Footnotes Ire and other thoughts of the week

Turtles turtles turtles all the way down

*The turtle moves

1. Footnotes are the voiceover of books. They serve to be informative and are illuminating when done right. Mostly they’re done poorly and are distracting and stupid. And don’t even get me started on endnotes.*

2. My favorite style of writing is ┬áthe kind employed by Truman Capote, George Orwell, my girl Mary Renault: clear, simple, yet evocative. I don’t mean terse like Hemmingway (though I should give him a try again) and I get put off but extremely flowery language and extended metaphors that go on way too long. I don’t like sitting there wondering “did he ACTUALLY turn into a bird or does he just feel feather-y today?” I just finished In Cold Blood and it feels like a standard piece of journalism but once and a while I would sit back and think “this is actually incredible writing.” And I thought a guy like Truman Capote would be a show-off.

*The only person allowed to do footnotes carte blanche in Terry Pratchett.

Proust: I Barely Remembered Thee

Seriously, check out her photostream, it's amazing

photo credit: juliettetang (click photo for more)

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┬ábut 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?