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» One Touch Football - Archive » Books » great (or at least good) books you didn't finish (Page 2)

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Author Topic: great (or at least good) books you didn't finish
imp
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I've tried and failed with TE Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom four times, and the same with Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. I dragged myself through both The Man Without Qualities and The Magic Mountain in the days when I thought if you started a book you had to finish it.
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Diggedy Derek
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I just finished The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom. To be honest, it doesn't get anymore exciting towards the end, it fizzles out.

A few enlightening bits of wisdom are in there, he seems even more contradictory and guilt ridden a figure than Peter O' Toole portrayed him in the film- but following the actual story is impossible.

His prose style is excruciating isn't it? The introduction is great though- it basically goes "it was hot and tough out there, and any man-on-man shagging which went on should therefore be excused". Bizarre.

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Reed
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IMP, I'm afraid "Big Rock Candy Mountain" is skirting dangerously close to landing in this category. When does it pick up pace? I'm on about page 150 so far. I just don't know if I can commit to reading another 400-500 pages about these same two characters.
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Amor de Cosmos
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Many, including Ulysses and everthing by Virginia Wolff.

The book(s) I really wish I could finish though is/are Remembrance of Things Past. It's on my bedside table at all times -- the wrong place of course, late night reading it definitely is not. Three or four times a year I take a crack at it, get to the passage about the Madelaines and am convinced that Proust was juat about the best writer to ever walk upright. Joy and enthusiasm carry me along for another 50-100 pages before I start to wilt. I give up, riven by feelings of frustration and inadequacy.

Why can't I get on with the wretched thing? It's not because it's long, I can handle epic. Sure he's pretty wordy but so is Henry James and I have no problem with him. It must be head-space...state of mind. I need to be in a world where the dissolving of a biscuit in a cup of coffee is a cataclysmic event. Move slowly. To look, not just glance, at everything however tiny or insignificant. To stand inside silences and listen hard. Most of all time needs to be unbracketed. It's a book that can't be rushed or read piecemeal. A winter alone in a cabin somewhere maybe. I dunno.

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Gangster Octopus
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I never managed to finish The State We're In, Will Hutton's critique of post-Thatcherite Britain. I suppose I ought to give it another go, as things haven't changed much...
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Diggedy Derek
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Where are you up to in In Search Of Lost Time (the groovier sounding title), John C? there's a big lull around the third book, The Guermantes Way. It gets more exciting after that, not that it becomes Die Hard or anything.

It's a strange book and no mistake. It's Proust's attempt to view his life as a neutral observer- all events, no matter how trivial or momentous are recorded. So some events he recounts with glassy eyed boredom, some with a powerful, revaltory fervour.

But both modes of writing are essential to the story, because just as the narrative seems to become a procession of meaningless events, there'll be a plot twist hinging on a revelation of somekind (maybe someone's sexuality, a lover turning out to be faithless etc.).

The main thrust of the book is that his life in French society life was a web of insincerities and therefore a transient way to spend time, but that it's petty jealousies and passions were incredibly intoxicating at the time. Therefore I think he's saying his life was contradictory and pathetic, but it was nonetheless a life lived to the full. He extends these philosophies about his own life to that of human life generally- no matter how false life's adventures may have been, the sheer number and variety of them makes anyone a hero in their own life.

Some bits are undoubtedly boring. I don't think everything in there is meant to be powerfully meaningful- the amazing bits in the book are when the procession of meaningless events suddenly takes a meaningful twist and he suddenly gains access, as if by a wormhole, to what his life is. A beautiful example of this is when he tells how a girl he idly hangs around with unexpectedly hands him a note saying "I like you"- for the first time in his life he's not just a polite young man, he realises he means something to someone else. It's really beautiful.

Anyway, I do recommend sticking with it. there are regular moments of acute self awareness amongst the 100 page recounting of social occasions. His personal revelation at the end of the entire book is worth waiting for too.

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imp
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Reed - every night, whenever you're playing one of those time-wasting, brain-addling, soul-sucking computer games, log off fifteen minutes early and concentrate on the book for just one quarter of an hour. Feel the prose, embrace the plot, and allow those passages in your head that have got clogged up with things that go ping and bleep to open up and intellectually breath.

I forgot to put The Big Rock Candy Mountain in my top ten favourites. I've since read Stegner's Joe Hill, a fictionalised account of the communist agitator's life. Fine writing.

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imp
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Oh and Derek, I'm glad to hear that about Pillars. I always assumed there was something stunning later on in the text that I would eventually get to, but I never made it past page 100, lost, bored and baffled by the places and the people. I appreciate what you've been through (unwittingly) on my behalf, and feel content that I will never have to bother attempting it a fifth time.
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Diggedy Derek
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Cool. It all became clear once I ignored the plot, basically. It ends with an incredible damp squib, with him saying "my work was done, I went home" basically. It couldn't have been more anticlimatic if he'd said "and that concludes my account of my time in the desert".

None of the melancholy, elegiac qualities of the end of the film.

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Reed
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Actually, IMP, I have been doing very little game playing and more reading, but I've been getting into a biography of Capt. James Cook, which I bought in the San Diego maritime museum. And I knocked out "About A Boy" in two sittings. I've also got a stack on my nightstand that includes a Patrick OBrien book, that book about the history of American ideas, and another about fly-casting. The competition is tight.
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Amor de Cosmos
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I've never got out of Combray I'm afraid DD. I think Mlle Swann's departure for Paris, accompanied by musings on dog roses and hawthorns has been the summit of my achievement to date.

I will finish it one day, I've been trying for over 10 years and won't be denied, dammit! I've read other pieces by Proust and he's a fascinating fellow for all the reasons you eloquently detail. The time just has to be right, that's all.

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Diggedy Derek
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Doh! Those bits about waiting for his mum to come and kiss him goodnight are great though aren't they? Remembering right back to when he was just a couple of years old.
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Amor de Cosmos
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Yeah, they're brilliant. Which is why I have to go back and start from the beginning each time. Diving in where I left off last time just doesn't work. The mood, tone ambience, or whatever it is, is set in those opening 50 pages or so. They just can't be skipped.
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Diamond Broon
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Joseph by Julian Rathbone,though I liked his Last King of England and Kings of Albion .It's a good story but I hate the principal character.I had the same problem with The Secret History .I didn't care what happened to the characters so couldn't be bothered with the rest of the book.
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Count Victor Lustig
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reading Vanity Fair at last, good stuff. Started and abandoned Don de Lillo's MAO II.

Oh and can't get past page 1 of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the arch greekism ("as dark as the cave of Agaropos", "worthy of St. Stefanios himself") come thick and fast and get on my nerves....

Another potential tangent is books we started, abandoned, and returned to and found were really quite brilliant, or at least very very good.

Vanity Fair (well, so far at any rate)
can't think of many now - hot and smelly and sticky....

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