There are far too many people wandering around happily in love today. It’s a terrible state of affairs. Me? I’m still waiting for that great book which will wallop me sideways and make me fall head over heels in love with it. I’m tired of waiting. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder whose fault it is that I haven’t found it yet. This is why I’ve decided to declare war on books today. Books which are preventing me from reading other books.
I’ve been pinioned to a glacier of what I’m calling Dead Slow Books, which I recently realised in a clichéd flash of blinding insight are preventing me from supporting the book industry in the way I once did.
The Dead Slow Book is like a bad boyfriend. You know the relationship just isn’t going to turn out well. You know there are plenty more books in the sea. You know that persisting with him and thinking he’s going to get better is the equivalent of going on holidays in Ireland with SPF 40 and a beach ball. But you can’t kick him out, because of the 0.07% chance that he’s actually the sort of guy who turns into a completely different person the minute you dump him and marries his next girlfriend.
Once upon a time when I couldn’t afford books because a) I was a student and spent all my money on essentials such as drink and cigarettes; and b) books were then priced at levels which often resulted in authors earning an actual living from writing good books, I read only what was highly recommended to me by the people I either borrowed or stole these books from. (The stealing was never on purpose. I was young and I needed the stories.)
It meant that I needed to exercise little or no quality control. In fact, I can still remember the first three books I abandoned without reading to the end, because back then it was such a monumental event for me to not finish a book.
But now I have c. 98 books on my To Be Read pile, and they’re ruining my reading. Purely because they’re on my shelf and unread, I feel like I have to read them, or else they can never leave my limited shelf space. And what happens? I’m getting through approximately 2 pages of these repeat offenders a day, instead of 2 books a week. I’m wading through a sludge of stories I don’t care for.
The upshot of these books is that every time I persist with one, three other books which would suit me better are lying undiscovered, unread, and unloved. And I end up without a book date for Valentine’s Day. This is not good, because pretty soon I’m going to get cranky. When I get cranky, I start thinking I’m right all the time, and if that happens, we all suffer.
I want to stress that none of the authors of my Dead Slow Books are to blame for any of this. The fault is entirely mine. Some books just don’t suit my taste, because I am a contrary person with contrary opinions, except when I’m making a point about stultifyingly safe publishing bets like I did last week, which as we all know is not contrary at all, but legal and judicial fact. Obviously.
My taste is nothing to do with the quality or otherwise, as evidenced by the number of prize-winners which don’t float my boat, let alone turn me into a blithering idiot incapable of doing anything but think about the world of the book (yes, I’m looking at you, The Finkler Question, with your wit so impenetrable that it flogged my sense of humour and then put 3 lagging jackets over it. And you, All The Light We Cannot See, with your hatred of verbs and your cramped stony living spaces full of turgid adjectives.)
But here’s the sad bit: for what is Valentine’s Day, without a little tragedy?
In the time I take to struggle through these books which don’t grab me by any part of my anatomy, let alone the goolies, I could be reading quadruple the number of books. More, even. I could be reading the books which are for me. I could be reading your book. But I’m not. I’m still forcing my eyes to move over the second-last paragraph in Chapter 16 of the bad boyfriend, having already forgotten what happened in the third-last paragraph of the same bloody chapter.
So to hell with Dead Slow Book. I’m sick of him eating my time and not paying the rent. I’m throwing him out.
After 50 pages, or 3 chapters – whichever comes first – I will no longer continue to read books which don’t grab me. After all, I’m still on the hunt for Book Heroin. I’m never going to find it if I’m zonked out on Valium.
Who’s with me?