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#4 – To the Lighthouse

Why: I learned it was OK to stop reading a book that bores me.

I still wonder what on earth possessed me in my youth to believe once I started reading something I was obliged to finish it. Then my relationship with books reads (pun intended) was like a co-dependent relationship. Soon into a book that was promised as good I would realize it was not holding my interest and/or I didn’t like it. I would blame myself for this failure: I was not reading it properly or giving it enough time. I would slog through on with the hopes things would get better but it seldom did. I read in piecemeal, picking it up from time to time not out of interest but obligation. When the book was finally done there was a sigh of relief.  It was over.

Oh the pain.

When I lived in Chicago I attended a book club. Once a year the members put together the list of the books to read in the upcoming year. Somebody proposed we read “To the lighthouse”. I don’t remember the reason(s). Perhaps we were curious what it was about. The novel often appears on ‘best of literature’ lists. Maybe it was a favorite of one of the members who felt we must must MUST read it.* So we did.

Almost immediately I was bewildered and bored by its contents. It was an assignment, so I kept going. I was a third into it when I began to crack up. I felt like a child being obliged to finish a plate of vegetables lectured as good for him but tasting utterly odious. I stopped. I had a pang of guilt to do so but mostly there was relief. I dreaded the ostracism I was going to get at the next meeting. Before I confessed my shameful shortcoming some of the members spoke first saying it was dull and boring – one admitted she had stopped it too.  We then discussed what went wrong with the book.*

Since then I have started and stopped lots of books and short stories. I try to give them a chance, but I don’t go further if it doesn’t float my boat. There are too many books to read to waste time on the ‘should’ books least of all the boring ones.

I might someday try to reread “To the lighthouse”; sometimes with age and circumstances a book changes and lo! the boring book becomes readable.  I like it when that happens.

More likely I will move on. I have a shelf-full of new books waiting my attention. Those tomes better beware! I don’t pussy-foot around anymore with boring books.

*This is common phenomena with book lovers. Everyone has a favorite book they feel should be read by all. The lender is often puzzled or crestfallen when the lendee does not feel likewise. Sometimes there is savagery; the acolyte of the tome feels personally insulted that you do not like it. I have done this myself. I once recommended to a therapist that he read “The Phantom Tollbooth” one of my all-time favorite books. He did and told me he found it uninteresting. I fired him soon afterwards on the grounds he and I were not a good match.

**I don’t recall anyone actually liked it, including the one who recommended it. Happily there was no shooting.

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