Sometime around Valentine’s Day earlier this year after visiting my sister in VA, I was headed toward a security checkpoint at Regan National in D.C. and was sidetracked by the lure of books lined up in a shop. Cruising through the independent Olsson’s Books and Records before my flight home pretty much guaranteed that my wallet would be at least fifty bucks lighter. I love book stores in general, but my idea of heaven is to spend eternity in an independent book store.
Why independent? The unique way that their selection of books comes together to convey a concise statement on what the shop is about, and how it differs from the next, intrigues me. Of course, they also stock the best-selling books that Barnes & Noble sells, that Borders is featuring, or that Amazon is promising to get to you faster than you can blink, but the books I’d never find, by authors I’ve never heard of who are published by smaller pressesÂ is what captures my attention. The selection is unique, sometimes a bit odd, and of course, there is the tease of finding the perfect read that no one else has mentioned…yet. Oprah hasn’t put her seal of approval on it, it isn’t anywhere near the NY Times best seller list, and no Pulitzer Prize or Booker short list mention is on the radar screen.Â So I would have to actually be looking at recently published books for any of this to happen, right?Â Feh.
I suppose I could find a book like that in a humongous chain store as well, but not always. And as much as I truly enjoy surfing through Amazon with obscure searches just to see what I can uncover, there are still gems that I know I would not find. Gems waiting to be found and marveled over. Well, not always.
Back in February, I hadn’t started blogging yet. Was there life before blogging? If I think about it, I’m not sure blogging had even occurred to me yet– or had it? Anyway, while I was in Olssens, I did purchase five books. One, Slow Man, I finished on the flight home, and truly enjoyed even though it wasn’t an especially light-hearted read. The second, Dog Days, I naively waited to read, duped into thinking it would be “irresistable,” and all the while trudging through Mapping the Edge. Waiting, waiting to open that cover and surely snort the book up in one lazy afternoon. NOT.
For those of you who have been faithful, you know that I’ve been complaining about dragging myself through a book — kicking and screaming incessantly.Â It’s been so long, I had to go back through my posts to see when I started it. It was April 9th! Ohmigod — that’s two months ago. Two months? Hell, I read Gone With the Wind in the 9th grade in a week. When I was a sophomore in college, I read one of Hemingway’s novels and several of his short stories every single week until I had read everthing. Two months? For a book that’s only 300 pages long and published over a year ago?Â What the hell.
Clearly, this has been an experiment. I’ve been on a quest to prove that not all books deserve to be read. Yes, I’ve already had S-U-C-K-E-R permanently printed on my head for purchasing Dog Days, but torturing myself to read the entire thing? It’s because I made that committment to myself to read all the books I currently have at home. You do remember part of that stack, right? Â Â I spent the money, so I need to read the damn books! I can hear that nagging voice in my head saying, “Don’t go and spend more money for more books when you can force yourself to read the ones you already have, dork.”Â Whot-evah. Â The public library is calling my name right now…
So if Dog
Doo Days was such a complete waste of time, why did I buy it anyway, you’re wondering? No, I know you aren’t wondering, but it’s simple, really.Â I must have had the idea of blogging on my brain, because I focused in on the back cover:
“Ana Marie Cox is a columnist for Time and is the founding voice of the hugely popular political blog Wonkette. She has also written for Elle, Wired, Mother Jones, Slate, Salon, New York, and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She lives in Washington, D.C.”
You get the idea, right? We’re all getting warmed up for the election next year, and something described as “snarky” and “a biting debut” with an author who’s a blogger as well? This had me written all over it. It didn’t matter that I had never heard of the blog. She sounded cool, looks way bitchy in the photo, and I love reading “firsts.”
I really wanted to like the book’s main character, Melanie, but never could.Â Her apartment is too dirty, her affair too gratuitous, and her best friend, too shifty. The political tidbits are interesting at times — the whole plot was a takeoff on Dubyah’s re-election campaign — but not enough to make me smile, let along giggle with evil glee at the parallels being drawn. I just didn’t care. I didn’t care so badly that not knowing who the “Clearheads” were for the entire book, and not once flipping back to refresh my memory, or correct my comprehension — a normal thing that readers do — didn’t really make a difference. And knowing who the Clearheads were, what their group believed, and how they could damage a campaign would be a key aspect of the plot. The only reason I know this now is because I flipped back to find out where the Clearheads first appeared — page 41 — right after the hotel room sex with the married journalist who refers to Melanie as “babe.”Â Ick.
I still don’t get it, because I can pretty much read anything. Thumbing back through the book, I suspect the style of Cox’s writing — something that works quite well for, uh… anything but fiction, just didn’t fit. When I read a novel, an edgy, biting tone from the author won’t carry the narrative. The dialogue of a character? Of course. But not the ins and outs of the story. It would be like trying to read a newspaper article that conjured up the voice of Mr. Rodgers — distracting — even if the piece is actually on Fred Rodgers, right?
Anyway, I nursed my wounds by reading reviews at Amazon. Misery has to love company, right? And I hit pay dirt. After reading through several of the worst reviews I ever read (14 of 30 gave it only one or two stars with the rest seeming to come through because of their status as faithful blogflock members), I felt vindicated, but still pissed off that I read the whole thing. Ugh. Not worth it! Many reviewers agreed that although Cox is a superb writer, this book doesn’t come close to showing what she is capable of.Â Can all good writers write fiction?
So here’s the deal. I will proceed with my cost-saving commitment to read the books I currently have — but I’m going back to my tried and true method of reading. If any book doesn’t capture my complete attention by page 40, it is so not going to be finished. AT ALL.Â And don’t mess with me on this.Â I really don’t give a flying fart if you’re obsessed with having to read an entire book once you start it because Hell will freeze over and God will fall from the sky if you don’t.Â Get over it because you won’t get more brownie points at the freaking pearly gates just because you finished all those stoopid books.Â Nobody cares.Â *Ahem*
Now that I’ve wasted copious amounts of reading time (and blogging time) on two books in a row that have been less than entertaining, I’m so due for something painless.
Painless usually means light and frivolous. Or something written about a place I’d love to travel to. Or that has characters I can live vicariously through. Oh, hell. Something that has steamy sex on every single page and burns my fingers just holding it, okay? Sheesh.Â Â Nope.Â Sneak read this one when I was fifteen! Â Ah…no, again.Â Read this one when I was 19.Â Enthralling doesn’t quite get the point across.
For the snobs out there who think I’m trashing my brain — or who are just too snooty to confess that they, too, occasionally read less than “constructive” material, I also have pulled up alongside me The Soul’s Code and Imperfect Control — both old books, but dusted off because of some of the crap that has been traveling through my brain lately. And no, I don’t read that sort of thing cover-to-cover. That would be completely dreary.
I’ll bet you just can’t wait for that. You know me — I’ll try to find a way to connect the acceptable reading with the smut. Woot! Let’s hear it for the trash readers of America!
What’s in your closet?