Monday, October 3, 2016

That Book You Can't Finish

I grew up with the idea that if I started reading a book, I absolutely needed to finish it. I used to think it was a Catholic grade school thing, but I've run into lots of non-Catholics who have the same, well, neurosis. If I start reading this, I need to finish it. Even if I hate it. Even if I borrowed it from the library and didn't spend any money on it. Even if I probably won't remember it three hours after I finish it. Or worse, even if I'll remember it for the rest of my life because the experience of reading it was so horrible. Anyone else out there have this internal argument going on from time to time? A show of hands?

At the moment, I am almost in the middle of a book by one of my favorite writers, Mr. Stephen King. And I'm struggling with it. I borrowed it from the library, so if I don't finish it, no worries about paying for something that was never used. My husband tried it first but said he was having trouble getting into it, so we swapped books (I had a Longmire book waiting for me) and now he's enjoying himself immensely with Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, and I'm struggling with a 509-page King novel. 

I was in sixth grade when I ran across the first book I absolutely knew I could NEVER FINISH. And I even tried twice. It's a very popular book that was made into a very popular movie and yet I could never get past the first one-third of it. I tried every trick I already knew to get myself to read it in entirety. I tried it from the beginning twice, as noted. I read the end and tried going backwards to see  how the protagonist got to the point where the story ended. Nope, that was a no-go also. I picked spots randomly in the middle of the book and tried to go both forwards and backwards and that didn't help either. And I guess that's about when I realized I would never finish the dang thing. And, boy, did I feel guilty. I "confessed" to people from time to time that I never read the whole book, and found to my surprise, I think, that no one called me a sinner over the issue. Most of them either said, "Really? I love that book!" or "I never read it.", as well as "I never read it, but I saw the movie." 

And I began to realize that maybe it was okay if I didn't finish that novel. The writer was excellent: her word accuracy and her descriptions were amazing. But none of that was enough to get me past the "I really hate this main character" problem I was having.

Fast forward to where I am now, and I routinely stop reading a book if it's not reaching me. I figure that 1) time is short, and there are a ton of books I want/need to read so I'm not going to battle through one that's never going to work for me, and 2) I apparently am not on the same vibe or wavelength as the author for this to work for me. And actually, being honest with myself about that has helped me when one of my books receives a review where the reader is pretty much saying that: "This book was okay, nothing to write home about" and "Not my cup of tea." (The horrid ones where the reader simply writes how dreadful the work is but doesn't explain why are a separate issue.)

So now I'm looking at this Stephen King book and thinking, will this be the one King novel I never quite finish? It's as well-written as anything he's ever done. Truth be told, I wouldn't be surprised if this one wasn't somewhat autobiographical as well. But there is a strange, discordant vibration to this one with notes that are hitting me just to the left of my own true perfect pitch. And I don't know why that is. I'm certainly curious enough to want to know what's actually going on, and why. But I don't know if the curiosity I have at this point is enough to see it through. And that's weird for me because he's one of my favorite authors. Still, that doesn't mean we'll always agree on everything. For example, I know he writes -or at least used to- to AC/DC and while I write to music, AC/DC isn't on my playlist. More power to both of us, for finding the music that nudges our muses along.

I'll take a few more cracks at the work, but I may not make it all the way to Oz on this one. And that's okay. Fortunately, Stephen King has a ton of books out there and I haven't read all of them. Maybe it's not such a horrible thing if this one slips past me just a little.


  1. I used to make myself finish every book. Now I never do. I've found that sometimes I can go back to those books and get into them - i don't know why...maybe it's my mood or something. It's funny - Lisey's Story is one of the few books post-accident that I like by King. Although I did have a hard time getting into it. I just reread Bag of Bones and it's sister, Duma Key. Those hold up. But The Talisman used to be one of my favorites and I didn't like it this time around.

  2. Lisey's Story is brilliant, just really, really hard to take. My favorites are still the companions The Shining and Dr. Sleep. But on to the next blog post...