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This is a question Starting something you couldn't finish

Finnbar says: I used to know a guy who tattooed LOVE across his left knuckles, but didn't tattoo HATE on the other knuckles because he was right-handed and realised he couldn't finish. Ever run out of skills or inspiration halfway through a job?

(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 13:32)
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A huge number of books...
...I always think of myself as some sort of rarefied intellectual when I'm buying stuff, and then try and read it and realise I'd be better off with Jilly Cooper.

A small sample of books I have struggled manfully with before throwing in the towel:

- Anna Karenina
- Middlemarch (despite writing essays on it when I was at Uni)
- Midnight's Children
- Moby Dick (I skipped over the middle and went to the end, when they finally find the bloody whale)
- A Bright Shining Lie (often described as the best book about the Vietnam War. Very, very long)
- Ulysses (although I tell people I have read it, I mostly just skipped through looking for dirty bits)
- Villette (just the most mind-numbingly dull thing I had ever come across)
- Anything by Umberto Eco other than 'The Name of the Rose'

I have shelves and shelves, and indeed nowadays a few boxes in the garage, full of books I bought to make me look/feel clever and which I have, at best, given a brief flick through.

Still, they make the walls look nice...
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:48, 52 replies)
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintainence
is one of the most boring, pointless, excessively long books in all of Christendom. The sort of book you buy thinking it will make hippy chicks fancy you, only to find out that they couldn't be bothered either.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 15:58, closed)
I have certainly never done this.
Not with Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome (so good they named him twice) K Jerome nor Milton's Paradise Lost. Definitely didn't start them filled with best intentions then fall asleep halfway through put them down and then realise I hadn't finished any of them and they were living in the footwell of my car being stood on by Mrs number5.

Absolutely not, never, no way.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:03, closed)
I'm convinced there are Professors of Seventeenth Century Literature who, if they were honest, would admit skipping bits of Paradise Lost.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:07, closed)
...the text I imagine. The cover was quite funky!
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:10, closed)
You should try Mr Bump by Roger Hargreaves.
Tedious vomit at best.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:28, closed)
I kept slogging through Moby Dick
never have I read a book so full of digression.

Only book I've stopped reading is The Silmarillion I think.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:16, closed)
Tell me about it...
...it got to the point where I was really getting angry with Melville.

'Come on, you fucker... rather than a 10 page discussion of whale anatomy, move the story on ... I haven't got all day.!'
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:26, closed)
MD is the greatest book ever written!
I love it...
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:28, closed)
I could see its merits...
...but it didn't stop me being frustrated. 'Best Book Ever', I think is a bit of an over-claim.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:30, closed)
I stand by it. It's fantastic.

(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:47, closed)
Silmarillion is hard work
but it's a fantastic work of fiction if you can get through it.
(, Sun 27 Jun 2010, 15:16, closed)
Oh, god...
I couldn't see the point of Middlemarch at all. Very dull.

I've also given up of Felix Holt - must be something to do with George Eliot - and Tristram Shandy... twice.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:30, closed)
There's a famous bit
in Middlemarch where she talks about how the novel is like an experiment, with the author/reader observing what's happening in peoples' lives.

Trouble is, you don't really want to be the one sitting in a lab, staring down the microscope.

I read Daniel Deronda, and liked that, but it is a bit madder than Middlemarch. Felix Holt I felt the same way as you about.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:33, closed)
I really wanted to like "Middlemarch"
But, in the end, couldn't...
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:46, closed)
I plead with you
to give Tristram Shandy another chance. Please. I hope you're not making the mistake of looking for a story.
(, Wed 30 Jun 2010, 9:58, closed)
Three tries.
Three battles against mind-numbing tedium. Three times I thought "other people rave about this, it must be worth a try". Three attempts, each one weeks long, getting slower and slower as I wait for something, anything interesting to actually happen.

Three times I have utterly failed to get past the first 300 pages of Lord of the Rings.

Thank you Peter Jackson. Now I don't ever have to.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:41, closed)
^What she said.

(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:45, closed)
Believe it or not, it gets harder to endure
I love the book and have probably read it almost every year since I was 11 or something, but it really does get fucking tedious in places
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:47, closed)
Read it as a kid
and liked it.

Started reading it again in my twenties when the films came out. Really couldn't. The prose is awful at times.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:19, closed)
I read the whole thing, three or four times, thoroughly
and so badly does Tolkien's navel-gazing Oxonian scholarly drivel drag on, that I still watched the films and went "Huh. So that's what he was talking about." because I had no idea what the actual story was until it came out on film.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:29, closed)
can just about stomach it til Tom "CoCO the Fucking Clown" appears and then I just vomit.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 19:32, closed)
The trick is not to worry about reading all of it.
I only got through by skimming long sections, or even just flicking through pages until I hit an interesting-looking word. I don't think I read any of the songs past the first one, and mostly got to read about exciting battles and silly hobbits. If it didn't make sense, I skipped back a page for some basic context.

The book I probably read least of was The Two Towers. Yes, I get it, they're walking! And it's a really long way! For God's sake, they even start talking about the fact that they've been walking for much longer than should have been necessary, and at that point I skipped forward a couple of chapters.

The appendix on Ents was quite interesting.
(, Sat 26 Jun 2010, 17:52, closed)
Having started "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" in 2005, I don't think I can claim to actually be reading it anymore.

I started "At Swim Two Birds", got halfway in very quickly and then just stopped dead.

I loved Middlemarch when doing it for A-level - tried again recently and wasn't in the mood. I love George Eliot though.

The only Umberto Eco I've read was "Baudolino" - loved it, although it was verrrry smug, I'd like to read more by him.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:52, closed)
Worst was Foucault's Pendulum
like Dan Brown written by someone very clever. But still like Dan Brown.

The Name of the Rose is ace though.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:31, closed)
I too read Foucault's Pendulum, hoping and waiting for it to get either very clever or very interesting. It really is utter toss.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 21:03, closed)

(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 13:04, closed)
I got lucky with Foucault's Pendulum
because I read the bulk of it on a train journey which was seriously delayed, lasting nine hours instead of the scheduled five.

Unfortunately, I got to the end only to realise that it is, indeed, utter shite. Well-researched shite, yes, but still...
(, Wed 30 Jun 2010, 10:00, closed)
I started 'Ulysses' too...
...in 1985! That copy eventually fell apart some time in the 1990s. About five or six years ago, I found a good copy in a charity shop and carried on from where I'd got up to.

Read it for a couple of weeks at the rate of about half a page per night before giving up again.

One day...one day.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 16:58, closed)
I read it out of a strange sense of obligation.
I can't think why. I keep meaning to re-read it to find out.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:21, closed)
God yes...
Moby Dick
Gormenghast books
Crime and Punishment
Lord of the Rings

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Slogged through a pile of Salman Rushdie on the premise that it's the kind of book "you've got to read", but knowing - deep down - it was a load of pretentious guff.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:08, closed)
The Gormenghast Trilogy started well,
but Titus Alone is very weak.

Nevertheless, I'm going to call my next cat Steerpike. Or maybe my son, if I ever spawn. Whichever comes first.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:20, closed)
I actually regret having read Titus Alone as it sullied my memories of the first two.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:02, closed)
I thought it was quite charmingly dream-like.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:19, closed)

(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:33, closed)
Titus Alone
Peake was already suffering with early onset alzheimer's when he wrote Titus Alone, which may account for it.
(, Sat 26 Jun 2010, 13:34, closed)
A mate of mine
recommended Rushdie (and in particular Midnight's Children) to me.

Next time I saw him I told him that I'd bought it and really couldn't get into it, and he said 'Yeah, me too, I was just saying it was good, to be honest, 'cos it seems like something I should have liked'

I felt like presenting him with an invoice for the several hours of my life I lost attempting to enjoy it...
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:22, closed)
lol. I've got a copy of "Midnights Children" on my desk. I couldn't make head nor tail of the first page even, but people have started commenting on how well read I must be.

I asked a friend who had studied English literature if he knew anyone that had actually read Ulysees. He said that nobody has ever read it, and he thinks it was written as a joke.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:29, closed)
it is
sitting on my shelf. As it has been since I bought it. Four years ago. One of those things where I look at it, think ".....nah" and go read The Hunt For Red October again.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 12:19, closed)
Yes I've found time to read Adrian Mole about 5000 times.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 13:15, closed)
But every single one of those books
is fantastic! Except Moby Dick, that was more than a bit rubbish
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:34, closed)
I too
have started and not finished Moby Dick. This is easily the single most overrated piece of utter toh that I have ever had the misfortune to spend my (relatively) hard-earned on. Blooy Melville and his stupid knowledge of whaling and whaling accessories.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:15, closed)
I don't get this
I feel a weird compulsion to finish any book I start. It probably helps being a really fast reader though
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:36, closed)
I try to
there's a long list of books I've finished that I didn't especially want to, at times.

They tend to be short ones though, admittedly...
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:42, closed)
I agree.
I really, really try to finish everything I start.

But Felix Holt and Tristram Shandy both defeated me - as did Spycatcher, come to think of it (though I was only 11 at the time...). I've got a feeling there may be another that defeated me, but I can't remember what it is.

And I have read the Bible. The whole fucking King James version, plus Apocrypha.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:43, closed)
yeah I read the Bible
and it turned out to be useful. My medieval tutor was extremely impressed that I could quote it to back up texts.

Tristram Shandy was a bit rubbish. I did manage to slog through Ulysses though. Utter waste of time, most self-indulgent tripe ever.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:56, closed)
Except the aforementioned Bible, of course.

(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:02, closed)
not really
I'd say the Bible was a lot more useful than Ulysses
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:19, closed)
Ulysses is heavier and thicker, so it comes out on top in all the major literary criteria - paperweight usage, burglar stunning and firelighter material.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 20:10, closed)
I don't know what version you're reading
where the Bible is smaller than Ulysses
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 20:33, closed)
"The Children's Illustrative Happy Fun Time Jesus Book"
"featuring Kawaii Jesus and Big Ol' Jehovah!"
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 11:14, closed)
I started Anna Karenina...
... but got completely lost in the confusing maze of plot. Rather than give up, I sat down and worked out a 'family tree' of characters and started again. It was much less confusing afterward and ended up being a really decent read that I'd recommend to anyone with a bit of patience.

On the other hand, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy is tedium itself. Not only did I give in just a third of the way through, I chucked it straight in the bin to prevent my future self from ever suffering through any of it ever again. None of his other books are much better.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:41, closed)
Hardy, I wasn't keen on either.
Although I did finish his books as it's something I had to read at Uni. Some interesting bits from a literary criticism point of view, but that doesn't mean he's a good writer.

My personal least-favourite was Return of the Native.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:44, closed)
I love the 19thC Russians.
Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are great.

You're right. It'd be so nice if the publishers'd include a family tree at the start.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:45, closed)
the only thing that mixed me up
with the Russians was the habit of using three different names for each character, and sticking random 'Princess' or 'Prince' titles in
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 17:57, closed)
Totally with you on that.
I kept a mental crib-sheet for War and Peace, it took me a good third of the book to remember who everyone was in relation to everyone else. And even then I wasn't sure I was getting it right.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:03, closed)
Strangely, I loved War and Peace...
...and read it in two weeks whilst trapped on the BBC Engineering course. Skipped much of the 40-page epilogue, which was dire and the bar was open.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:13, closed)
it is a fantastic book
though you're right the epilogue let it down a bit
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:18, closed)
Oh, I love it as a book.
It was just that, due to them all being referred to by their Russian name, their French name and their titles, it seemed as if the number of characters was three times bigger than it really was.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:35, closed)
Glad i'm not alone!
I'm yet to try War and Peace. It's on the (very, very, long) 'books to read before I die' list.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 18:28, closed)
The names thing would have stumped me
were it not for GCSE Russian, and the knowledge gained therefrom that Russians rarely use surnames in everyday speech: they have patronymics where we'd have middle names, and they address each other by forename and patronymic instead.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 19:33, closed)
that explains a lot
it got especially confusing when people had additional titles
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 20:48, closed)
Never done this...
Except with Nostromo by Joseph Conrad - 5 years and I gave up
And the complete works of Shakespeare (£1 from a publishers' remainders shop and never yet opened)
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 20:20, closed)
Although an avid reader,
I'm starting to give up on reading "great works of literature that must be read if one is to claim one is educated" as most of them appear to be incomprehensible, dull or just plain shit. I could just be thick though.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 21:07, closed)
I've been an English student for 5+ years
And I totally agree with you.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 11:40, closed)
Several years ago, I tried reading a Harry Potter book.
It was so awful that by the end of the first chapter I wanted to kick a biro down the author's ear. I never finished it.
(, Thu 24 Jun 2010, 22:49, closed)
Da Vinci Code...
... I threw it out of a train window in Southampton
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:35, closed)
That was a waste
of emergency loo paper.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:36, closed)
I've heard so much about "Gravity's Rainbow"
that I'm very tempted to give it a go. Just to see what the fuss is about. Also "Atlas Shrugged".
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 10:36, closed)
Gravity's Rainbow
is my nemesis. It really is superbly written, but the plot keeps switching, and the characters keep changing, and Pynchon's prose is dense, and you daren't skip over a paragraph otherwise you find yourself throwing the book at the wall and screaming "WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK IS GOING ON NOW?" and that's not an ideal thing to do when you have a sleeping six-month-old on your shoulder.

Atlas Shrugged was written by a woman who would have been sucking Reagan's cock had she had the opportunity. That tells you all you need to know.
(, Wed 30 Jun 2010, 10:04, closed)
Just thought of another one
The Diary of Anne Frank

God, it's tough going. I skipped to the last page, so at least I know how it ended.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 13:24, closed)
I was going to writea post exactly like this
Silmarillion - deathly dull. I love LOTR and have read it many times (literally about 20 times) but I just can't get into the S. at all.

Ulysses - I have an annotated excerpt in an anthology, where half the page is foonotes and annotations of things I feel you must know to appreciate it. If they could do that for the whole book, I could read it - but not otherwise. (They also had an excerpt of Finnegan's Wake, which was 1/4 text, 3/4 annotations. It's just not worth the effort.)

Anything by Derrida - I can read expications of him and vaguely understand. But anything BY him is an intensely frustrating experience, where you suspect the hint of an idea is obscured by insanely obscure, abstruse, unreadable prose.

Stephen King books after Dolores Clabourne or so - just shite. He was a bit hit and miss anyway - I never liked 'Salem's Lot or The Tommyknockers - but since then I've not liked a book he's done. Cell, Gerald's Game, Bag of Bones, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Rose Madder, they were all pish.

"The Autograph Man" by Zadie Smith was a major disappointment. Got 300pp into it, but just gave up when I realised it wasn't going to get any better. 400 pages of sheer pointlessness, characters you don't care about, a plot that isn't remotely exciting, themes you couldn't give a rat's ass about.

Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, Tom Clancey etc etc - maybe a page, then thrown down in disgust. But I didn't expect any better.
(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 16:33, closed)
Derrida, yeah...
After my degree, I still had a copy of 'Of Grammatology' for years.

Eventually gave it to Oxfam because every time I even spotted it on the bookshelf, it made my head hurt.
(, Sat 26 Jun 2010, 12:54, closed)
Thing about Derrida is
His ideas aren't *that* difficult. He does his utmost to hide this, though.
(, Sun 27 Jun 2010, 3:33, closed)
this is why i stick to the discworld books

(, Fri 25 Jun 2010, 18:00, closed)
I love him. Just can't finish anything by him. V nearly drove me mental.
(, Tue 29 Jun 2010, 11:42, closed)

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