I know there are two camps of readers – those who will always finish a book, regardless of the level of enjoyment and those who, like me, will give up. My reasoning is that life is too short and there are too many good books, never mind great books still to read, to waste time on something that I’m not enjoying.
I remember buying The Satanic Verses back in 1989. It wasn’t long after the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie, and I bought the book show my solidarity with Rushdie, seeing the purchase as a declaration of my support for the fundamental right to free speech. I even tried reading it a couple of times, but on both occasions I gave up fairly early into the book.
The last time I tried reading it was in November 1993. I got to page ninety-one. I know this because the bookmark, an old bus pass, still rests in that page. As for the date, a newspaper cutting I’ve placed inside the front of the book reveals that to me. It was a column written by Benedict Brogan on November 4, 1993. Brogan now writes for The Daily Telegraph, but at the time he worked for the Glasgow Herald. His column seemed to be written specifically for me. I cut it out, put it into The Satanic Verses, and slipped the book back on to my shelves, never to be opened again.
The column, written as a confessional, saw Brogan admit that he had never finished a Salman Rushdie novel. It seemed like, in finally admitting that fact, a literary burden had been lifted from Brogan’s shoulders, as well as a realisation that he no longer had to pretend to have read certain books in order to impress friends, or at least not disappoint them by revealing he wasn’t as well-read as they’d thought.
So what about you? What books have you never managed to finish? I’ll get the ball rolling. I’ve tried reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky three times, and on each of those occasions I have given up without completing it.
I have a mental block with Russian novels. I think it might have something to do with the countless derivations of a person’s name which are used in each book, giving the impression that there’s a cast of thousands when there might only be a handful of characters. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Or maybe you always finish reading every book you start? If that’s the case, then maybe you’re just a better person than me.
My new book, Read All About It: My Year Of Falling In Love With Literature, is out now.