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Author Topic: I Started Something I Couldn't Finish
Jimski
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Books you've tried to get into, but just given up on after a while...

Recently I tried reading Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow. It was hard going from the start - the character didn't really catch my interest - but I persevered for a while. Eventually, though, reading it started to feel like too much of an effort, so I gave up.

Anybody here into Bellow at all, cos I know he's meant to be highly rated? Mind you my mum has taught the above book and she doesn't think it's up to all that much. She suggested I try Herzog (?) instead.

[ 18.03.2005, 10:53: Message edited by: Jimski ]

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Gangster Octopus
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What did she teach it to do, Jimski?
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My name is Mumpo
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the only two novels i've given up on in the last fifteen years are Jeff Noon's 'Pollen' (imaginative but atrociously written) and Justin Cartwright's 'In Every Face I Meet', which i bought because of Blake's title and an amusing line on the first page about mozzarella.
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Mat Pereira
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Quite a few, actually. They vary from books that I absolutely can't get into at all, to books I can see I might like if i'm in the mood, to books that i'm really enjoying but lose the thread of because work and stuff intervenes.

'Mansfield Park', for instance, I read all of that bar the last fifty pages a few years back when I was living in a hotel, but then I lost the book and didn't find it again for months.

'Catch 22' took me a few goes. It got on my nerves the first few times, I thought it was just over-stylised to the point of being irritating, then I suddenley got the point and really enjoyed it.

'The Blind Assassin' by Margaret Atwood I still haven't finished. I normally really like her stuff too, and this is really good you can tell, interesting premise, fantastic writing and all that, but it's bleeding long and she keeps changing the perspective, narrative style and so on, so you really have to concentrate.

'The Executioners Song' by Norman Mailer. I got exactly half way through, 1000 pages of 2000 pages, handily it's split into two sections, see. I gave up because the book attempts to place you inside the head of Gary Gilmore, so you can understand what motivates him, why he was the way he was, and it's brilliant writing, but there's only so much Gary Gilmore you can take, really.

I've never read any Saul Bellow at all, you know.

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Crusoe
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One Hundred Years Of Solitude. I tried, I really did. I was so close, but so bored.
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Spearmint Rhino
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I do this all the time.

I'm a slow reader (partly because I don't have much spare time for it, partly because I'm lazy, and partly because I tend to read a paragraph then re-read it to make sure I've absorbed the point of it and not missed any subtleties), and people are always giving me books as gifts, at a faster rate than I can read them.

Going back many years, two examples would be Lord Of The Rings when I was a child (even though I loved the more manageably-sized Hobbit), and Richard Ellman's biography of Oscar Wilde when I was a student (I only made it as far as his adolescence, and never made it to the glory years. I got bored reading about his mother.).

More recently, I am stuck at various stages of the following:

Hunter S Thompson - The Rum Diaries
Alan Clark - The Alan Clark Diaries
Marilyn Manson - The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell
Bill Bryson - A Short History Of Nearly Everything
Francis Wheen - How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered The World (I think I'm gonna finish this, though)
Michael Moore - Stupid White Men (ditto, only one chapter to go)
Steve Strange - Blitzed!
Paolo Hewitt with Paul Weller - The Soul Stylists

In fact, the last book I actually finished was Jon Ronson's Them: Adventures With Extremists. It was a major life-event for me. I was so proud.

[ 18.03.2005, 16:26: Message edited by: Spearmint Rhino ]

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Matej
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The last book I that I can remember stopping voluntarily (by which I mean, the book wasn't recalled back to the library before I finished it, for instance) was a book of plays by Pinter. I gave up roughly half-way.
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Coffy
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When I was in a book group in 1992, one of the novels we read was Landscape Painted with Tea by Milorad Pavic, which I quit after about 150 pages. Later that summer, I joked that reading it was probably among the tortures at Serbian concentration camps in Bosnia. I guess magical realism isn't for me.

I think my friendship with the guy who chose it was irreparably damaged after I dissed his selection, but most books weren't read beforehand, so our choices tended to be gambles.

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Jimski
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quote:
Justin Cartwright's 'In Every Face I Meet'
I loved his book White Lightning, but I haven't read any of his others. What put you off this one, mumpo?
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Ginger Yellow
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Great book that Ronson one. I can't remember the last book I gave up on. It's not something I do very often. But I do frequently stop reading one book halfway through, read another, then go back to the old one. Usually I switch between fiction and non-fiction in this manner, but sometimes I chain. For example I recently abandoned Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun to read Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves, before abandoning that to read Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos. I'm leavening the latter with a collection of Borges stories. Once I've finished the Greene, I'll probably go back to the Wolfe, before finishing the Dennett. Assuming another book doesn't grab my attention, of course.
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gyp
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I don't tend to explicity quit a book, rather find myself with a more interesting option and move on with the intention of returning at a later date. Of course this rarely happens (the returning part) and I've racked up a reasonable list of failures - books that I've left for so long that even if I went back to them now I'd need to start from scratch again. In the last couple of years:

Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
The Rebel - Camus
The Glass Bead Game - Herman Hesse
Mr Sammler's Planet - Saul Bellow

Which brings us back to Jimski's post and Saul Bellow. I've read a number of tributes to him and his contribution to American literature, but Mr Sammler's Planet has defeated me on two separate occasions. Should I look somewhere else or is there no hope for me?

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radioactive
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I have just given up on a book for the first time in over a year. That book is When We Were Orphans by Ishiguro. And this is my second Ishiguro book I've given up on.

Clever, subtle and just far too tedious for words. One for professional lit readers only in my opinion.

Re Bellow: Herzog is genuinely superb, intense, funny and very entertaining.

Other Bellow books I've read have been more difficult - like pumpernickel, the first few bites you relish the extra fibre and the different flavour to normal bread; and then slowly it gets to become a chore and you desperately crave warburton's toasties.

I have read Mr Sammler's Planet, which was ok, and Humboldt's Gift which I thought was rather difficult and over-rated.

I think my brow is descending the less leisure time I have in life.

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Ginger Yellow
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Gyp, what was your problem with The Glass Bead Game? There are few more readable books, in my opinion.
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Andy C
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Although I persisted to the bitter end, I agree wholeheartedly about When We Were Orphans, apart from the "clever" and "subtle". Substitute "wooden" and "empty" and you've nailed it. I really wished I hadn't bothered.
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imp
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I've tried four times to read TE Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and failed every time. Never even reached the first fucking pillar.
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