Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Bookish Existential Crisis ... And a Giveaway....

F. Scott Fitzgerald has triggered a bookish existential crisis and if he weren't already dead I would kick his swarmy ass.  All year I've planned on reading a rather lovely copy of This Side of Paradise.  I worked it into a half-dozen challenges to ensure that I would get to this book.  Get to it I did and I hate it with every fiber of my being.  Amory Blaine is an over-privileged twit.  I get that I'm supposed to be both appalled and sympathetic to his behavior, but all I'm coming up with is utter disdain.  I've read 100 pages and I just cannot do it.  Like I told my friend, Melissa, I'm fine with unlikeable characters (hi, Tom Ripley!) but then I need really beautiful writing or an engaging plot to propel me through the book.  To be quite honest, I find it a lazily written book.  It is more like chapters of assembled vignettes and so there isn't a plot hook to keep me reading and the writing is okay, but it certainly isn't like a difficult Woolf novel where the poetry sustains me.  I find it flat and overblown at the same time.  Bad book nerd, hating on a classic!  Since I had this book figured into gobs of challenges I find myself fed up. 

I am absolutely kicking myself right now.  Once again it is the middle of the year and I am so OVER my reading challenges.  I do this to myself every year, I say "never again" then go to "maybe a few" and before I know it I have signed-up, mapped, listed, and planned every minute of the year's reading.  I'm sick of the challenges and I'm even sick of the challenges I created -- like the Truth in Fiction challenge -- and I'm so done.  I want to throw in the towel and read whatever the hell I want. 

Why do I do this?  Oh, I know.  My love of lists and organization and coming up with all manner of literary connections.  By the end of December I'm full of lists and plans for the new year (add to that a grand sense of optimism). 

Now I have noticed that I do well with some "planned" reading.  Weekly or monthly celebrations (like Virago week), themed author months, loose challenges like Carl's RIP challenge, format challenges like the Chunkster Challenge or a Short Story Challenge, and super long term challenges like the Classics Club.  Next year I swear ON MY VINTAGE OWL LAMP that I will not sign-up and I will not create challenges that are not like the ones listed above.  You know, the make a list of 5-12 books that link in some sort of larger theme.  I suck at those challenges.

But what to do right now?  I'm thinking here are my options:

  1. Chuck everything out the non-literal window including my promise to not read library books until September 1st.  Re-integrate ALL my books from my TBR pile and visit the library.  Read a mish-mash of "new" books off my shelves and visit the library.  Go crazy.
  2. Keep my current July TBR pile, but chuck the challenges.  Stay off the library books until August 1st.
  3. Get rid of most of the challenges except for a few, stay off the library books until September 1st.
  4. Put on my big girl panties, bite the bullet, and finish the challenges .... or at the very least keep going until the end of the year.  
I feel a bit ridiculous asking for opinions, but I've put so much time into organizing and listing and stacking.  I don't want to take recanting my bookish promises lightly.  After all, what if I change my mind again? 

Okay, wise nerds, leave me some feed back.

If you comment by noon on Saturday 07/07 you'll be entered to win a $10 Thrift Books gift card.  

Sorry it can't be more money (daycare is super expensive).  I'll alert the winner by noon on Monday 07/09.

I'm all ears... erm... eyes... let me know what you think!  


Rachel Dalloway said...

I'd go with Option #2

Catherine said...

because i'm a literary rebel, (lol whut?) i say go for number one. heck, i can't even follow my currently reading shelf on goodreads, let alone go as all out as you do.

that being said, i get the feeling you would be happier with option number two.

Melissa said...

Number two is what I would do! I think it satisfies the requirements to "finish what you started" in a sense, and still gives you back the chance to actually enjoy what you are reading whithout stressing. Otherwise, why read?

Karen K. said...

I say don't torture yourself!! Life is too short to read books you hate, or even don't feel like reading. There are too many good books out there to waste time on something you're not enjoying.

I pick #1. And don't feel obligated to continue with Fitzgerald if you hate it. You gave it a real try. I've only read The Great Gatsby, which I liked, and Tender is the Night, which I hated.

And remember, just because it's a classic doesn't mean it's necessarily good.

christina said...

Best opening line ever!

Elisabeth said...

Sounds like you needed to vent! If I have read at least half of a book and then call it a DNF, I count it as read. So, you could by my "rules" count it for your challenges.

I like challenges that dont have very specific parameters, so I can still read whatever I want. For example, Memorable Memoir, Audio Book, New Authors, Mount TBR. A to Z.

Sounds like you need less pressure in your life, reading should be fun not work!

Heather said...

Oh, put on your big girl panties, and then chuck it. Chuck it ALL. Reading is for relaxing, for fun, for letting go and being someone else, being somewhere else, and forgetting the cares and worries of the day for a little while. There is no reason to force yourself to read a book you despise, structure your reading life they way you would a business meeting or MAKE YOURSELF MISERABLE. Chuck it and read whatever the hell is clicking. If it doesn't click, kick it to the curb. Life is too short.

Andi said...

See, now you know why my new tagline is "Reading whatever I want, whenever I want." Damn obligations.

Zelma said...

I don't see why you can't have your cake and eat it too. :) First chuck all reading obligations out the window. Reading should never be this stressful and I see way too many bloggers get too wrapped up in the need to complete challenges. Don't formally join challenges, just write out and plan the lists as if you were joining them. You can have the fun of list-making and discussing challenges, but without the actual need to complete them. Read what you want. If they fit a hypothetical challenge - great. If not, no harm.

Eva said...

I'm voting for #1! There's nothing more delicious than bringing a giant stack of 'just because' books home from the library. :D

Jillian said...

DEFINITELY #1. Though I see I'm a day late to vote. :)