Friday, May 14, 2004

A Literary Sigh

There was an interesting "Last Word" column of The New York Times about reading books in my email several days ago. (Unfortunately, the NYT site can only be accessed if you register first but it's worth it.)

Written by Laura Miller, the article muses on the ...the moment when you decide that you don't have to finish every book you start.

For some, it's like a loss of virginity; you never forget the book that defeated your naive faith in the contract between an author and his or her reader, the promise that your time and effort, even your irritation, will be fairly repaid.

It goes on to have readers' describe their own obsession to finish every book they read in ...pathological terms: "an obsession," "a sick sense of loyalty," "masochistic," something which I could quite empathize. I also liked what an editor and prodigious reader told Miller, that ...he'll sometimes read an old, forgotten book just because "I feel sorry for it". (And here I thought I was the only who did that sort of thing, especially for secondhand books I buy.)

Why subject yourself to an irksome book when so many sublime ones are available?

Before, I would disagree with this point. But now...

I don't remember the last couple of books I quit reading halfway or partway through. I DO remember the last book that I finished which bored me. I always felt it was a duty-- MY duty-- as a reader to finish the book I'm reading despite the fact that I'm having a hard time doing so.

Nowadays, it's different. For example, I haven't finished Stephen King's fourth book of The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass. It's an interesting series and I quite like King's writings but I've lost interest with this one. Likewise, I still feel quite daunted by Roger Zelazney's The Complete Chronicles of Amber despite managing to finish the first half of the damn thing.

But let's face facts: I have so little time and so many books to read.

I suppose it's because I despair of ever getting around to reading all of the books in my 'to-be' read pile in my room. Presently numbering a little over a hundred, my books are hidden in little bookshelves and drawers so as to avoid being conspicuous in my room (and to avoid crashing down on my head if ever I put them in towering piles).

And before, I was only limited to stocks in National Bookstore and Goodwill Bookstore. Now, you have a lot of options with the mainly-British publication Fully-Booked store, the independently-powered A Different Bookstore, and the entrepeneurial shops like Aegis and Booktopia. And then you also have the second-hand bookstores like Booksale and Books for Less.

Likewise, I was mainly limited to game- and movie-related speculative fiction before, like Dragonlance and Star Wars (sorry, no, I never got into Star Trek). Now you have speculative writers whose books are available locally who make the weird seem commonplace and win literary awards, too. (China Mielville and Neil Gaiman come to mind.)

So what's a poor over-read reader to do in a situation like this?

For one thing, quit whining about it and continue reading...

No comments: