Proust: I Barely Remembered Thee

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I’ve given up reading Proust.

Smart, funny people like him. His is the favorite book of a great many great authors. I wanted to be that kind of snob that made it through all seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things ZZZZZZZZZZZ but I just… I just can’t.

When I’m dreading reading a book and have to convince myself to actually pick it up, when I can barely remember what happened a paragraph ago, when I’ve been trying for weeks and am still only a hundred pages in (and that was a heroic effort) it’s time to quit.

I never really quit a book. I thought I had given up on Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake and The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek for good but I finished them both this year. But actually, with both of those, I was helped along by spoilers. I knew where we were headed so that helped clarify what I was reading, especially since those are both written with a very unique kind of style that is in turns awing and infuriating. I don’t know where In Search of Lost Time is going to end up. I don’t even know where the first volume is going to end up. Probably in a field somewhere, with eighty pages on a daffodil. As my boss sometimes likes to say, “put a pistol in my mouth.”

(He does not, to my knowledge, say that about me.)

But I bought the book, it’s there on the pile, so maybe someday, when I’ve got oodles of time and a LOT of coffee to keep me from falling asleep every two pages, I’ll get back to it. Commenters will probably tell me I’ll read it when I’m more mature. But my dad read that thing and he could barely stand it, it was so dull. I wanted to prove him wrong, but gah, what a slog.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got a lot of awesome stuff lined up on the shelf: I’ve already started An Arrow’s Flight, plus I’ve got The Farewell Symphony by Edmund White (one of my favorites), At Swim Two Boys, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, The Infinities, and more.

What does it take to get you to quit a book? What could you just not get through? Or, because I’m nosy, what are you excited about reading next?

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5 thoughts on “Proust: I Barely Remembered Thee

  1. I don’t know if I’ve ever given up on a book due to not being able to slog through it – I have, however, quit books that make me want to go back in time and punch the authors in the face (almost quit reading Walden for that very reason – Thoreau is the world’s most pretentious man). I’m slowly working my way through a collection of Philip K Dick books right now and am on The Man in the High Castle. I have to put it down every 25 pages or so and read some nice, happy young adult fantasy to keep from becoming severely depressed.

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