If life weren't so short, I would go back through all of my blog posts and count the number of times I said "life's too short". I am generally not one of those people who has a hard time giving up on a book. If I am not enjoying something I chuck it and move on to something else. The only time this becomes a real problem is when I let my OCD get in the way.
Now, before I go any further, let me say a word or two about my OCD which I talk about here with a frequency that must bore some of you. My case is pretty darn mild. I don't incessesantly count things, or have to have all of the fibers of a rug facing the same direction. I don't have to turn a light switch on and off a set number of times before I can leave it on or off. No, mine is your garden variety OCD. Like I needed to have all 100 of the Penguin Great Ideas series because they have numbers on their spines and once I had 2 of them I needed to have the remaining 98. Or I need to make lists of things and then cross them off so I can make more lists. And then there are times when two obssessions (or would they be compulsions) fight for dominance. For instance, I keep all the fiction in my library in author alpha order. But I refuse to shelve the 40 or so dove grey Persephones that I own in with the rest of my fiction. The uniformity of their spines is far too compelling when assembled en masse. My NYRB Classics are at least different colors so I could see them mixed in with the rest of my fiction in alpa order, but to be honest, right now they are instead all grouped together on my shelves, as are my Viragos, and Penguin classics and Melville House novellas.
|You can see my need for visual uniformity sometimes trumps my need for organization uniformity.|
Anyhoo, to get back to the subject at hand. Sometimes I get on a kick where I am compelled to follow through with a reading plan not because I find it enjoyable, but because I feel like I need to. And why do I need to? Sometimes just so that I can say that I have read something, or so that I can cross something off a list, or so that I can complete some arbitrary challenge that one of you maniacs have cooked up.
One challenge that is really starting to stick in my craw is one that I made up for myself about 13 years ago: that bitch of a list better known as the Modern Library's list of the top 100 books of the 20th Century. It was a given that I wasn't going to read anymore Joyce or Faulkner, both of whom appear multiple times on the list. And for some reason I don't have a problem with the mental asymmetry that that concession creates. But there are other books on that list that are really, really, I mean really, not my cup of tea.
Like anything by Joseph Bloody Conrad. His books exist merely to give English professors job security. Or what about DH Lawrence? What a whopping great bore he is. And a new entrant to my anti-wish list is Ford Madox Ford and his freaking, frustrating, pile of steaming poo known as Parade's End. Let me tell you sweetie that parade didn't end fast enough for me.
|A pretty picture of a literary pile of poo.|
Like I started off by saying at the top of this ramble, I don't have a problem setting things aside, but my need to finish that ML100 list is starting to impact the quality of my life. Something I am no longer willing to tolerate. In recent weeks I have been reminded in a personal and very profound way that life is too damn short to put up with books I hate just so I can cross them off a list. I mean enough already. If the weather was colder I would throw this pile of books in the fireplace and set them alight. They have been haunting my shelves for too long. The 118 pages of Lord Jim that I have read so far is 117 more than I should have read. The time spent slogging my way through the first third of Women in Love is like a third of my adulthood thrown out the window. And then Ford Madox I couldn't write a linear narrative to save my life, aren't I clever Ford. If he thinks I am going to move from Some Do Not to the other three books in his tetrology, he can turn over a few times in his grave and think again.
I still think I may give the Malcolm Lowry another go. True I have been a little slow about it, but there is something about it that I like. And then all the Henry James on the list? I do kind of enjoy his meandering, rambling style. And I am still going to give the ML100 books a go. But I am not going to try as hard. If I don't like them by page 50, they are gone.
Now that I am giving up on some of the ML100 books I need some suggestions for the following years for my Century of Books list. Extra points for books that aren't known for their literary groundbreakingness.
I have actually been reading some enjoyable books lately, just haven't gotten around to writing anything here. Hope to rectify that soon.
My work project has been in a writing-intensive stage recently which has not only made me very lazy on My Porch, but has made me incredibly lax in keeping up with your blogs. I hope to look a the 188 unread blog posts waiting in my Google reader very soon.