Last week I made a life changing decision.
No exaggeration. Life. Changing.
‘Twas a decision that had been some time in the making. I spun the options around in my head for a week or so, totted up the pros and cons, discussed the central issues with a couple of like-minded friends.
And on Friday night, when I should have been picking up my half finished copy of the latest Annie Proulx, I instead started a brand new book. Just left the Proulx closed on the bedside table. Rejected. Half read. Never to be finished.
As I said. Life changing.
Now, I’ve long been a supporter of the idea that life’s too short to read a bad book. It’s the reason why the likes of the Fifty Shades catastrophes have never made it into my collection. And while I do confess forcing myself through the first of the Twilight series, that was for research purposes. So many of the students that I was teaching were into it, some to the point of obsession, some of whom I had never known to read for pleasure before. So, you know, read what the kids are reading. Make the connection, etc., etc.
It was hard going. Basically Mills and Boons with vampires, complete with the heroine who is unknowingly beautiful, clumsy to the point that she literally needs a man to catch her, and willing to sacrifice life as she knows it (in this case as a human being) in order to be with the man she loves. Not my type of story. The main problem was that it was just terribly written. Repetitive. Cliched. Clumsy. Set my teeth on edge.
A bad book. I can usually tell within the first few paragraphs. Thank goodness for library browsing sessions and Kindle sample chapters.
The Proulx, not a bad book. The opposite, in fact. Flawless. Beautiful in its grimness. Thoroughly researched and dedicated to its pursuit of communicating an accurate depiction of time and place. Seven hundred and something pages worth. And just not doing it for me. At all. Who can explain why, really? My being in the wrong headspace? A lack of chemistry?
I’ve come to this point with many books. Ostensibly, there is nothing wrong with them. People have recommended them in some cases. Critically acclaimed in others. Written by favourite authors on one or two occasions. I tend to hold out hope to the bitter end that things will improve. That at some point, something will grab me, inspire me, capture my attention and make me want to read on. That a book, well-written, deserves the benefit of the doubt and a chance to prove itself.
More often than not, my constancy is not rewarded. Endings have been reached via skim-reading and met with relief. In some cases, met with derision. In the worst cases, with the book being thrown off the edge of the bed in disgust. But still, up until last week I had never put a book down halfway through.
So, when on Friday night I did just that, it was with a giddying sense of freedom and of being a bit naughty. Like I was climbing out the bathroom window in the middle of a second date. Carpe Diem, people. Life on the edge.
The Proulx is still sitting on my bedside table. It casts accusatory glances at me as I blithely flip the pages of my current read. I’m trying not to feel disloyal at not reading on. It’s very much an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ type situation. I should move it to the bookshelf. Or introduce it to someone who might make it through that second date.