August 20, 2006

GRAVITY'S BURDEN

Last night we watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Meh. It wasn't that great, but it's easy to finish a so-so movie; it's only two hours of my life. However, I am struggling with applying the same concept to the book I'm reading. I've already sunk countless hours into Gravity's Rainbow, and I can't decide if I want to keep going or throw in the towel.

I've never not finished a book (well, except once, but I felt guilty for 15 years). I always think that there's got to be something of value in most books, so I hate to quit them. Maybe the good part is at the end, and I'll never know. But it's bad news when you're on page 140 of a 760 page book and every page feels like a chore.

Has anyone else read this book? Is it worth it? There are whole companion books dedicated to this monster; doesn't it seem like any book that you need two other books and several websites to understand is a bit ridiculous? When the Wikipedia entry starts "The main narrative thread (insofar as there is one)", that's not a good sign. Nor is the fact that the book was suggested for a Pulitzer and rejected by the board because it was "unreadable."

And I thought I'd type out a passage for you to mull over when I googled it and found that Photon Courier has written about the same passage. Because it's his favorite. The one that was practically my breaking point. Sigh. I know he's read my blog once before; maybe he can urge me to keep going in the book.

I will point out that he cut the passage way down though. Perhaps even he was daunted by a 16 line sentence.

At what point do you cut your losses with a book and move on? Or do you keep trudging through and hope that the end of the book brings enlightenment or at least satisfaction in knowing you didn't give up?

I don't like to quit books. But I also don't like dreading picking it up.

Posted by: Sarah at 08:23 AM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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1 Your wish is my command...here I am. I do think it's a great book (and the reason I cut the passage down was mainly because I was too lazy to type the whole thing.) But I don't see any need to finish this, or any other book, if you're not enjoying it. 140 pages is probably a fair test as to whether you're going to like it or not.

Posted by: David Foster at August 20, 2006 08:58 AM (/Z304)

2 Sarah-- I agree with David. I vividly remember when I turned 25 and I suddenly realized that life is short--and there is no way I'll be able to read all the books I want to! Don't waste your time on a book you don't love or that doesn't challenge you.

Posted by: Lara--the English Teacher at August 20, 2006 10:14 AM (wLffD)

3 Here's another GR excerpt, and one which I think is highly relevant to some of our current issues, as I explain in the post: Journalism's Nuremberg

Posted by: david foster at August 20, 2006 11:05 AM (/Z304)

4 Sarah, I have to agree with Lara. Books are for either education and reference (in which case a certain amount of trudging through sludge is acceptable) or for enjoyment (in which case "life is short".) If a reading for fun book isn't, trade it at a used book store for something better. Maybe someone else will enjoy it more than you. Keep looking for things what you will enjoy. One of life's reading pleasures is finding a previously unknown to you book by an author that you enjoy. As you can tell from my name, my favorite genre if obvious.

Posted by: ScifiJim at August 20, 2006 12:59 PM (SYh5A)

5 Sarah, Try reading _The Crying Of Lot 49_ or the stories collected under the title _Slow Learner_. The BIG BOOK is a poor introduction to Pynchon.

Posted by: Herb at August 20, 2006 01:35 PM (yl7FB)

6 Reading things that do not interest or entertain you should have stopped being an option once you got that degree. Stop the madness and toss it aside. Sorry,140 pages is more than a fair try. If the author can't reel you in and make you want to know what's next,they aren't very good. I'm not terribly hard to please,either. I love to read and will happily dive into any genre. The last book I tossed aside was "Infinite Jest" back in 1996,by the way. I just didn't care enough to finish the thing. Some people love it and more power to them. JUST don't feel guilty. Please.

Posted by: MaryIndiana at August 20, 2006 06:47 PM (YwdKL)

7 Yeah, I do a similar thing. I read about books on Amazon, then ask the local library to order them for me. When I get them, I read a few pages and think "Hey, they really gave this piece of junk five stars? Why!?! Maybe it becomes clear later." So I have stopped reading FIVE diffent books this week. One for each night. And yes, I do feel guilty, because I brought them down from Belgium and the Netherlands. Live and learn. I need to read the first few pages myself before taking some unknown reviewer's comments to heart.

Posted by: Oda Mae at August 20, 2006 08:38 PM (YgLuj)

8 I almost took a class at university here, until I read the course description very well: "In 1997, exactly 25 years after the publication of Thomas Pynchon's 'masterpiece' Gravity's Rainbow, Mason & Dixon, a historical rewrite of the life of James Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, hit the bookstores. This course will be devoted to a very close reading (in the best of academic worlds, I would assume that the book has been read 'at least once' before the start of the semester) of this long-awaited novel by one of the most enigmatic, notorious and fascinating authors writing in America today. In the course, we will follow the slow, traumatic drawing of the Mason & Dixon line across the body of the American continent. The work on this 'line' brings together a bunch of illustrious people (Benjamin Franklin, a psychedelic musician sporting blue sunglasses; George Washington, inhaling; Vaucasson's duck, alive and in love with a French chef; Capt. Zhang, a Feng Shui master running from a Jesuit monk) and a number of curious concepts (a secret Jesuit telegraph system making extended use of balloons and satellites, a 'hollow earth,' 'eleven lost days,' a werebeaver and smoke-rings in the form of möbius-strips). Topics dealt with in the course range from questions about narrative structure, narrative voice (the narrator, Wicks Cherrycoke is a minor character from Gravity's Rainbow who seems to have made it into this new novel by virtue of some sort of 'transpagination'), historiographic metafiction, cultural studies and traumatology to questions about coffee, hemp, ghosts, and lost loves." As a history major this would have really really tested me. And I decided to pass...(Also, I love how the book should be read "at least once" before starting the class.) A few years ago I started the whole "not finishing a book thing". The first time it's hard, but afterwards it gets easier. If the literary world is a smorgasbord, I don't want to get stuffed up on the "100 year old eggs" just 'cos they are character building...take me to the prime rib and the eclairs!

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at August 20, 2006 11:41 PM (8nHbe)

9 Postmodernist dog feces. "it is a book not set aside lightly, it should be hurled with great force". May as well read Slaughterhouse 5, which will at least have places that you have been.

Posted by: Jason at August 21, 2006 06:08 AM (Lrs90)

10 Assuage your guilt by donating those unfinished books to your public library. Not only will others get the benefit, and the lilbrary get a book it may not have been able to afford but you can always go check it out if you really MUST finish it. )

Posted by: wiser_now at August 25, 2006 03:00 PM (M0aqG)

11 P.S....and if you donate it to the library; it's tax deductible (get a receipt). I, too, hated to give up on a book. But I've found over the years that some books aren't worth the time. So, give it up and don't feel guilty. The time you save can be used reading something really worthwhile!!!

Posted by: Pamela at August 28, 2006 03:20 PM (b28Se)

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