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Saturday, April 22, 2006

A bookish Dilemma

OK then, so when is it right to give up on a book?

For reasons that I've never really understood, I've always felt very guilty when contemplating not finishing a novel. Whilst it is understandable that I struggled manfully through Andy Remic's "Spiral" (badly written, unrealistic, facile nonsense), having paid the princely sum of £6.99 for it, why do I find myself struggling to finish books borrowed on my library ticket?

Surely the point of a library ticket is that you can fill it up each trip with anything that looks in the slightest bit interesting, safe in the knowledge that you can discard it halfway through having expended little more than the effort required to carry it home? Yet every time I go to the library, I find myself agonising over what to read as much as I would in Waterstones. It is akin to forcing myself to finish everything on the plate before I can have my dessert. On those very rare occassions where I do decide that I have better things to do with my life, I feel almost a failure.

I can't understand where this compulsion comes from. Was it being forced to read and analyse turgid crap like "Love on the Dole" or "Cider with Rosie" for GCSE English? That seems unlikely, since I felt guilt before then. And it is unlikely to be my parent's influence, who drove my sister and I to the library each week from a very young age and would help us stagger out with our little arms so full of books we could barely see where we were going. The source is truly a mystery.

And at what point can it be said that you have given a book a fair chance? "The Lord of the Rings" got the heave-ho after about 100 pages with very little feeling of regret. It was obvious to me that Mr Tolkien was not going to drastically change his writing style to entertain me any time soon (something that the films proved admirably 15 years later), whilst perservering past those slow first 100 pages resulted in a very enjoyable experience with David Zeman's "The Pinocchio Syndrome".

The most recent book that has put me in such a quandry is Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason's "The Rule of Four", billed as "The Da Vinci code for people with brains" by the Independent. Having rather enjoyed the far-fetched nonsense of "The Da Vinci Code" and its (better) prequel "Angels and Demons" as well as other similar tales of Vatican naughtiness, I was quite looking forward to it. Well, I'm sorry to say that by page 99 (the end of chapter 6), bugger-all has happened. I simply can't face the remaining 422 pages and so it has been consigned to the "return to library" pile. A fact made somewhat easier by the presence of Patricia Cornwell's "Blowfly" in my "to read" pile. Rest assured that the speed at which I'm flying through that book will ensure a speedy return to the library for a replacement for "The Rule of Four".



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