06 Oct 2011

A Book Lover’s Conundrum

1 Comment Book Club Notes

What does it mean to be a responsible reader? And, when is it okay to put a book aside because it just isn’t working for you?

Our book club had to confront these questions this summer as we tried to plow through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. We made the commitment to read the book at our final session of the season. We knew that it would take the better part of the summer to get through it, but we really wanted to tackle the 1,000 pages and see why it is considered one of the best contemporary novels. But, sometime in July, email messages started going back and forth.

One of our members, a dedicated and very smart reader, wrote: “I would be relieved to not feel obligated to continue reading Infinite Jest. It is so depressing. Sometimes it’s just easier to stop. I find myself reading 20-30 pages and then going on to read something else and then going back to it out of obligation. It’s difficult, like listening to stream of consciousness from someone not quite sane and personally distasteful to me. I keep hoping it will get better for me but after your reply to me I realize I am not alone in my reaction to the book.â€

Last night, when we reconvened for our 2011-2012 season, we discussed what our aversion to this book means and, as a responsible reader, when it is ok to put aside a book without finishing it. In the end, we decided that if reading feels too much like work and that sitting with a book brings about feelings of dread, then these are clear signs that it is time to change course.

What do you think? When have you decided to put a book aside? Let’s hear what you have to say about this book lover’s conundrum.