Saturday, September 01, 2012

An Excellent Half-Read Book

I came across a link today to an article by New Yorker columnist Mark O'Connell about his habit of reading books part way through before abandoning them for others. He writes that it isn't that he dislikes reading, it's that he likes "reading too much:"
I’ll be reading a novel and thoroughly enjoying it. Then I’ll be in a bookshop and I’ll see something I’ve been anticipating, and I’ll buy it. I’ll start reading the new book on the bus home that evening, and that will be the end of the original affair. I’m certainly invested in the relationship with the book that I’m currently reading, but I can’t help myself from pursuing whatever new interest happens to turn my head. Perhaps that’s just a tortuous way of admitting to being a pathetic serial book-adulterer who’ll chase after anything in a dust jacket.

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This is a trend that I have discovered about myself. At one point I felt that I could schedule my reading list. I would be reading one book, and think about reading another, and then plan to read that book next. But once I was finished, I would come across a different book altogether and start reading that instead. So that was a failed hope of mine. I still make plans, however, though I am aware of my own tendencies. I will certainly have several books on the go at once, either actively or passively. 

Recently, while packing up my books in order to move, I recouped several long-lost bookmarks found in books placed back on the shelves. I remember why I abandoned those particular books at that time, too: reasons from "it wasn't the right time" to "I should really read more non-fiction." Certain authors will cause me to change courses, as well. After reading The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth, I was very eager to continue reading about Nathan Zuckerman, but I found the energy required to read Roth meant that a hiatus was required before venturing to the next one. I would abandon Zuckerman Unbound for something more, well, pleasant. 

I always have a non-fiction title in progress, as well as 2 or 3 novels - with e-reading it's even simpler to skip from book to book. I always promise to be faithful, however; I will return to those books whose hopes were dashed when I closed their covers for a time. But not Martin Amis. He had his chance and he blew it. 

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