Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And what about all those books you haven’t read?

I was looking at the shelves in my bedroom trying to figure what book to blog about and what jumped out at me was not all the good books I’ve read but all the books I haven’t. The books I, with the best of intentions, started to read and got a chapter or a few pages into and then for some unknown reason stopped.

What it is that compels a person to read an entire book? I know when a book gets me, it usually works its magic in the opening pages and then I’m hooked until the end.

I have this friend who has this “reading ethic” I admire. She shames me because my reading habits are lazy. Once she starts a book she feels obliged to read it to its end, even if she gets bored by it or doesn’t particularly like the material. She breezes through two books a week and this is a woman with four children.

I’ve got several armfuls of books lingering on my shelves because I keep telling myself that I am going to read them in the near future, that I must read them for literature’s sake. I guess the truth of the matter is if they don’t hit me emotionally or have something I can relate to in the storyline then they aren’t going to get read. Why fool myself?

I keep hoping that just because I didn’t like something when I was younger doesn’t mean I won’t when I’m older. Tastes change and to prove it, I keep all those unread books around the house.

Which brings me to my Bookmates book of the month—Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera.” I’m trying, trying to get through it right now, but man, some of Garcia Marquez’s sentences still make me roll my eyes.

“Dr. Juvenal Urbino had often thought, with no premonitory intention, that this would not be a propitious place for dying in a state of grace. But in time he came to suppose that perhaps its disorder obeyed an obscure determination of Divine Providence.”

This is not my favorite sentence and the book is loaded with similar ones. I hate the sound, the pomposity, and the alliteration “premonitory, propitious, place.” And this is just one example. Here’s where he gets me though, later in the same graph there is this dead on genius description, “The use of crutches had made his torso and arms as broad as a galley slave’s, but his defenseless legs looked like an orphan’s.” It’s beautiful, perfect, something I can picture and says so much about the observer. So it’s up and down for me with this dude. Up and down when I read him, so up and down that my mind wanders. I can’t get interested in Dr. Urbino or his laundry lists of medicines. I’m just not interested in this love story.

On the other hand, in Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” she had me hooked from the very first paragraph—a young woman struggling with her role as a daughter. I liked her idea of love in a post-apocalyptic world. Argh, I need help being a better reader or at least liking Marquez because everyone makes such a big deal out of him. What am I missing? What?