Monday, March 31, 2008

Books that Got Away

I love Belle Lettre's post on "the book that got away" - that book that you started reading but could never quite finish. Belle mentions The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, which made me want to read it again (I adore Ishiguro, and I have a special fondness for the utterly strange, utterly frustrating Unconsoled). But evidently, The Unconsoled is also my "book that got away" in the literal, rather than figurative sense, because my copy is nowhere to be found. (Any of you have it, incidentally?)

But I very much sympathize with the concept of the book that got away, because I'm rather irrationally obsessive about finishing books that I start, so the ones that I don't finish nag at me for years as well. Anna Karenina I put aside because it just isn't suited for subway reading, and never quite got around to picking it back up. Notes from the Underground, even though I really want to like it, I actually find awful and tedious - but I remain convinced (why, I have no idea) that if I just finish the thing depths will be revealed that will speak meaningfully to me. Or if not depths, perhaps acceptance that my Dostoyevsky moment has passed.

Strangest, perhaps, of my books that got away are The Savage Detectives and The People's Act of Love. Both of these books I enjoyed immensely, yet nevertheless quit reading about halfway through. I wonder if I felt they were somehow too good to finish - that I was becoming so caught up in them, I couldn't bear the inevitable loss that would come when I finally reached the end. Better, perhaps, to leave them out there as possibilities, the title and page number resting permanently on my to-do list as though I'd just stepped away from them for a bit.



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