Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is Half a Book Better Than None?

I brought to South Carolina two half-read books that I thought I might finish. One I’m totally interested in, so it’s a mystery to me why I simply don’t finish it, but I started it in October, and yet here it is January, its bookmark nestled at page 213. The other one, a memoir, keeps annoying me—it’s self-indulgent and irritating for pages and pages, yet then comes up with some amazing insight that makes me fold over the corner of the page. It’s also extremely easy and unchallenging to read, so given how busy I’ve been here, I find it relaxing to pick it up before bedtime when I’m tired of thinking. (Until yesterday night—yeah cable guy!—I’ve had basically one or two snowy and fuzzy channels on my TV, so I guess this is a book fulfilling that role of relaxing mindlessness.)

But the real question is, why don’t I just set it aside? Why do I keep pushing through it? (It’s 365 pages, and I’ve got a ways to go.) Is it because I’m from Iowa, because I’m so darn stubborn that I need to FINISH a book, even though it isn’t satisfying? I’ve heard of people who read 50 pages or so and if they don’t like it, they’ll happily set the book aside without a lick of angst and move on to the next one. In my next life, I hope I’m one of those people.

Several years ago, I tried to read Atonement, and got halfway through—to the place where “Part II” was about to start and just stopped, even though I thought the book was fine enough. But the bookmark is still there, and I still feel guilty about the whole situation. (I even thought about bringing it to South Carolina, too!)

I guess I don’t like that state of limbo. If I don’t finish, I can’t list it in my “books journal” and move it to a new bookshelf. So I guess I’ll just keep plowing. I’ll let you know if I ever finish or if it quietly disappears onto the shelves in the basement, to the place of guilt, next to Atonement.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.