Books I Can’t Read

Some books I have tried to read multiple times, but I just can’t make it through them. For this, I am ashamed of myself, because practically everyone else seems to think they are great reads.

I have never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I slogged my way through The Hobbit a long time ago but didn’t like it and was glad to have “gotten it over with.” I tried several times to read the first Lord of the Rings novel and never could. I put it down, shaking my head in disgust each time. Not because of the author or the book, but because of me. This is such a great book. Everyone loves this series. It’s supposedly full of Catholic symbolism. Why the hell can’t I like it? Even the movies fall flat for me. I saw the entirety of the third one, but it made no sense because I hadn’t seen the previous two. Also, it was Way. Too. Long.

I also tried to read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, which is supposed to be another great Catholic novel. Couldn’t get into it. Short stories by Flannery O’Connor confuse me, and she’s another great Catholic author. (Actually, short stories in general confuse me. By the time they’re over, I’m like… WTF just happened?)

What’s even worse is books that I did read but didn’t comprehend (or only partially comprehended) because the language was so difficult. Proust comes to mind, as well as certain things by Dickens. How can I call myself an English major if I have such a hard time with these books?

To be honest, I spend a lot of time feeling guilty because I’m not an “intelligent” or “intellectual” reader. I don’t have the mental energy for something complicated, where I have to figure out the meaning behind all the symbolism and hunt for the metaphors that are buried in all these great classics. I have a lot of these kinds of books sitting on shelves in the apartment, but I think I’ll end up donating them. Might as well face the facts. I doubt I will ever read them. (And I need the space for baby and children’s books anyway. Baby Cheep Cheep. Now that’s an easy read!)

Ever started a book you just couldn’t get through?

Currently…

I got this idea from Dana’s blog, and I thought it would be a good post for the beginning of a new month. Feel free to borrow this idea for your own blog; it’s kind of a meme that’s been going around. 🙂

Loving: Books, writing, my job, my little furball, being able to keep the windows open at night… most things about life right now.

Reading: Marcel Proust’s short stories. Highly recommended if you really want to read Proust, but you can’t seem to work up the courage to pick up his enormous volume In Search of Lost Time (or, Remembrance of Things Past).

Watching: Nothing. I’ve never really been into TV.

Thinking about: Too many things at once, as usual, some of which include food, the library, love, lust, hate, religion, philosophy, coffee, how useless my phone is right now, work-related stuff, acronyms, odd dreams I had the night before, story ideas, how much I hate traffic… it goes on and on.

Anticipating: November, my second favorite month of the year, after April. The weekend.

Wishing: I have a wish about the upcoming presidential election, but I’m not going to share it here.

Making me happy: Everything about life except the commute to work, and everything related to that: tailgaters, rear-enders, people who don’t yield, construction, blue headlights, really ultra-bright headlights that blind you, slow-moving farm equipment, random items sitting in the highway, people who go 10 miles below the speed limit in the left lane, being stuck behind a dump truck, 18-wheelers, guys driving pimped-out Geo Metros, seeing a beautiful Mercedes with 22-inch rims… you get the picture. Basically the only things I like about the commute are listening to music at extremely high volumes and reading peoples’ bumper stickers and vanity plates.

Well, that quickly became a rant about the commute, but hey – it was fun to get that out of my system. 🙂

Memory (Voluntary and Involuntary)

Ever since I read Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, I’ve been fascinated by what he calls “involuntary memory,” the concept of remembering without consciously trying to remember. I find that my involuntary memory is most often triggered when I’m going through the day and suddenly recall something that reminds me of a dream I had the night before. It’s a little odd… all of a sudden, you might kneel down to tie your shoe and see a cicada on the sidewalk, and remember out of the blue that you dreamed about cicadas the night before.

Perhaps your involuntary memory is more often triggered by a certain scent. You might be walking down the hallway in the building where you work and pass someone who’s wearing a perfume that your mother or your ex-girlfriend used to wear all the time. I think, a lot of the time, that involuntary memories are much stronger and clearer than memories you consciously try to recall.

With regular memory, sometimes only a few particular details stick out in your mind — usually sensory or emotional details — and other times, you might be able to remember with such accuracy it was as though the event happened only yesterday.

A few nights ago, I was lying in bed trying to remember events of my sixth grade year, which I always have a difficult time remembering for some reason. Mostly, I remembered the names of people (not really their faces), and then I remembered certain events associated with those people. I got out of bed and wrote down several of those memories so that perhaps, when I looked at them later, they would spawn more memories. My memory doesn’t pick up on spatial details — I generally remember where my old middle school was, but not the buildings around it or how far up the road it was.

But what’s a bit scary about memory is how, with each year, the old memories begin to fade. I can recall a detail about sixth grade now, but in a few months, it won’t be as clear. That’s why I try to write down as many memories as I possibly can. I’ve heard it said that writing improves memory, and for the most part, that seems to be true.