Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bleh Books

The Telegraph had an article recently about abandoned books. According the article,
DBC Pierre's Booker Prize-winning novel, 'Vernon God Little', topped the list of unfinished fictional works, followed by the fourth installment of Harry Potter and James Joyce’s notoriously difficult 'Ulysses'.
I can't say I've read the first two, but I have read 'Ulysses' although it left no marked impression on me. There are books I've given up on, however.

One is 'Gravity's Rainbow' by Thomas Pynchon. I had never encountered a Pynchon book before I was recommended this one by a guy I communicated with on the internet (as you do). He was as enthused by it as the guy who described it as:
"The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II."-- Edward Mendelson, The New Republic
Frankly, I preferred 'The Great Gatsby'. GR was densely written, in a style I hated, and totally reader-unfriendly. I couldn't get into it, tried for 70 pages, and then wondered if my life was worth wasting over such a book. So I abandoned it, and even gave the book away. Sorry Marcus!

Another book I couldn't drum up the will to finish was 'Angela's Ashes' by Franck McCourt. It was so incredibly depressing, miserable, unrelentingly dire, and with no saving graces that I thought life was too short to be reading such a litany of impoverished misery. So I gave up that one too. Luckily I had borrowed it so was able to give it back with no regrets as to my purse.

I am actually pretty tenacious when it comes to getting through books. I hate missing out on things, so feel sure that at some point, the book is going to 'arrive' and it'll be plain sailing from then on. Sometimes they do, sometimes they never get better, but at least I can say I know they don't.

I had to give up on Roger Scruton's 'German Philosophers' too. It made my head reel. On the other hand, I love Alain de Botton's books, but then they are written for philosophy wimps like me (something like 'philo pour les nuls').

Still, I can proudly say that I read 'The Lord of the Rings' all the way through, once. Wasn't the film series good though?!


  1. It's extrememly rare for me to give up on a book - I usually struggle through to the end - but one book stands out particularly for me for its unreadability. In fact, I can't even remember the title...and the plot and the characters were as equally unmemorable. It's a novel by Peter Mayle, set in the art world I think.

    I couldn't get into Captain Wotsit's Mandolin either...and I was very disappointed in Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. I was given it as a birthday present and the blurb sounded fascinating...France, archeology, time-travel etc etc. I had a struggle to finish that one too. It was full of clichés.

    All the more reason to write my own I have been saying for the past forty years :-)

  2. Was the Mayle book 'Chasing Cezanne' Gigi?

    I shall remember not to read Labyrinth. Amazon's reader reviews are pretty negative about it too. I did like Captain Corelli though but would never read it again.

    As for my book, I'm wondering if I'll ever get round to finishing the editing. I need a block of time uninterrupted by children, life, or mundane tasks.

    Roll on May 5 and the results of the Telegraph competition! (Or thereabouts)

  3. Jessie gave me Angela's Ashes for one Xmas...and I loved it - but of course my roots are impoverished catholic irish!! Touched me to the very bone, and did Jessie too, which I why she sent it to me for that Xmas!

    In our look to it, was the bitter anger we can have about a certain part of the catholic clique who like to keep the underdog down and obedient and putting up with it's miserable state in order to keep them under thumb! Litany brainwashing - be grateful for God's desein whatever it may be!

  4. I saw a marvellous film on the Irish the other day called 'Evelyn' about a father's battle to get custody of his three children after his wife ran off and left him with them. They were taken into care and he had no access to them. It was set in the 1950s.

    Superb acting by James Bond guy Pierce Brosnan. The Catholic Church and Establishment were in cahoots and deprived children of loving parents. Pierce got the law overturned by making a change to the Constitution. Great stuff!

  5. I only read a chapter or two of VGL and then gave it back to the person I'd borrowed it from. Couldn't get into Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Agree about Captain Corelli, but managed to finish Labyrinth (fairly easy reading IMO) I am, I believe, one of the rare people who finished Sophie's World (just don't ask me what it was about!) and I'm proud to have got through David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas - hard work, but worth it.

  6. Ah, but did you read all the songs in Lord of the Rings? If you have, I bow down to you as I just found them, well crap...

  7. Er, no, Helen, not the songs. They are beyond the call of duty!

  8. I, too, am like Gigi - if I put down a book before finishing it once in every five years, that's about it. I keep reading and thinking 'Well it must get better soon' and suddenly I am at the end! I actually enjoyed Vernon God Little! HATE P Mayle - I read his first 'A Year in Provence' and don't think I have ever read such an amazingly condescending book in my life - 'mon brave' par ci, 'mon brave' par là - no wonder the Brits who move to France act so appallingly (yes, it's join the Richard Club today).

    Isn't Piers Brosnan GORGEOUS!

  9. My bedside has a stack of books that is in danger of tipping over...all of them partially read. When will I ever finish them all? Must I stop reading blogs to read those books? Never!!

    Meilleurs voeux!!

  10. Have you actually finished your book, Sarah? If you have - that's wonderful! I despair of ever finishing anything.

    I think the Mayle book probably was "Chasing Cézanne". I gave up the chase very early on.

    I did like "Sophie's World", though - very much. Also "Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow" - and my all-time favourites must be "The Go-Between" and "The Remains of the Day".

  11. As said elsewhere I got through La Grande Guerre. I also got through 'l'histoire des francaises ' which was really interesting.
    I read Sarko's Temoinage wasn't bad. I've just given up on L'argent de la terreur. Badly written (by a flic). Also 'La Découverte du Monde' Edwy Plenel. I read a book about coton. Reasonably interesting.I read one page of Mayle and vomited.

    Anyway right now I am concentrating on Francis Lefebvre Comptabilté and Fiscalité because I have to do my tax return.It's very well written, well referenced, fascinating.I prefer it to novels and intellectual pseudory

  12. Cotton, Richard? You read a whole book about cotton?

    And you didn't even lose the thread?

  13. Yes, I have finished it, Gigi. It has a beginning, middle and end, but needs tidying up. That's what I can't get down to.

    I will finish it, someday, probably...

    I'm just lacking time.

  14. Very clever gigi haha.

    Yes I visited some boring people for the weekend so instead of talking to them I decided to just eat their meals, drink their wine and read their books. Or at least one of them. It was some guy who decided to write about the phenomenon of globalisation by analysing the cotton industry. He went to see peasants in Africa, the cotton exchange in America, the large plantations in America, the new plantations in Brazil where they are clearing the jungle and the textile industry in China.

    Boring hosts, boring books.

  15. Some books look boring and turn out to be fascinating. I remember picking up a book on Château Yqem and reading it from cover to cover one afternoon. It was riveting - all about Noble Rot and wot not. Sine then (it was more than twenty years ago), I've always wanted to taste some.

    And I will do one day...


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