Books you stopped reading (for whatever reason)

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I can usually get through anything cuz i'm a glutton for punishment. And consciously deciding to stop reading a book is different than just starting a book and not getting around to finishing it cuz you are lazy or drunk.Recently I started reading A Multitude Of Sins by Richard Ford and god knows i tried but I just couldn't do it. He is just too boring and tedious to me. And I love that whole americana-middle-class discontent-sad desperation-slice of life thing. hell, i was weened on Carver and all the rest of them. Richard Yates is a god to me. John O'hara, you betcha! All the way back to sinclair friggin' lewis and sherwood friggin' anderson. But Ford is deadly. I couldn't read Independence Day either. He won the Pulitzer for that thing. He's one of those writer's writers. ya know? Constantly being compared to Chekhov. I was actually going to start a list of short-story writers who get compared to Chekhov. There are tons! Apparently Chekhov was a dime a dozen the way they throw his name around. Alice Munro is about the only person i would compare to Chekhov. Of living writers that i'm familiar with.But that's me. How about you? Who have you thrown against the wall lately?

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:07 (twenty years ago) link

"The Glass Bead Game" by Hermann Hesse. First chapter good, though.

fcussen (Burger), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:09 (twenty years ago) link

RE:Hesse-Loved Beneath The Wheel & Demian when i wa a kid cuz i was convinced that i was a tortured genius(turns out i wasn't).And i never finished Steppenwolf cuz i was convinced that i was gonna turn out like the hero. Not only that, I never even finished watching the movie for the same reason!(I'll let you know in 20 years if i become an embittered crank)

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:14 (twenty years ago) link

This summer I tried reading Hesse's story collection News from a Distant Star and I didn't get past the second one. I put Infinite Jest down mid-footnote a month ago and have yet to return to the main body of the text.

I like the idea of this board, and feel bad for the way I've contributed so far, just throwing in an additional item rather than furthering conversation.

So here goes: This may or may not be interesting to consider, but when is the reader at fault for giving up on a book? Lots of books are supposed to be difficult, and in the present dumbed down world the concentration required to finish books may even be an antidote to ADD. So yeah, to sum up, when's it our fault, and when's it theirs? Is it my problem I can't get through Gaddis's Recognitions or is he just obnoxious (or is this question just obnoxious?)?

otto, Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:24 (twenty years ago) link

It's been a while since I've bailed on a book. Two that I remember: The Recognitions by Gaddis and Other People by Martin Amis. I really really wanted to like THe Recognitions, and I did like it for the first couple hundred pages, but then I just lost interest - and the darned thing is just so so long - it intimidated me. It was the long dialogue scenes between the malevolent capitalist dude and the suffering artist guy that did me in, I think, though I could be mixing up a few characters. Other People never really got off the ground. Just lame. It tries so hard to be nihilistic and jaded, but it comes across like a pimply sophomore who wears all black and smokes clove cigarettes.

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:24 (twenty years ago) link

Wow, major xpost. We both mentioned The Recognitions. Coincidence?

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:26 (twenty years ago) link

Andre Dubus - Selected stories. I saw In the Bedroom and thought it was really great, and I after I found out it was based on a story of Dubus', I picked up the collection but only got through 3 1/2 shorts...if I read any more I would have slit my wrists. He looks so happy on the cover too.

Berkeley Sackett (calstars), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:30 (twenty years ago) link

Kismet. Or maybe it's one of the most difficult to get through books there is, and so people like me (and you, O.?) feel compelled to add it to our book cases like trophies. I'll admit that when I was younger that's why I read Joyce and Proust. I wonder what percentage of people's trophy books are the first unfinished books to come to mind. For instance, I didn't disclose my more recent inability to get into Andre Norton's Witchworld, but instead Infinite Jest sprang first to mind.

otto, Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:36 (twenty years ago) link

Well, I don't have a lot of trophy books in my bookcase - in fact I don't even have a bookcase at this point. All of my books are piled on the floor or in boxes. I actually blame Infinite Jest for making me buy The Recognitions, just because of the blurb on the back that mentions Gaddis's name in the same sentence with Pynchon (another of my faves). But I never had any trouble finishing Infinite Jest or Gravity's Rainbow or other supposedly difficult books.

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:39 (twenty years ago) link

So should I give Infinite Jest another go?

otto, Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:42 (twenty years ago) link

i just picked up andre dubus's selected stories yesterday at the thrift store and looking through it i said to myself, whooo, heavy. i will give it a try though. although i'm kinda looking forward to the 2 thom jones collections i picked up around thanksgiving more. he can be heavy too, but he's also really really entertaining.And maybe i'm just more in the mood for entertaining.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 18 December 2003 02:46 (twenty years ago) link

So should I give Infinite Jest another go?

Well, that's a tough call. I personally enjoyed it and found it quite readable. At the same time, I wouldn't say it is a must-read type of book. I'd say, give it another chance, and if you still don't find yourself getting interested, then bail on it with my blessings.

o. nate (onate), Thursday, 18 December 2003 03:36 (twenty years ago) link

"The Recognitions" is meant to be his most difficult (I haven't read it at all), I'm reading "A Frolic of His Own" right now and really enjoying it, so if you've got any continued interest in his stuff give that a go maybe

Andrew Thames (Andrew Thames), Thursday, 18 December 2003 03:43 (twenty years ago) link

In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches. I made it through the first few chapters, and after the screed on the publishing community, I'd had enough. I don't think this was my fault for not reading it, I just really hated it. I was over a 100 pages in and felt like it wasn't going anywhere I was going to like. I was expecting something more on the order of the Club Dumas (9th Gate) and instead I got overwritten hystrionics.

anthony kyle monday (akmonday), Thursday, 18 December 2003 03:44 (twenty years ago) link

I thought that JR was supposed to be even more difficult than The Recognitions. At least it looks difficult from skimming it. I might try Recognitions again at some point - I still have it.


o. nate (onate), Thursday, 18 December 2003 03:45 (twenty years ago) link

I gave up on Independence Day too!

Shmuel (shmuel), Thursday, 18 December 2003 12:45 (twenty years ago) link

Well i didnt even get to Independence Day - i bailed on The Sportswriter.

jed (jed_e_3), Thursday, 18 December 2003 15:30 (twenty years ago) link

"Infinite Jest" and "A Frolic of His Own" are mine, as well. Despite the number of good reviews when I bought them. I'll probably go back to "A Frolic of His Own", because I respect the person who suggested I read it. ("Independence Day" is in the big to-read pile, fwiw).

Chris Hill (Chris Hill), Thursday, 18 December 2003 15:37 (twenty years ago) link

I don't think Gaddis is really difficult, he's just demanding. He has to be read in huge chunks when you have a lot of time and aren't tired. But the action in his books is absolutely straightforward. Reading him I never feel like "I don't know what these words are supposed to mean" the way I sometimes do with Joyce or "I don't know what's going on on this page" the way I sometimes do with Pynchon. Try "JR" -- a very funny book. (Although the "art good, business bad" stuff is kinda lame.)

I've never been able to read Phillip K. Dick. I know that makes me a lesser person, but there's always something that makes me go "oh, brother" and toss the book aside.

Not That Chuck, Thursday, 18 December 2003 15:49 (twenty years ago) link

eco:foucalt's pendulum

i read three quarters with a dictionary and encyclopedia by my side, then developed a theory that Eco was trying to beat me into submission so that he could use me as a vehicle for the real message he was masking under the web of esoteric references.
but it never happened, he just keep going. we reached a standoff and i decided that if he was going to continue then he could do it without me.

dz, Thursday, 18 December 2003 16:21 (twenty years ago) link

the plot actually starts on page 600 or so of that book - it really isnt worth it though!

jed (jed_e_3), Thursday, 18 December 2003 16:55 (twenty years ago) link

I gave up on Foucalt's Pedelum...but

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen owns this thread....I gave up on it awhile was more of a personal decision, it was actually, in the literal sense, making me depressed...I guess the midwestern, middle class despair was too close to the bone....also, after awhile I just wanted to smack the characters and tell them to shut up and shape up! (fix up look sharp)

I say it owns this thread because I have a friend that did the same thing, and when I talked to my grandmother at Thanksgiving she had also given up on the Corrections..

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Thursday, 18 December 2003 18:21 (twenty years ago) link

I've never been able to read Phillip K. Dick. I know that makes me a lesser person, but there's always something that makes me go "oh, brother" and toss the book aside.

Is it "presently" and "anyhow"?

fcussen (Burger), Thursday, 18 December 2003 20:17 (twenty years ago) link

Matt - i love "The Corrections" i have read it twice in the past year. Gary is an amazing character i think - i can't believe hes not walking around right now - he seems so real and vivid to me.

jed (jed_e_3), Thursday, 18 December 2003 20:24 (twenty years ago) link

Got about 50 pages into Glass Bead Game and The Fountainhead. Both were real bores to me. For some reason I cant make it through Vineland either, but I like what I've read.

brg30 (brg30), Thursday, 18 December 2003 23:13 (twenty years ago) link

me too with vineland - i think the godzilla thing killed it for me.

jed (jed_e_3), Friday, 19 December 2003 00:20 (twenty years ago) link

I should try the Corrections again....I got through Vineland but it is goofy as f@#k I remember liking it but I don't recall that much, actually

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Friday, 19 December 2003 02:26 (twenty years ago) link

I love Foucalt's Pendulum! I wished that it would never end, and that the book would suck me into its pages and into its plot, I loved it so much!

Recently, I couldn't get more than a few pages into Northern Lights. I fear I have lost the ability to read fantasy novels. I mentioned on the ILE Ayn Rand thread that I couldn't get more than 5 pages into The Fountainhead. I am unable to penetrate William Gibson or Philip K. Dick. Pynchon's V lost me after a dedicated try which got me nearly a quarter of the way through.

Oh, and Underworld. I gave it the old college try, but gave up amidst all the baseball references.

HRH Queen Kate (kate), Friday, 19 December 2003 11:09 (twenty years ago) link

The Crying of Lot 49. It was so tedious. And then when my old man said oh yeah, that's the point of the book, I said oh, well then I don't need to finish it, do I?

Another was A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I find Dave Eggers really irritating.

Kate, I staggered through Northern Lights and thought it was really boring and dull, so I didn't read the next one. Darren did and said it was really good, so I gave it a try and it's actually way better. Especially since it's from another character's POV.

Catty (Catty), Friday, 19 December 2003 11:56 (twenty years ago) link

I'm quite relieved to see other people gave up on Infinite Jest, too. I'd heard there was a great grammar police gag in it, but my copy is a foot thick with 9point type. Couple that with endless pages on "should I or shouldn't I go get dope" and the book is now propping open my reception room door.

Catty (Catty), Friday, 19 December 2003 11:59 (twenty years ago) link

I loved Infinite Jest, and actually that "should I get dope or not" part was my'll make you straight edge.

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Friday, 19 December 2003 22:38 (twenty years ago) link

Mine is Underworld also, but really there wasn't enough baseball for me. I read almost half of it before I just gave up from its boresomeness. And I never ever leave a book unread (almost did with Oscar & Lucinda but finished it after I saw the film).

Leee Marvin (Leee), Friday, 19 December 2003 23:08 (twenty years ago) link

Well i didnt even get to Independence Day - i bailed on The Sportswriter.

Me too. The thing is, I love Ford's short stories, especially Rock Springs. But even though there were some great scenes in The Sportswriter, I kept not wanting to pick it back up and finally didn't. I just wasn't interested. On the other hand, I saw him give a reading earlier this year of an excerpt from the forthcoming third book in that series (I guess he's making it into his own Rabbit chronicles), and at least the part he read was really good and surprisingly funny (since I don't think of him as a "funny" writer).

Two other notables I quit on: Kavalier and Clay (is it just me or is Chabon a little on the expository side? I was kind of enjoying, though; maybe I'll take it back up) and Cold Mountain (overwritten, overreaching, overrripe). I did finish Infinite Jest and mostly liked it all the way through, but I still think DFW writes better nonfiction than fiction.

spittle (spittle), Sunday, 21 December 2003 20:11 (twenty years ago) link

two weeks pass...
couldn't get hrough "Remains of the Day"
thought the movie was lovely, great acting, all that English repressed emotional stuff--but on the page, eh gads-terribly BORING!

laura donovan, Tuesday, 6 January 2004 01:13 (twenty years ago) link

and badly written to boot.

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 6 January 2004 01:31 (twenty years ago) link

possession by AS Byatt. thought it sounded interesting- bought it. told friend who said that she hated the book so much she threw it away. hope i wasn't prejudiced by that but found it so tedious... on and on, where's the plot? and now it is gathering dust (don't believe in throwing books) and maybe someday when i feel either really bored or more patient, i shall attempt it again.
AHWOSG- somewhere in the middle. it's definately not a 'page-turner' for me... it in turns leaves me amused or baffled.
and pickwick papers... i don't know why but all Charles Dickens books i have tried makes me bored. which is sad because i like victorian gothic-ish books. i don't seem to 'get' all the stuff people praise him for....hmn....
yup- these are the books that brings up feelings of guilty abandonment.

unfazed, Tuesday, 6 January 2004 07:27 (twenty years ago) link

Gaddis' Recognitions is well worth it, in my view, although it does require an investment of both time and concentration. It's true that Gaddis limits his thematics--in all his books, really--in a way that leads one to think that he could likely have done with some serious tightening, but of his 3 long books, The Recognitions is the one for which that's least true, where all that stormy circling round the eye actually turns to upward/downward spirals, where the sidelong torments over authenticity and forgery lead to depth of expression rather than extended polemic (which JR and Frolic, but not Carpenter's Gothic, tend to tend toward, although JR succeeds because it pressure-filters the polemic into high melodrama in a manic Altmann/Nashville mode [including the wide-framing technique, the broad relief], whereas Frolic merely attempts to overcome the tedium of its assault through more of a highbrow slapstick, which is hilarious in certain cases, but mostly drowns the book in overwrought agitation).

So Frolic's the one I quit on, half through. Had to.

Finnegan's Wake also seems like an obvious book to stop during, one of those cases where the book seems to demonstrate its point far too soon, then crank, and crank, and crank, until the valve or the gasket breaks. You end up feeling a bit like Chaplin through the gears, or a victim of Rube Goldberg.

And for whatever reason I can't read Mann for the life of me, nor Eliot. Both just seem thudding and awful.


Matthew K (mtk), Tuesday, 6 January 2004 16:37 (twenty years ago) link

What Gaddis would you reccommend for a beginner Matthew? im thinking Carpenters Gothic (cos it's short!).

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 6 January 2004 17:17 (twenty years ago) link


I'll still say to read the Recognitions first-- people make the same mistake with Pynchon, reading Crying of Lot 49 first because it fits in your ass pocket, and then thinking that Pynchon's much more pop or cutesy than he eventually turns out to be (although I'd make the argument that 49 rehabilitates itself not once but three different times over the course of the book, an odd and unlikely feat for such a little thing).

Anyway, Carpenter's Gothic is a good, extremely claustrophobic elaboration for Gaddis, but _very_ dry, and a bit slight, in comparison to The Recognitions--it's wonderful in the company of JR and The Recognitions, but by itself doesn't really do what the other two were able.

The Recognitions contains, IMO, the main kernel of what Gaddis does for the rest of his career, and is the only one I'd feel comfortable saying that one could read and then forgo the others. It may be his most readable, as well, excepting maybe the 200 pages after the halfway point. Stick it through. It's one of the few books where I can honestly say I felt palpably _changed_ after having read it. Although, granted, that could have been a sign of age: I've grown prematurely crotchety about this sort of thing. But nonetheless, there was a time when it slipped right through the bobwire and downed a calf or two. It happened. I bled.



Matthew K (mtk), Tuesday, 6 January 2004 18:24 (twenty years ago) link

cheers Matt - i'll seek out the recognitions then, although i like "the crying..." and thought it was a decent if not representative introduction to Pynchon. Having said that - the only other thing i have got through by him was "mason & Dixon"

jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 7 January 2004 12:50 (twenty years ago) link

Underworld, after the Giants - Dodgersv with Jackie Gleason and J. Edgar Hoover, I just didn't care about the waste management guy.

P Gray, Wednesday, 7 January 2004 16:46 (twenty years ago) link

"Life of Pi" I am a very selfish reader. Usually if I can't identify with a character or situation in like the first 40 pages, I chuck it.

bnw (bnw), Wednesday, 7 January 2004 18:42 (twenty years ago) link

Sorry to hear that about the "Life of Pi." I need to read that and "Noble Nofleet" for a book club on the 23rd. I suppose I will give it the old college try nonetheless.

(sallying), Wednesday, 7 January 2004 23:04 (twenty years ago) link

Life of Pi didn't really get going for me until the end of that first section. Then it careered along like an out of control locomotive.

MikeyG (MikeyG), Thursday, 8 January 2004 11:47 (twenty years ago) link

Dino - gawd, I nearly started boozing myself just to forget HIS boozing. :-)

nathalie (nathalie), Thursday, 8 January 2004 15:35 (twenty years ago) link

Infinite Jest twice. The first was at age 17, when it was mostly over my head. I got to p. 100. The second was last year; I understood it better, but it seemed so pointless. I got to the same place, maybe a little further. What irks me is I have a couple friends who worship the book, and I keep feeling like I'm not being patient enough or something.

jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 9 January 2004 20:07 (twenty years ago) link

I started reading Anna Kavan's "The Parson" the other day; it's total crap, so I hurled it far from me. I love vintage Kavan, but this was an unpublished manuscript found among her papers and should, in my opinion, never have seen the light of day.

R the V (Jake Proudlock), Friday, 9 January 2004 21:20 (twenty years ago) link

Speaking of Eco, how about 'The Island of the Day Before' or
'Baudolino'? I dived in on both only to come up gasping for air half way into both books. I loved 'Name of the Rose' but I wonder if he is trying too hard with his later books.

Steve Walker (Quietman), Monday, 12 January 2004 02:53 (twenty years ago) link

The Long Gray Line or The Thin Blue Line or something like that. It's a massive journalistic thing about West Point Military Academy. I may have been hoping for something more scandalous, like Susan Faludi's NYer piece on the Citadel. The book had too much of a buy-in to the values it depicted.

Another nonfiction book I had long meant to read and gave up on was Common Ground, about desegregation violence in Boston in the 1970s. In order to provide sufficient background, the author seemed to have started in about the 1400s.

And The Museum Guard by Canadian novelist Howard Norman. Too repetitious, material stretched too thin. I know it was a style thing, but still.

Janet Gurn-Soosy, Monday, 12 January 2004 04:33 (twenty years ago) link

Oh, and the novel Great Neck, about wealthy Long Island youngsters who become civil rights radicals. Several reasons: the author had some irritating tics, he ceased to develop the characters as people once they appeared on the political stage, and he had that whole parallel-life-as-comics-characters thing going. (Why are comics so popular in novels right now?) The only person I could possibly stomach that from would be Jonatham Lethem. I loved Motherless Brooklyn but would have to kill myself from despondency if I read Fortress of Solitude.

Janet Young, Monday, 12 January 2004 04:39 (twenty years ago) link

xp well played

organ doner (ledge), Monday, 11 December 2023 16:07 (two months ago) link

lol I don't know how anyone could get a rec for Ishiguro based on Mishima and Oe aside from racism

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 11 December 2023 20:16 (two months ago) link

I guess it's inevitable that books I like (Remains of the Day) or love (Herzog) will show up.

o. nate, Monday, 11 December 2023 20:31 (two months ago) link

Certain of my favourite books, like Naked Lunch, really don't have to be read in full to get it or not get it. I mean I like the book in its totality, but if anyone didn't like any random 30 pages of the book, I don't know that they would benefit from forging onward.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 11 December 2023 20:45 (two months ago) link

I bought The Country Will Bring Us No Peace by Matthieu Simard last night. Gave up after 30 pages. Luckily it only cost me 89p.

organ doner (ledge), Monday, 11 December 2023 20:52 (two months ago) link

The Bible. Despite "we see through a glass darkly" and even "Take a little wine for thy stomach's sake," Paul/Ex-cop Saul can't help being a drag, and I know how it ends (thanks, spoilers).

dow, Tuesday, 12 December 2023 03:47 (two months ago) link

I get stuck on "Jane and Prudence" although I otherwise love Pym

Also gave up "Neuromancer" and Harrison's "Light" because I found them incomprehensible. Obviously Harrison is a better writer, but with both it was a case of "these words cannot create a picture in my brain"

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 12 December 2023 13:20 (two months ago) link

lol I don't know how anyone could get a rec for Ishiguro based on Mishima and Oe aside from racism

Mm that might be a step too far, generally recommending “other Japanese authors” because of my interest in the postwar Oe-Mishima axis, but you’re not wrong really

spider alert: 🕷️🕷️ (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 12 December 2023 13:33 (two months ago) link

I might enjoy Murakami more now that I’m not expecting earth-tilting politicism

spider alert: 🕷️🕷️ (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 12 December 2023 13:35 (two months ago) link

Think I went to Murakami first -- Wind-up Bird Chronicle is still more than worth a read imo -- as then went back to those others as Murakami disliked them.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 12 December 2023 13:50 (two months ago) link

I thought Men Without Women was outstanding.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 13 December 2023 00:48 (two months ago) link

Mm that might be a step too far, generally recommending “other Japanese authors” because of my interest in the postwar Oe-Mishima axis, but you’re not wrong really

But Ishiguro isn't Japanese! It is his heritage and part of his identity sure but for the most part he is a British author with very British concerns. As someone who also moved to a different country as a very young kid I feel v defensive of ppl assuming "identity = place of birth".

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 10:06 (two months ago) link

I dunno, his first two novels are on Japanese themes (as well as British ones) so it's not entirely wrong to place him, at least for a while, within a Japanese writerly tradition.

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 10:29 (two months ago) link

He's never written in Japanese, and is in fact on record as saying his Japanese is not fluent. And his most famous novel is the most British thing ever. I agree with Daniel, he's basically British, but with a Japanese heritage.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 11:10 (two months ago) link

Some authors are affiliated with different places. Being born of Japanese parents in Japan and moving at age 2 is one thing, being born of Ukrainian parents and moving at age 1 to Brazil is already another thing, I think of Nabokov, Conrad, Taiye Selasi... some people cannot be placed and there is no line to be drawn without being reductive.

Nabozo, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 14:19 (two months ago) link

what about books by favorite authors that you have never managed to finish. and not so much authors whom you love for one one book like all those Christina Stead books i tried to read that weren't The Man Who Loved Children or i would be here all day. but authors who make your own hall of fame. i have attempted The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark thrice i believe. never made it more than 50 pages i don't think. don't remember why. could be the setting. when i try it a fourth time i'll make a note of why i stop again.

scott seward, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 15:12 (two months ago) link

"for one book"...

scott seward, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 15:12 (two months ago) link

For some years, I have been having a very difficult time finishing any book. I always end up putting them down 2/3s of the way through and then finding it almost impossible to pick them back up. It's kind of like executive dysfunction on a literary scale and I don't know how to deal with it. Short story collections have helped a fair amount, but I want to read big thick novels again!

emil.y, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 15:15 (two months ago) link

I actually hit upon an idea the other week -- and which this thread has solidified -- which is to do re-reading as sections of big books (or small ones) again.

I want to revisit stuff without the need of having to finish.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 13 December 2023 15:30 (two months ago) link

Ah! I didn’t even myself realize Ishiguro was not Japanese. Well then! I suck as much as my friend. Ishiguro’s novel still got binned

Nabokov and Conrad good examples of “not of a single place”.

I unabashedly non-guilty pleasure love David Mitchell’s pulpy good time novels and for a long time joked that number9dream was “Murakami’s only good novel” but I should revisit Murakami I suppose

I have a copy of Mishima Thirst For Love I’ve never finished. Different translator, I think; Donald Keene was my favourite. A translator friend tells me Mishima has a couple novels just-translated from Japanese and the work is insanely good; have to order them. Idk I like Mishima but my interest has waned as I’ve aged.

Didn’t love The Dalkey Archive but I didn’t struggle with it. It’s the only O’Brien I haven’t reread

Idk how I feel about Coetzee, I read Disgrace and was like “oh he’s Philip Roth but in South Africa”, but a friend recommended Waiting For The Barbarians and I only got 50 pages in before I put it into the donation stack

spider alert: 🕷️🕷️ (flamboyant goon tie included), Wednesday, 13 December 2023 17:23 (two months ago) link

JR, Gaddis - realized the payoff would not be worth the immense effort
Pylon, Faulkner - starting reading it before watching The Tarnished Angels, stopped when I realized I was saying the word "yair" out loud every time I read it
Nightwood, Barnes - insufferable pretentious prose
Ada, Nabokov - insufferable pompous narrator. If that's "the point" I still don't want to know
The Process, Gysin - some gross description I don't remember in the opening pages put me off
Dhalgren, Delany - had my fill of depictions of late-60s urban counterculture with hallucinatory/SF trappings
The Tin Drum, Grass - had my fill of unfunny grotesque slapstick making fun of Nazis
Sleep Has His House, Kavan - first she describes some psychological situation from her past, then she depicts it in "dream form", the two parts undermining each other. I loved Ice, though, where the hallucinatory setting stands on its own without explication
Song of the Silent Snow, Selby - liked or loved his previous four books, found this collection of short stories pointless

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 14 December 2023 16:28 (two months ago) link

i would think The Room would be the step too far for some people when it comes to Selby. its rough to get through.

the only Nabokov i ever finished was Invitation to a Beheading. maybe because it was short. i gave up on Lolita more than once. its the kind of writing that drives me crazy. like Pynchon. i'll bet AI robots could write some good Nabokov books. someone should start publishing AI Pynchon books! he would probably dig them.

scott seward, Thursday, 14 December 2023 18:52 (two months ago) link

Dhalgren, Delany - had my fill of depictions of late-60s urban counterculture with hallucinatory/SF trappings
The Tin Drum, Grass - had my fill of unfunny grotesque slapstick making fun of Nazis

These are two of my favorite books ever, haha

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 14 December 2023 18:53 (two months ago) link

Wow Scott! Nabokov is one of my favourites, and Beheading one of my least-favourites. Wish you liked his prose style more, I think he's amazing. If you want a shorter book by him give Pnin a shot

i do, what’s wrong with that? so? what now? (flamboyant goon tie included), Thursday, 14 December 2023 20:29 (two months ago) link

I quit reading the Magicians series somewhere, I think probably 3/4 of the way through book 2. I liked them, but it took me a long time to read them and for some reason i got totally confused somewhere in Book 2, couldn't tell some characters apart, and then figured fuck it I don't really need to read these (I stopped watching the tv series later when it started as well. I guess...maybe I don't like it?)

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Thursday, 14 December 2023 21:48 (two months ago) link

I haven't finished Dhalgren either, but only because I can never seem to settle into the formal shift in Ch. 7. I think it's a fascinating book.

jmm, Thursday, 14 December 2023 22:07 (two months ago) link

I should have stopped reading The Magicians but unfortunately I finished it

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 15 December 2023 00:32 (two months ago) link

Ada or Ardor and Nightwood definitely flawed overblown works I had to power through. I guess it's a style. The opening medieval sexual fantasy in Ada had enough charm, the rest is really long and Nabokov is insufferable as a narrator.
I was quite impressed by The Tin Drum. The line between awe and irritation in literary experiments can be really thin. In certain works (Musil a good example), I experienced both reactions almost simultaneously. Mann as an example of an author who made me blush me with one work, and count the pages with another. A book can be a bit like dating.

Nabozo, Friday, 15 December 2023 09:53 (two months ago) link

I haven't read all of Nabokov's novels, but while Lolita is a remarkable accomplishment, the one I thought was most interesting (and entertaining) was Pale Fire.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 15 December 2023 14:23 (two months ago) link

Yeah on many days Pale Fire is my favourite English-language novel

i do, what’s wrong with that? so? what now? (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 15 December 2023 14:51 (two months ago) link

That one I did finish, though I can't say I loved it.

Thought of another I didn't complete: Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 15 December 2023 15:03 (two months ago) link

I very rarely abandon a record or a movie once I've started it, but I don't have those compunctions around fiction; because books take longer to read, and I'm not really invested in the history and the technique of literature in the same way I am with music and film.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 15 December 2023 15:31 (two months ago) link

Yeah I had an American pomo phase in my early 20s where I picked up everything I could find by Barth, Barthelme (Donald) and Coover at the used stores. I don’t think I finished anything by Barth in the end. Love the other two tho

i do, what’s wrong with that? so? what now? (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 15 December 2023 16:09 (two months ago) link

i think i tried pomo people and quickly realized i didn't have what it took to read them. i was going to buy some barthleme the other day though. because he was funny and his shorts were often very short. my kinda pomo. i went to a new new/used bookstore down the road from me - the guy also has a store in brooklyn and please don't let this mean that we are going to be the new brooklyn - and his used fiction was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 80s gen x bookish grad student dude and it made me itchy. so much barth/coover/hawkes and also bellow/roth/updike/etc. so much of it was stuff that was happening in 1986. nothing old or creaky enough for me. it gets harder and harder for me to find a store that sells 50s/60s/70s hardcover OOP fiction. or obscure 19th/early 20th century stuff. the section had to have been 90% dudes. and i read probably 75% laydeez when it comes to fiction. i couldn't help but think that anyone under 50 would just fall asleep looking at all of that on shelves. his new book section was MUCH happier and hipper and i got some great stuff over there. he also had about 10 huge shelves of used poetry and i thought this was admirable because they will no doubt sit there for people to read in the store long after my death.

scott seward, Friday, 15 December 2023 17:52 (two months ago) link



scott seward, Friday, 15 December 2023 17:52 (two months ago) link

My copy of Coover’s “Universal Baseball Assoc.” sits neatly on my shelf right next to Darnielle’s “Wolf In White Van”, sorted alphabetically by author, but it’s also a topically appropriate adjacency

i do, what’s wrong with that? so? what now? (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 15 December 2023 18:35 (two months ago) link

Also D Barthelme’s 60 Stories is kinda the ne plus ultra of easy pomo reading, I love it

i do, what’s wrong with that? so? what now? (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 15 December 2023 18:37 (two months ago) link

I read Barth's The End of the Road and some Coover and Barthelme over the years but my brain lacks the dendrites or whatever to absorb them.

i have been enjoying diane williams and gary lutz collections of stories. they are inspiring to me in a pomo way. i read a couple here and there for a boost.

scott seward, Friday, 15 December 2023 18:56 (two months ago) link

I'll tell you who I've been rereading with pleasure: Joy Williams. What a story writer.

Ya she rules. My favourite Carver collection is Cathedral, whereby Gordon Lish had free rein to posthumously divorce the late Raymond from his Hemingway affectations. I found out about Williams via the Lish connection

i do, what’s wrong with that? so? what now? (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 15 December 2023 19:06 (two months ago) link

i've been reading her since breaking and entering came out and been a huge fan ever since. she has truly inspired me over the years. she has always been big with other writers and i think she is finally better known with regular folks as well. partly because of her environmental stances. (i'm sure you will find me raving about her years ago on ILB and wondering why more people don't read her and now i feel like people really are.)

scott seward, Friday, 15 December 2023 19:30 (two months ago) link

Yeah her early stories and first novel, State of Grace---Florida girl clouds ov imagery around crisis lines, narrative third and other rails---were revelatory to me, though haven't followed her very well since. A relatively recent New Yorker story seemed unfollowable, and interviews can incl. some Joyce-Carol-Oates-on-Twitter-level snobbery, but the early stuff, at least, is fine as wine.

dow, Saturday, 16 December 2023 19:05 (two months ago) link

she's 79 and still doing stuff. god bless. i think she's always been a little cranky.

scott seward, Saturday, 16 December 2023 22:14 (two months ago) link

I know that I've heard some of her stories read on "Selected Shorts," and I've loved them, but I can't think of what they were.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Saturday, 16 December 2023 22:23 (two months ago) link

I didn't discover her until 2021, and the rhythm, brevity, and its gnomic virtues gripped me from the start

stuffing your suit pockets with cold, stale chicken tende (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 16 December 2023 22:27 (two months ago) link

"Marabou" was definitely one.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Saturday, 16 December 2023 22:30 (two months ago) link

love that joy williams and gary lutz have come up, they are the greatest

a friend of mine once compared my writing to gary lutz which is an amazing (and undeserved) compliment

ivy., Saturday, 16 December 2023 22:40 (two months ago) link

ada was one of my favorite books forever ago! reckon these days it'd make my eyes roll so hard they corkscrew out the back of my skull

+1 to the bible-giver-uppers: i was never a believer but in my teens decided i should read it for its literary and cultural value (and also to brag) but within the first few pages god cursed eve and all womankind so i ripped it up and set it on fire because i absolutely do not play that

🍍🥧 (cat), Tuesday, 19 December 2023 14:55 (two months ago) link

more recently i tried frederik pohl's beyond the blue event horizon and it was like chapter 1: "no young man, do not commit rape. there is only a 1 in 6 chance you will enjoy it enough for it to be worth the effort lololol" chapter 2: "dear diary, it sure is tiresome to be a forty year old dude on a cramped spaceship with my bitchy wife and her bitchy 14 year old sister who keeps trying to seduce me, guess there's nothing to do but keep beating the ship's (female) computer at chess lololol" and there were some promising sci-fi concepts to begin with but a writer has to be way more entertaining to get me to power through that much hatred

🍍🥧 (cat), Tuesday, 19 December 2023 15:11 (two months ago) link

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