Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quitting Books & Monica Drake & 'Canon'

I hate stopping reading a book once I've started. It feels like blue balls. I want to complete. I have to be really bored or in a bad mood to stop reading a book after I've made it past 30% of the pages. Usually I'll at least skim the remainder to see if it changes or gets better before I just dump it. After I give up on reading a book I have to get rid of it immediately. I either return it to Borders for credit or trade it to Book Nook or give it to goodwill if nothing else. I don't like having a book that did not fulfill me sitting in my apartment. It makes me feel moldy or something.

I just had to give up on a book I bought recently. It came with really high praise, and was published by a press with a very high reputation, whose books I most often enjoy. The first three pages of this book were excellent. I laughed and was intrigued. The high point of the book was contained in those first three pages. It quickly turned into a narrative book where nothing happened. Like twiddling of fingers, with no investment, nothing interesting happening, and completely unrelatable circumstances. I like books where nothing happens, but if a book is narrative-based, something should probably happen, I should at least feel 'entertained' or somehow 'connected' or enjoy the language.

I am trying to figure out why this book was published. I can't think of any reason. The first three pages could have been published by themselves and the effect would have been much greater. I would like to ask the publisher why this book was released. I would like to ask questions. I am not going to name the book or the publisher because I do not like to give bad reviews. I don't see the purpose in a bad review, unless it is of an author who has already had a great deal of success and seems to be slipping. Return policies at stores like Borders protect people from spending money on books they don't want because you can return almost anything there are get something else. It's like a library with brand new things.

Now I am reading CLOWN GIRL by MONICA DRAKE. This book had a blurb on it from Chuck Palahniuk. I have read several of Chuck Palahniuk's books years ago when I was on vacation and there was nothing else around. He is entertaining a little, easy reads, I think I always read straight through without stopping, but he seems like he keeps writing the same book over and over, with the same shtick, at least somewhat. Though he definitely is entertaining. Monica Drake studied in the same workshop as Chuck Palahniuk, but then she went and studied with Amy Hempel and Joy Williams. So far I really like this book. It is funny and innovative in language but still tells an entertaining story.

After this I want to read some 'older' literature. I have been reading so much 'contemporary' work in the past year, I feel like it is time to go and fill in some gaps. I hear a lot of good things about Thomas Mann's MAGIC MOUNTAIN. I want to do some reading that feels like work. I want to exercise a little, I think.

Maybe I'll read the new Stephen King book and stop at the point when it starts getting 'out of hand.' He always builds suspense then makes it ridiculous. They should sell his books with those sections cut out, and then put all those sections together in another book. When I was in 6th grade I walked home from school reading the climax of MISERY without looking where I was going.

What do people think are some more 'classic' works that aren't quite 'classics' but should be read more?

I want to make my own anthology.

Today I am coasting on the edge of boredom, but still feel good, I think, a little.


Tao Lin said...

i enjoyed this review, very well done

Ken Baumann said...

I like this post. Here are some things for you:
I use this site. You upload books you want to get rid of and get points, then use points to ask people to mail you books, and they ask you to mail them books, and points are exchanged, and you get books in the mail and get to send books to people at the post office.

I am reading some 'older' books:

To The Lighthouse
Tender Is The Night
The Secret Agent

And I have many more, all from BookMooch. I got rid of all the books I stopped reading that way.

Brian Foley said...

I liked the Sheltering Sky once. If you had a knife at my throat for the truth, I'd probably say the same.

Josh Maday said...

good post. maybe try some nabokov if you haven't yet. his short stories are pretty surreal if i remember correctly. tibor fischer's 'the thought gang' is hilarious and languagey and has a story going on, although it's contemporary.

also, older books:

today i wrote nothing by daniil kharms

the street of crocodiles by bruno schulz

bacacay by witold gombrowicz


i got kicked off of bookmooch for being lazy. maybe i'll join again.

sheltering sky i also read a while back though i dont really remember it except that i thought i liked it.

yes, street of crocodiles i have been trying to remember to buy.

thank you.

jereme said...

I have a bunch of choose your own adventure books from grade school I can send you.

Have you read Hamsun? Or Osho?

or the Hagakure (the samurai text)

I reread the Hagakure quite a bit.

christopher higgs said...

I second the suggestion of Woolf's To The Lighthouse. I just read it this week and enjoyed the hell out of it. Also, Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons; I just reread that one last month and super loved the hell out it. (Q: Could Age of Wire and String have been written if not for Tender Buttons? A: No, it could not have been.)


i read tender buttons earlier this year. it made me laugh a lot. yeah a lot of people would not have a career if that book hadn't existed. but it still reads more like very avant stand up comedy to me.

hamsun yes yes. i own hunger. need to read it. thank you

Prathna Lor said...

yes virginia woolf good

read 'the waves' by her

read faulkner

MeganRoth said...

David Shields, "A Handbook for Drowning".

You may have read it, but this book got me out of a book stump.

By the way, I read you blog, but we do not know one another. I don't want to seem creepy...but creepiness is inevitable on the internet.

There is also a D. Shields nonfiction essay on Fawlt Magazine that I really liked...


thank you megan i will check it out. good blogggg.

Gene said...

Have you read The Dwarf by Par Lagerkvist? I like that book. It's older.



The Man Who Couldn't Blog said...

I really like A High wind In Jamaica by Richard Hughes. It's a seafaring adventure.

No, really.

The Man Who Couldn't Blog said...

Also, The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton.

trevor said...

Confederacy of Dunces

Post Office

and when you get back around to contemporary fiction:

Apathy & Other Small Victories

Wigleaf said...
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Tim Dicks said...
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Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you about Palahniuk. His books have saved me from giving up on literature between better ones, but they're all the same story, told by the same narrator, acted out by different characters.

And there's no shame in giving up on books. Remember that there's only so much time before we're dead and underground or in urns with no access to books at Borders for 30% off.

Bradley Sands said...

I like Tibor Fischer's The Thought Gang. It's one of my favorite books. Although I tried to reread it recently and couldn't get into it. Yes, it's very languagey and I've mostly liked stripped down prose lately.

My old housemate's cousin left it at my house. It is my responsibility to give it back to him. It is also one of his favorite books. He keeps leaving me voice mail messages. I keep leaving him voice mail messages. Nothing is ever accomplished. I think I will have it for the rest of my life. The cousin owns a bakery. He can buy another copy with birthday cake profits.

Anonymous said...

Monica's next book should be about ghosts, boy does she have them in her closet. Is she still a lesbian? I thought she wrote lesbian short stories. Didn't she live with a woman for several years?