Are You Going To Finish That?

Last night I ended it.  It lasted over a month, and it was the epitome of an on-again-off-again relationship.  Once we got going, we’d stop, and then we’d get going again and stop again.  I made a renewed effort to salvage this commitment and get finally hot and heavy, but like SITC‘s Jack Berger, I had to say, “I’m sorry.  I can’t.  Please don’t hate me.”  There was just no more incentive for me to go on… I just did not want to finish the book.

Last night was also the last time I opened it.

The book in question is Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude, a book selection for my art book club.  It’s about the painter Tamara de Lempicka’s relationship with her much younger muse Rafaela Fano.   On the surface, it should be a dream book for me: a novel about self-discovery, relationships, artists, Paris, 1920s.  Between the pages it was full of characters I didn’t like and revolved around a plot I really didn’t care about.  Sheltered 17 old Rafaela escapes from the clutcthes of her family to Paris, and enters a world of sex and prostitution and being a mistress to both men and Tamara.  Tamara’s paintings of Rafaela set Paris agog, and soon there are tense bidding wars between two powerful men for her work. Who will get the paintings?  Who does Tamara love?  Will Rafaela’s overtures for her affection pay off?  Or my biggest question: who cares?

The novel felt like it was populated with prototypes for Tom and Daisy Buchanan and Lady Brett Ashley: bored and vapid rich people who use other’s to their own advantage and try to think of new ways to spend their money and flaunt their status.  It reads like Avery is trying to create a Jazz Age novel.  Paris? Check.  Lack of communication? Check.  Sex?  Check.  Wild, fancy parties? Check. Like Nick Carraway, I wasn’t at all enthralled with what I saw, and left.

I rarely stop reading a book because I don’t want to read it anymore.  Normally, if I put down a book it’s because I’m not in the mood to read about that particular topic, but I do want to finish it at some point.  There are only two other novels I can think of that prompted me to call it quits: Crime and Punishment and The Secret Life of Bees.  The first novel I just didn’t get.  Referring to the nickname glossary every five minutes gets old in a book that is half my body weight.  As for Bees, I thought it was contrived.  If I want to read about the coming-of-age of a young girl in the South, I can read To Kill A Mockingbird.  Which is what I did.

I read Avery’s book for 200 pages (it has 306) before calling it quits.  I gave it and myself a chance to make reading magic.  But how long do you give a book before calling it quits?  What books have you given up on and why?  When do you allow yourself to put it aside?

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10 thoughts on “Are You Going To Finish That?

  1. I started to read “Anthropology of an American Girl” for a book club, and I got through 340 of about 590 pages. The language is beautiful; the writers is very talented, but I just couldn’t get into it. There seemed to be no plot whatsoever. I often read literary books thin on plot, but this was just too much . . . I had no idea why I was supposed to care about any of what was going on.

    1. That is frustrating, especially after you put in that time to read it. I’ll go along with books when I’m not sure where they’re taking me as long as I care about the characters, but again, that connects to caring about something. It’s no fun when you feel like you’re being strung along, no matter how well-written it is.

  2. Very well written. A pretty good review that doesn’t give anything away and yet allows one to know whether the text is up their alley or not. As for your q’s…I honestly have not read a book for fun since 2005. I came up with the grand delusion to attempt to write my own…However, at uni there are some texts I have given up on, and lucky for us when it comes time to analyse them in class I can wing it quite easily, cuz when you are reading genre pieces they are all basically the same. I don’t wanna name names, but I will say this – if a book revolves around sport or issues that I can’t stand, it goes bye bye.

    1. Great point about uni texts– it’s easy to learn how to talk the talk and b.s. your way through. This doesn’t always apply, but it comes in handy. No book for fun since 2005? That sounds miserable.

      I’m willing to read books about topics that I’m not really into, but they have to be written for the common reader– not full of jargon or excluding most people.

  3. I seem to have given up on “Yes I Can” by Sammy Davis, Jr. But only because at 500+ pages (and that only covers the first half of his life), I find myself – much like you – wondering who cares?

    1. That’s disappointing. I would think that his autobiography would be moe compelling. Some books need better editors– ones who can weed out the extraneous, so everything has a purpose and doesn’t wear down the reader.

  4. A few miscellaneous thoughts: There was a recent article in the NY Review of Books (or the NY Times, too behind to look it up right now) discussing the need for “reading” a book from cover to cover. Can you say you’ve “read a book” if you haven’t read every page? Is it necessary to read every page? or should you just read as much as you deem necessary? Doesn’t excuse poor editing, of course, but it does beg the question “What does it mean to ‘read a book’?

    Push comes to shove: When you stop caring, stop reading.

    1. I wish I had seen that article! There are some authors, like Dickens, who have patterns that most of their books follow. After awhile you learn what you can skip, but just because you skip those parts doesn’t mean you haven’t read the book. Are you back from Costa Rica?

      1. Just got back! I’ve just enough time to do laundry, get Liam ready for the school year, and make a path through the disaster that is my house before Liam and I head to the Midwest on Tuesday to visit my father. Costa Rica was over the top. Will be posting photos and stories of our experiences once we’re back in mid-August. Ciao!

      2. Wow! I’m amazed you had time to pop in on the blogosphere! Glad you had a great time, and I can’t wait to read about your experiences. Everyone I know who’s been there all have nothing but positive reports. Have fun in the Midwest (a special place in my heart).

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