Real bibliophiles don’t really finish all of the books they start reading. I have only anecdotal evidence to support this statement. Nonetheless, I know that it’s true. Real bibliophiles are usually reading at least four or five books; additionally, a graveyard of abortive attempts lurks about the living space of the bibliophile, books he or she has read bits and pieces of over the years. I maybe possibly might read half of the books that I start, although that ratio seems generous. Here are some highlights of the books I started (or restarted) and never finished in 2006:
Oblivion, David Foster Wallace (unwieldy hardback): I bought this book way back in the halcyon days of ’05. The hardback (a foolish mistake–I thought I was buying a paperback) is a pain in the ass to read. As of now I have only read three of the stories in this collection (in full disclosure, one of those stories is like, two pages long; I also read “Mr. Squishy” twice). I lead with Oblivion because I vow to finish it before 2007.
The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Murakami (handsome trade paperback, third attempt, gift). I loved the short stories I read by this guy, but this book requires a serious commitment. The completely linear narrative revolves Toru’s search for his cat; apparently some pretty weird stuff happens, but apparently not in the first 50 pages. I will give it another shot the next summer; the book is supposed to be fantastic.
The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. LeGuin (handsome trade paperback). I love LeGuin and was excited when I found this in the trash at work. Unfortunatley, it turns out that it’s part two of a trilogy. I figured that out twenty pages in, not letting “Book Two of the Earthsea Cycle” on the cover fool me.
Le Morte d’Arthur, Thomas Malory (two volume Penguin Classics edition, both volumes “found” in my place of employment, cut covers). I’ve been reading this rambling collection of Arthurian legends for years now, usually diving in when I have more time in the summer. Sir Lancelot was a player, kid!
Chronicles: Volume 1, Bob Dylan (handsome hardback, gift). Speaking of rambling legends, the first volume of Dylan’s autobiography is pretty good…so why can’t I finish the last 100 pages? Like Oblivion, it’s a hardback, making it difficult to read. Maybe I should get the audiobook and have Sean Penn read it to me.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, J.D. Salinger (tattered copy, probably stolen from Stanton circa 1995). Another rambling account: we’ve got a theme, folks! I’ve actually read Raise High, but despite five-plus attempts, I’ve yet to finish Seymour, a story vigorously defended by many people whom I’m begining to think must be either much smarter than I am, or simply wrong. “A Perfect Day for Banana Fish” is where it’s at (all of Nine Stories is good).
Bone, Jeff Smith (very large graphic novel). Even for a graphic novel, this is a long book.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, Susanna Clarke (hardback, second attempt). The book seems to have an interesting premise, but nothing very interesting happens in the first fifty pages. Maybe I’ll read it to my children when I have children.
The Rifles, William Vollman (used paperback). It pains me that I didn’t finish this, because it’s fantastic. Like the LeGuin book, it’s part of a series, but I’m pretty sure you can read each book of Vollman’s postmodern historical novel series, Seven Dreams, on its own. I think I had a bunch of reading for grad school and I had to quit reading this to stay sane. I’ll give it another shot in The Year of the Pig.
Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon (used paperback, third (?) attempt). Why do we feel a need to read all the big books? I made a bigger dent in GR than I did in Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, which really wasn’t that funny. I loved V; The Crying of Lot 49 is short.
Baudolino, Umberto Eco (beautiful hardback, purchased for a mere $3 in Tempe, AZ, second attempt). I was really digging this book, so again, I blame grad school (although my own laziness is the real culprit). Maybe I’ll give it another shot…
…but of course, I have stacks of unread books and mental lists of books I want to read and syllabi full of books I have to read and of course, people are always writing and publishing new books, and so well who can read it all?