Have you ever "broken up" with a book?

In my 27 years as a reader, I’ve only broken up with one book.  The book in question smugly sits on a shelf* in my book cabinet, catching me by surprise every now and again. Recognizing it is like coming across a photo of an old boyfriend with his new bride in the “Weddings” section of the newspaper. The pang of loss, even if the relationship was never good, the knee-jerk comparison of your looks to the bride’s, and the niggling sense of fear that maybe the relationship could have worked if you would have put in some more effort.

I rediscovered the book I dumped 9 years ago last night during my frenzied reorganization and almost fell into the trap of trying to read it again, thinking maybe this time would be different.

Allow me to interject here and differentiate between “breaking up with a book” and being “just not that into a book”.  Books that don’t grab my interest intially are shelved–maybe I’ll come sniffing back around in a few months, with more patience or out of sheer desperation.

Breaking up with a book is literally flinging it from your hands like it’s ablaze.   It’s slamming the book shut and swearing never to open it again.  It’s abandoning the book on a park bench or subway seat (or hiding it in your bookshelf). It’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E, literary style.

House of Leaves, I hate you.  Mark Z. Danielewski, I believe you are an agent of Satan put on this planet to toy with my feeble mind.

house_of_leaves

Not only do I feel like the village idiot when attempting to follow the unconventional format and structure, but the layout, typography, appendices, index, and general esotericism leave me feeling like the only one who didn’t get the high-brow joke.  The book has been lauded by critics and readers alike, which adds to my “what am I missing” sense of unease.

houseofleavespage134

Yes, friends…that is actually a page of the book.  Painful, isn’t it?  I know, I know. 

So, am I alone here on my little break-up island, or do you have your own tale of a book that you dumped?  I’d love to hear about it, if only to save me the pain of putting it on my TBR list.

*Oh, if you’re looking for the book on my shelf, it’s on the “white shelf”, about half-way in…it’s got a white spine with evil black squares on it.

33 Comments

  • At 2009.03.10 23:29, J.C. Montgomery said:

    I hate to admit it since this author is good, and many laud her books, but one in particular – well was just too much for me.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ and this novel was like her personal challenge to omit any ‘telling’ what. so. ever.

    I just couldn’t get through Anne Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I know, I know. I’m horrible.

    There, I admitted it. In public. I feel, so…cleansed.

    Thank you.

    nat says: well, i’m all about honesty here…glad i could help. :c)

    • At 2009.03.11 01:36, Hayden Tompkins said:

      Lord of The Stupid Rings. And The Bible.

      nat says: wow..love the vitrol! actually, i’ve never read LOT(S)R either. as for the bee-bull…i had to read various portions of the OT in college…

      • At 2009.03.11 04:11, Bibliolatrist said:

        I’ve dumped dozens of books, and I don’t feel one bit bad about it, either. I did enjoy House of Leaves, though…maybe one day you two crazy kids can reconcile 🙂

        nat says: ackkk!!! I knew someone out there read this book–and here you are! ha!

        • At 2009.03.11 07:06, WhelanFlynn said:

          I had a long term dysfunctional relationship with The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White. I persevered and made it through to the end (with difficulty) only to be kicked in the teeth in the final pages.

          We have now parted ways with irreconcilable differences. I will never open the pages of this book again, although it is still on my bookshelf to remind me of foolishness past.

          nat says: lol…maybe that’s why i hang on to HOL…as a painful reminder.

          • At 2009.03.11 07:49, Stephanie of Stopbouncing said:

            Celestine Prophecy.
            Tried and tried… got the “you’ll pick it up when you’re ready”…

            I second Hayden’s Bible dropping. I make it as far as the “begat” and I lose focus.

            nat says: a very mature outlook for CP…i applaud you. as for the bibes…the word begat is just great. love it.

            • At 2009.03.11 08:19, Joy said:

              I love Stephen King but couldn’t finish reading “Gerald’s Game.” I found it repulsive. It’s the only book of his that I hated and couldn’t finish.

              BTW, I loved Friday Night Knitting Club.

              nat says: i read GG in high school…and boy was it an eye-opener. hi there S&M. i had no idea people other than police officers used handcuffs. (i’m telling you, i was supremely naive.)

              • At 2009.03.11 10:23, pannonica said:

                I adore metafiction (O’Brien, Barth, Perec, et al.) but thought House of Leaves was overrated and too gimmicky for its own good (even though I love typography and design in addition to metafiction).

                re: Hayden’s comment. I tried reading The Hobbit a few times when I was about 10 or 11, thought it was crap. Feeling some sort of need for cultural literacy one summer during my college years I spent an entire week doing little else but reading The Hobbit and the whole LOTR trilogy. It was awful. I want that week back when I die. The Bibble: bleah.

                For myself, we had to read Brave New World in eighth grade. I never made it past the second page, and the text started halfway down first page! I also think The Great Gatsby is practically worthless.

                nat says: why did i KNOW that you read HOL? it just seems like something you would do.

                • At 2009.03.11 11:30, Hayden Tompkins said:

                  @Stephanie “I second Hayden’s Bible dropping. I make it as far as the “begat” and I lose focus.” HOLY COW, that’s EXACTLY where I give up. Hilarious.

                  @Panny-scone My love for you grows ever deeper! DOUBLE UGH to “The Great Gatsby”.

                  @CWG I love love love this post. I feel all sorts of vindicated!

                  nat says: i’m a bit sad about the gatsby grumbling…but i’ll forgive you. glad you like the post…it’s fun, right?

                  • At 2009.03.11 13:46, Connie said:

                    Skip the Old Testament until you are ready LOL
                    Read the New Testament first!!! or choose one of the modern versions, they read a little more like a novel (or so I’ve heard) I think there was one called The Book.

                    There were a couple I had to read for book club,
                    that made me feel like I would rather watch paint dry. I have blocked their titles from my mind permanently. One was by Jimmy Carter, he absolutely must stick with non fiction!!!!

                    cwg says: i don’t know if i even have a bee-bull in my house…oh, wait..i think i swiped one from the nightstand drawer at a holiday inn in wisconSIN…

                    • At 2009.03.11 15:20, Jessica said:

                      YES! So much so that I come home, furious, and threw it in the trash can- furiously! My husband thought I had gone nuts!

                      nat says: you have no idea what a relief it is to see that i’m not alone in this…

                      • At 2009.03.11 15:55, Megan said:

                        I can definitely recall throwing a book onto the floor and refusing to look at it while I was in high school, but I can’t for the life of me remember which one it was! Maybe I’ve just totally blocked out that memory now to keep it from ever hurting me again . . .

                        That type is just insane. I can’t even look at it. It burns. But I love your story! And I love that you’ve kept it all this time, even if it was a bit hidden from view.

                        nat says: i think i’ve held on to it because it ANNOYS me that i’m too academically inferior to follow the frickin’ story. i WILL try to read it again…

                        • At 2009.03.11 18:49, Jena said:

                          I so enjoy these conversations.

                          Why I had the book in the first place: A few years ago, my sister and my cousin asked me to be in their weddings, which they ended up scheduling for consecutive weekends. I’d never been in a wedding party prior to that, so I wasn’t sure what to expect and I took this strange glee out of thinking about the hell that probably awaited me. (I’m not a fan of wedding frou frou–I’d planned elopement from the age of 16.) I was at B&N one day the spring before the weddings, and there was this book, obviously chick lit, called Always a Bridesmaid. Well, of course I just thought that was hilariously cliche and decided that it would make for a nice quick read between the end of my first year of grad school and the weddings.

                          Except that the book was every bit as cliche as the title, which I (for some reason) wasn’t expecting. I was so disgusted at its lack of surprises and the general absence of creativity that I quit it 8 pages from the end. (That’s when I gave up and realized that the book couldn’t possibly give me what I needed.)

                          Yep, 8 pages from the end.

                          And I got it out of my sight as quickly as I could without burning it or burying it. (I Bookcrossed it in the hopes that someone who enjoys formulaic books would find it.)

                          • At 2009.03.11 18:51, Jena said:

                            By the bye, I also have no intention of ever picking up JRR Tolkien again. I managed to get through the Hobbit, but decided that the rest of them weren’t worth it about 20 pages into the Fellowship of the Ring.

                            • At 2009.03.11 20:26, Stephanie said:

                              I was in the middle of Vinegar Hill when I started getting sick from my pregnancy and I can’t even look at that book without wanting to throw up!

                              nat says: lol…now i want to read the book just to see what turned your stomach (in addition to the pregnancy!).

                              • At 2009.03.11 21:56, pannonica said:

                                I have a miniature King James New Testament in 2pt type. 65mm high ×43mm wide. Limited edition, no. 287 of 2000.

                                For the record, I didn’t bother finishing House of Leaves because as I (thought I) insinuated, it just wasn’t worthwhile. Give me Life: A User’s Manual or Tristram Shandy. Haven’t yet tried Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius but am worried that it too may be overly coy or facile.

                                • At 2009.03.12 01:20, bybee said:

                                  1. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
                                  2. Pierre -Herman Melville

                                  • At 2009.03.12 08:25, Meg89 @ Literary Menagerie said:

                                    Gilead.

                                    I just couldn’t do it anymore. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, for something to happen at all and in NEVER EVER DID.

                                    Beautiful words only get you so far. For it to be a STORY there must be a PLOT.

                                    • At 2009.03.12 11:09, debbie said:

                                      Although it always pains me to admit this since it is on every list of ever seen of books every person should read, I dumped 100 Years of Solitude. Oh, I plugged away. It was shear torture to me. About half way into it, I realized this was my life I was wasting. I flung that book with gay abandon and never looked back.

                                      • At 2009.03.12 12:43, lisamm said:

                                        You forgot the cardinal rule of breaking up. Get the book out of your house. If it was an ex-boyfriend, would it still be around 9 years later? WHY DOES THE BOOK STILL LIVE ON YOUR SHELF? Set it free to someone who will appreciate it more, just like you did with that jerk you dated back in high school!

                                        • At 2009.03.12 16:13, pannonica said:

                                          Incidentally, I’m scared to death of Finnegans Wake.

                                          • At 2009.03.12 19:24, Elizabeth said:

                                            HAH! I remember when tons of people on the web were RAVING about House of Leaves. I got it from the library, so excited to read what had to be an AWESOME new book, right?? I just kept thinking, “You have got to be kidding me.” I think I made it to page 20.

                                            Now, the book I have broken up with is Huckleberry Finn. EGODS, I hate that book. And, because I’ve had to read it SO MANY TIMES throughout my educational career, it’s like an ex that keeps coming back – like I’ve changed my number, but still he tracks me down. The funny thing is, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read the whole thing – and each time it was assigned, I read less and less of it. I know that at one point, I consciously did not sign up for a class I REALLY wanted to take when I found out good ole’ Huck was on the syllabus. GAH.

                                            • At 2009.03.12 19:40, Chris@bookarama said:

                                              Whaaaat?! That would give me a headache.

                                              • At 2009.03.13 00:00, sarah said:

                                                I heard a segment on NPR about House of Leaves when it first came out (at the time I was driving my infant around for naps–it was the only way he would sleep).

                                                I all but went cross-eyed just listening to the narrative being read, nevermind trying to read it myself. I vowed to stay away from that one.

                                                I just recently broke up w/ War & Peace. I maintain I must have had a lousy translation, because I LOVED Anna Karenina when I read it years ago. I refuse to believe I have gotten so dumb in such a short period of time.

                                                • At 2009.03.13 16:48, Scobberlotcher said:

                                                  You’ve given me something to think about with this topic! I admit, I’ve started and stopped Confederacy of Dunces twice and I wonder if the hype and popularity of the book make me bring an unrealistic expectation to those first pages.

                                                  Now if you ever post about breaking up with hair-dressers, let me know. I’m your girl for that topic. 🙂

                                                  • At 2009.03.13 20:58, pannonica said:

                                                    Scobberlotcher: I got around to reading Toole’s “masterpiece” about 8 years ago and was severely underwhelmed, but didn’t find it unreadable.

                                                    • At 2009.03.18 11:50, Gina Goodwin said:

                                                      I have almost never given up on a book, no matter how much I dislike it…however, I am not always a fan of magical realism, and “100 Years of Solitude” is the most memorable book I simply could not finish. I know, what an admission! It’s not that it isn’t a wonderful book, it’s just not wonderful for ME. Whoever mentioned the Dave Eggers book “A Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius”…do not delay…read it now! It is one of the best books I have ever read…made me laugh while being sad as hell in some places. It is still memorable, quite a few years later, as is “A Confederacy of Dunces.” Now you’ve piqued my interst, I ‘m going to have to find “House of Leaves” and see what is so awful about it!

                                                      • At 2009.03.18 18:36, pannonica said:

                                                        This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

                                                        – Dorothy Parker (reviewing Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.)

                                                        • At 2009.03.19 18:38, claire said:

                                                          I haven’t read House of Leaves, not sure if I’d like it, but sure would like to sample it, looks intriguing. A lot of the divorced books in the comments are books that I really truly love, like LOTR, the Bible, and 100 Years of Solitude, but yes, we all differ. My divorce was with The Sound and the Fury. But I’ll try to work it out with him another day.

                                                          • At 2009.05.21 16:17, Lu said:

                                                            I have a LoveHate relationship with HOL. It’s… interesting. The first half of the book was terrifying and I liked it. But it took me forever to read it. Then when I finally started getting into the story, it seemed to get gimmickier and gimmickier. I read it, but it was frustrating and disappointing. Then I read the Shark Texts and decided it’s all a gimmick. Maybe someone will come around and change my mind.

                                                            The book that I absolutely threw on the ground and wanted to kick around a little bit was The Bonfire of the Vanities because if I have to hear Tom Wolfe use the word “loins” one more time, after I Am Charlotte Simmons, I’m going to scream. I threw it on the ground and promptly returned it to the library the same day.

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