. For some bizarre reason, Finchy's boast in The Office that he reads a book a week resonated with me at the time, so for a couple of years I followed in Finchy's footsteps for the most part: a book every week or two. Now I'm lucky if I manage two books a year. I think it's fair to say it is the worst thing about my life.

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #18 on: June 25, 2020, 09:20:52 AM »
Always was a 'point of honour' with me, that if I started a book, I would finish it. Then as I got older, I realised that I was wasting parts of my life on stuff that bored me to tears/was of no interest to me at all. So mostly, the fifty page rule goes nowadays.
Fifty or so pages, and if I am not actually grabbed by the content, to the charidee shop it goes!
Posted elsewhere about Ullyses, I once 'read it' to a point about two thirds, maybe three quarters of the way through; then I hit a particular passage that bored the nads off me, and never picked it up again.Nor do I intend to, life is too short and there are far too many good books I have to get around to!

surreal

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #19 on: June 25, 2020, 09:31:19 AM »
I do this all the time. I have a really bad habit of being excited to read something, not wanting to put it down once I've started, but then once I do put it down for more than a few days (work, family, life etc.) I find it basically impossible to go back to.

...

I was far better at reading and finishing books when I was a teenager.  ...  Now I'm lucky if I manage two books a year. I think it's fair to say it is the worst thing about my life.

I have a similar thing, used to devour books, but now find it hard to get started and when I do I really have to force myself to continue.  I think it's the stress of life I've had the past few years, whenever I sit to do something that seems as relaxing as reading a good book after 30 minutes or so I get a tremendous feeling that I should be doing something "more important", surely there is something else I should be doing, and looking at starting a new one is made difficult by the thought of how much time I'll have to spend on it.    I'm trying to get past this during lockdown, when I genuinely don't have much better to do.

Sin Agog

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #20 on: June 25, 2020, 12:22:44 PM »
I used to have an undiagnosed, non-existent condition known as 'ending anxiety.'  I'd get right up until the last hurdle, put the thing down, and there it would remain for a youtuber's lifetime.  This applied to practically every medium of media.  I still have the same urge, but since I noticed it in myself I use advanced mental techniques (such as carrying on reading) to defy my instincts.

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #21 on: June 25, 2020, 01:39:37 PM »
I do this all the time. I have a really bad habit of being excited to read something, not wanting to put it down once I've started, but then once I do put it down for more than a few days (work, family, life etc.) I find it basically impossible to go back to.

I have the same problem. often for books that I was really enjoying. thankfully I have a pretty good memory so I don't struggle that much when I get back to them.

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #22 on: June 25, 2020, 06:39:45 PM »
Notes From Underground by Dostoevsky is a short book but I still abandoned it less than a third of the way in, by which time I'd finally decided that the 19th century can fuck off into a famine.

Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #23 on: June 25, 2020, 06:42:24 PM »
Notes From Underground by Dostoevsky is a short book but I still abandoned it less than a third of the way in, by which time I'd finally decided that the 19th century can fuck off into a famine.

The Three Musketeers is ace!

non capisco

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #24 on: June 26, 2020, 11:19:43 PM »
I threw a non-fiction music book in the bin after getting halfway down the first page and reading a reference to the Clash album 'London's Calling.' Beat that, bookworms!!

Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2020, 10:09:40 PM »
I do it frequently. I found finishing books a lot easier when I was single, used to read before sleep every night whereas now we have a telly in the bedroom because my wife likes to watch, erm, telly in bed.

I don’t feel guilty about putting down a shit book, or a good book that’s just not my style. Sometimes I might not get past the first couple of pages.

Think I’ve tried Catch 22 about 3 times. Can’t get with it.


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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #26 on: June 30, 2020, 01:24:40 AM »
I've been reading my way through a stack of old Scifi books... one of them was by Michael Moorcock and was what I'd term swords & sorcery rather than Scifi and I found it really hard going and almost gave up but forced myself to finish it, taking about 3 times as long as I usually would.  I tried to rationalise just what it was that made the book such a hard slog.  It wasn't the subject matter as I enjoyed the story, it was something about the writing itself.  Some writers write beautifully and the words just flow off the page... nothing stood out as clumsy writing while I was reading it but I can only conclude it was something about the way it was written that was slowing me down.

I bailed on "No Logo" by Naomi Klein after several attempts, never getting further than less than a dozen pages each time.  Reading the blurb about it it sounds like it'll be ok, and reviews tell me it was acclaimed and iconic but I found it totally and utterly impenetrable and utterly utterly dull.  I even flipped through it hoping to skip past the boring introduction but it didn't look like it got better.

Poirots BigGarlickyCorpse

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #27 on: June 30, 2020, 10:38:37 PM »
Interesting post, Retinend.

One thing I like about the serialised bits of Ulysses from the Little Review is that, even within that very open-minded publication, you can still see him pushing boundaries as far as he could. Some things (like Bloom going to the toilet and talking about "the grey sunken cunt of the world") were simply too much.
have you read Joyce's love letters to his wife

buttgammon

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Re: Giving up books a third of the way in
« Reply #28 on: June 30, 2020, 11:03:07 PM »
have you read Joyce's love letters to his wife

I have - they're extraordinary in a way that's probably very bad.

I should've added that the omissions in the serialised version weren't made or even supported by Joyce, who held an almost boundless commitment to keeping stuff other people considered offensive or libellous (he had trouble getting Dubliners published because, among other editorial clashes, he refused to change or remove names of real people who could have sued a publisher).

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