15. You don’t have to read every book you buy, and you certainly don’t have to finish the book you’ve started.
Maybe if enough people, like Robert McCrum, reiterate this one it’ll sink in. I’ve never been any good at ditching books I’ve started. This year alone I spent six months reading Jonathan Littel’s The Kindly Ones, which is possibly one of the bleakest books on the PLANET. I kept at it, because it was a book that was partly about the banality of evil, so I thought that part of the point was for it to be long and dull and unending and bleak so that you just want the damn war to be over now, please. But frankly, it wasn’t worth it, and I can’t remember which critic said that using overt references to Greek tragedy where your lead *is* Orestes means that your lead isn’t normal and his evil ceases to be banal, therefore undermining the main point of the novel – but they were right.
Having sold it to you so well – if anyone wants to put themselves through it, I’ll give you my copy, it’s a bit too bashed after a six-month reading period to go to the charity shop.
Currently I’m forcing myself to finish ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller’ by Italo Calvino. I confess that if it had been any longer than its 250 pages I would have chucked it. Wait, I’m not supposed to be confessing to that. I should have chucked it. I bought it because it sounded up my street and David Mitchell (one of my favourite authors) recommended it – but honestly, it’s taken me 160 pages to get into it, and that’s TOO LONG for a book of that length (or possibly of any length) – Don Quixote may have taken 200 pages to grab me, but at least then I had another 800 pages to enjoy.
Speaking of Don Quixote – if anyone’s going travelling any time soon, I can give you a copy. No girl with limited shelf space needs two copies of that book, and it’s a very good one for travelling with.