There is a cornucopia of reasons people do not finish books: they don’t have the time, they’re busy with school or work, the book has too many pages, it’s too boring, etc… But sometimes, you don’t need to read the whole book to think you never need to go back to it. For me, it’s Steinbeck’s The Red Pony that I know I never want to touch again. Mostly, it’s safe to say that if you stopped reading a book, it’s because it’s not worth finishing, but I always wished I could know if something was pointless before I put in the effort to actually start it. Thus, here is my gift to you, dear reader.
American Psycho ~ Bret Easton Ellis
This is a book that the author never intended to become successful. It follows shallow and drugged-up Patrick Bateman through his rock and roll lifestyle of getting paid, getting fucked, snorting cocaine in nightclub bathrooms and numerous tangents about the band Genesis, fronted by Phil Collins. It’s neurotic good fun until Patrick begins his killing spree. And I was having fun until he graphically and violently mutilates a homeless man in the street, for being homeless, and then stomps on the man’s dog and breaks its front legs. Then I felt sick, closed the book, choked back tears and proceeded to only glance at the book from a distance. I had to reread that passage to find the page I stopped on, and I’m equally as upset as I was three years ago when I stopped reading it. I suggest skipping this one if you’re squeamish and don’t like the torture and death of dogs and women, as the amount of detail makes this one hard to stomach.
Page upon which I became immensely ill, almost threw up and cried: 132
The World According to Garp ~ John Irving
If you’re familiar with John Irving, then you are familiar with the fact that all of his books are slow and long; hundreds upon hundreds of pages long. It’s certainly a commitment, and likely not something to commit to in the tenth grade. But you have to make mistakes to learn from them. It’s a novel that follows bastard son T.S. Garp and his feminist mother Jenny Fields through their lives. It’s detailed and chock full of sexual escapades, maturity and deviance. It’s definitely well written and worth the time if you actually have it. But if you’re me and have the attention span of a goldfish, then this book is tough to get through. I should know; I’ve been on chapter 10 for the last seven years. Instead of trucking forward with Garp, I picked up Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut and finished that during my boring Politics in Government class in high school. The chapters were never longer than eight pages and there were pictures! Sorry Garp!
Page upon which I opted for a shorter book: 261
Madame Bovary ~ Gustave Flaubert
Flaubert set out to write a book about nothing, and he almost did it. The ratio between boredom and action in the novel is about 50:1. Every now and then there’s almost sex and almost scandal and conflict. But Flaubert never quite lets you get there. Or at least I never got there because all he seems to want to talk about is the grass and agriculture. If you skip to page 294 to see the lead female, Emma Bovary, begin her suicide by consuming a handful of arsenic, even that isn’t all too exciting, and surely not slow and satisfying enough to make up for the rest of this uneventful book. Flaubert focuses on manure and it’s apropos because all the characters are full of shit. If I spoiled the book for you, you’re welcome, because it’s not worth the 327 pages of inaction and indifference. Madame Bovary, <ce n’est pas moi.>
Page upon which I gave up even though the chapter ended with her pregnancy: 63
Second Chance ~ Jodi Picoult
I find American Literature, like its cinema, often conventional and predictable. I read the back of a variety of Picoult books, as people seem to rave and rant about her, and found none of them to be anything less than blatantly obvious. Thinking it must be her writing style that sets her apart I searched for the book that was unlike the rest. I found Second Chance, a story about ghost hunter Ross who is trying to cope with the death of his fiancé through suicide attempts and a mysterious woman. Certainly a book about ghosts and suicide can’t be boring! I thought to myself. Well that can’t be true, because it only took me a few pages to confirm that Picoult books are what my boyfriend likes to call “suburban housewife literature”—a passive reader is spoon-fed an average story about love, family and overcoming hardships through sub par language and a mediocre imagination.
Page upon which I said, “Fuck this noise”: 44
Emma ~ Jane Austen
It’s not likely most people ask themselves what book they will read for recreation and pick out an nineteenth century British novel by Jane Austen—but I did. I’d like to call that my first mistake. My second and third mistakes were buying it and then actually attempting to read it mid-semester last year. I only had to get to chapter four to chalk this choice up to misguided (a handsome, blue-eyed boy in one of my classes was reading Austen and I wanted to have something to talk about with him, smh). The title character fancies herself impervious to falling in love and wants to use her matchmaking skills to set up other couples while ignoring her feelings for an attractive suitor. Isn’t it obvious already that she will fall in love much to her own chagrin? This book is intended to amuse based on the various personalities of the characters surrounding Emma, but the problem is that Austen was writing during a time period in which an author is paid by the word. That being said, there are too many words in this novel. Maybe one day I can come back to it to discover if the characters really are delightful and if there is a grand moral significance that makes this novel so popular, but until the time comes when it is the end of the world and I have nothing else to do with my life, Emma is going to collect dust on the shelf.
Page upon which I decided there are better ways to waste my time: 22
The Quest of the Holy Grail ~ Unknown Author
I don’t think a synopsis is even necessary here: it’s the legendary Arthurian romance of Perceval, Gawain, Lancelot and Galahad as they travel through sexual temptation and danger in search of the Holy Grail. Unless you know literally absolutely nothing about anything, then you have at least a semblance of an idea what this is about. Television, movies and other books allude to this quest all the time, so it’s likely you don’t need to read the actual translation from thirteenth century French. I have an affinity for Arthurian romances since reading the much shorter Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and I want to explore the depths of the Holy Grail, but this will be an epic journey that will have to wait until I’m out of school to ever get back to.
Page upon which I ignored the fact that I was going to have a quiz on it: 53
Jane Eyre ~ Charlotte Brontë
Another one of those classic British novels written by a woman, Jane Eyre is about plain, average Jane and follows her from an impoverished young girl to a student, then a governess and finally as a grown woman. It’s also another book with entirely too many words in it. While reading Jane Eyre you will know the number of legs on the insect crawling under a rock in the garden that the girl walked past seven hours ago. You will have details about anything and everything, and it’s distracting and boring. It’s a book I want to finish for the sole fact that it is deemed a “classic” and it eventually depicts Jane’s tortured romance as an adult. Sounds almost scandalous enough to be interesting, but you’ll need to skim over many passages to get to the good stuff. I don’t need my narrator to tell me about all the pictures from the book Jane used to read when she was a young girl. It’s just more information than I will ever need.
Page upon which I could no longer even skim the pages: 86
Fight Club ~ Chuck Palahniuk
Everyone should know this movie. It’s a cult classic and a damn-near perfect film starring handsome and tortured Edward Norton, smokin’ hot Brad Pitt, and bat-shit crazy Helena Bonham Carter. So the book should be that way too. And it is that way…until you misplace it for a few months and forget everything you’ve read like I did. Oops! The narrator is sarcastic, nihilistic and mostly insane as he frequents support groups for a variety of diseases he does not have in an effort to sleep at night. He finds an unstable love interest in Marla and then finds himself leader of an anarchist terrorist group that originated from the welcomed brutal assaults of “fight club.” It’s about time for me to dig this book out and see it through to the end, even if I do know the ending already.
Page upon which I lost the book in my car: 63
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