You never read that book? You simply must read it through! Don’t even talk to me before you’ve completed it.
Chances are that if you read weird blogs on the internet, you probably also read books. It can be fiction, poetry, science or travel guides for all I care. The problem about reading books is that they’re often pretty darn long.
Before you get your pitchfork and torch, please hear me out.
A good book is literally the best thing ever! I love a good, rich and emotion laden book as much as the next, but sometimes a book can be devilishly long, boring and, frankly, badly written. In our day and age we read, I argue, more than ever. Be it internet articles, social media messages and commercials on the bus. These are often short enough to keep us interested in their message, and to keep our relatively short attention span.
Without going to bother with finding the source, I’ll just tell this in the form of an anecdote. I’ve heard that the producer for The Beatles; George Martin once had drinks with John Lennon (This is still believable, I’m sure!). Seeing how they both were interested in music, they began talking about music length. The standard of the day, probably in the 70’s was to have ‘radio hits’, also songs that are about three minutes long (as it is today as well). The duration of these minutes are long enough to make an interesting song, but also short enough to make people remember it. Martin is a fan of classical music (as I guess Lennon were too) and he said that classical music often had pieces lasting from two minutes to forty minutes, and some even over an hour. Lennon admitted to this, and he said something along the lines of “I feel guilty when I listen to classical music, because when it’s being played for over five minutes, I’ve already forgot how it began.”
I’m certainly not blaming Lennon for this. He’s a musician, and a terrific one at that. What I find funny is that shame or guilt we feel towards the arts. “I haven’t read the entire book” you find yourself saying at a dinner party – quickly followed by “But I plan to finish it later” as to justify the action of you not reading it all the way through.
Thing is, when we read a massive book, we might be afraid of losing out on some details, or we might be afraid that we can’t comprehend that much information. We’d rather stick to the 300 page novel, instead of trying to read a 1000 page book. Can this relate to other genres as well? We’re afraid of ancient texts like the Homer’s Odyssey, or Milton’s Paradise Lost? A Lennonesque way of looking at it would be; “We want to finish the book, but we don’t necessary remember what we read in it.”
I think we can learn a lot from those people who leaves the movie theatre in the midst of a movie. Why should I spend my short time on this earth reading this? Is it to win someone’s approval? Perhaps you’re proving something to yourself? If the book isn’t for you, you don’t have to read it through. I don’t want to tell you to stay clear of good literature, no-no! Just be more honest with yourself, your reading and your time.
To crack open a huge tome, and reading it despite your lack of interest for the text can be challenging. On the other hand it can also be super rewarding. No one really ever read their high school physics books and thought “This is good literature!” It can however be riveting pedagogics at work.
The plot is what keeps the ‘telling’ of the story going on. This is achieved by plot structure and plot devices. I’m no expert in narrative theory, mind you. A well-structured plot makes for a riveting story, most of the time. Sometimes an unorganized plot structure might even be the plot-device used. These two forms intertwine in the narrative.
Then comes the part where you read a book, and it’s either really predictable, or you find that the plot devices are weak, and perhaps unnecessary – i.e. a vampire that is also a werewolf and a zombie and can fly and see through walls. It can be a lazy way of getting your character out of trouble, or you can make it interesting. Plot is important. You need a beginning, middle and an ending part to your story. Plot isn’t everything though. Symbolism and poetic language can be used to achieve the same effects. The more ambiguous the plot, the stronger it can become.
Let’s get back to the guilt. Why do feel guilty when we don’t finish something? I think that not finishing a book can be a good thing if you don’t like it. Give it a shot, pick it up later, and try to understand why you don’t like it. You might learn more about yourself if you think about that. Remember that the author has her/his mind-set that they impose upon the text, and you have your own. Some disagreements on opinions and literature could make for great debates in literary circles. Books and even different directions in academic principles have occurred due to differing thoughts about aesthetics, life and the world.
We are not closer to a solution to the guilt. This is perhaps hard coded into our worker bee mentality. We should finish what we started. Perhaps our curiosity and our naivety keep us reading in hopes that the book gets better?
The guilt and shame of not having read Orwell’s 1984 should not deter you from having an opinion about it. This shame is man-made, and not really a thing of substance. We have it because others have it. It’s a social construct. I can’t prescribe a cure to this ail, but I can at least try to give you a better consciousness. Don’t finish a thing unless it’s super important. You don’t have to watch a bad movie in its entirety just because you began to watch it. Stop it; find another video more suitable to your interests, or a movie you can learn better from. Don’t stop it just because it’s challenging. All literature should challenge you! You learn and experience that way.
Build up your attention span, bit by bit. Try something else than your standard 3 minute song. Listen to some classical music. Try to pick up a classic book instead of your “SOON TO BE A MAJOR PICTURE MOVIE” book. The more you read/listen, the stronger your foundation for attention and knowledge will grow. I guarantee it.