Thursday, October 27, 2011


Haruki Murakami's magnum opus 1Q84 hits shelves this week. It is undoubtedly the literary event of the year, and clocking it at nearly 1,000 pages, one that I am sure will initially sell well, but not one people will actually read from cover to cover. It is a publishing rule of thumb that short stories and long books aren’t great cash cows. People seem like their books to be 300-500 pages, something that can be read in more than a day but less than a week. Investing in a long book can be a scary thing. Reading a novel is like taking in a roommate; you don’t want to just let anyone roam around your dirty closets and liqueur cabinet. A long novel takes time, takes effort, requires stamina, and if you have been burned once before (It, anyone?), not something you are eager to have in bed with you. I sat for hours reading Roberto Bolano’s 2666, determined to finish it, even in the face of a boredom so profound I thought of reading Dickens. I made it through the novel’s famously torturous fourth section, which reads like a police report. After each gruesome murder I became desensitized to the violence Bolano, and shifted into a restless mode, scanning each page for plot, skipping over the repetitive parts. Could I skip ahead and if I do can does that count as finishing the novel? Would I be missing something? Would anyone really care? As I asked myself these questions, I realized the end of my reading experience with Bolano was near. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I finished the section, put the book down, and started something else. So, I am interested: What long or “tough” books have you attempted but never finished? When do you realize it is time to give up?


  1. I actually read, finished and LOVED 2666. I'd encourage you to go back to it. After suffering through the 4th section, the rest of it felt like a walk in the park. Which was odd because I kept thinking... ok, this can't be it, I must be missing something, maybe I'm not being very attentive. I like it when authors put you to work that way!

    I am OCD about finishing books... until recently, I had never not finished a book. But I am training myself to chill the fuck out and not torture myself.

    One book that everyone loves and I just couldn't get into AT ALL: Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor. Did you read it?

  2. Petya, I admire your fortitude with 2666. I really just felt I had given it enough of my time. I enjoyed what I read, but that 4th section was enough for me. I also am OCD about finishing a novel, especially one I have invested so much time into, but I just couldn't see myself going any further with that one. It really says something about my reaction to the novel in that I only had 150 so pages left and l quit. Perhaps I will pick it back up. After 1Q84!

  3. Since you've put so much effort already, you definitively should finish it to understand why this book is such a relevant literary work of art. Part 5 is the key of the book and in my opinion, the best part!

  4. Ok, I will finish the novel. Looking at this, I realize how silly it was not to keep going with the novel. Will let you know what I think.

  5. I tried and failed to finish Anna Karenina three times before I finally got through it. I couldn't stand any of the characters and I felt the writing drawn out. When I did finish it, I understood why it has stood the test of time but it is still not something I recommend. If people are interested in reading classics, there are so many others to start with before Anna.

    I am currently reading Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence and it is excruciating but I am determined to labor through it!

  6. I had a tough time with Anna too, but I must say I enjoyed it, even if I contemplated suicide during the excruciating harvesting scene, which felt like it lasted for hundreds of pages. I don't think I would recommend it either, if only because I am not certain most people would either actually read or enjoy it. I actually have read several of the "great" Russian works, such as Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, along with Anna. I contemplated War and Peace after I read Freedom, but was somewhat intimidated by it.


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