Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Literary Albatross

In 1998, a friend of mine who worked in a bookstore told me that I could get a copy of the book Infinite Jest from their online store for less than three dollars. "I've never heard of it," I said. "It's supposed to be great!" he said. "And over a thousand pages for three dollars: it's good value." I was young and foolish, and so a high page-per-penny ratio seemed like a good reason to read the book.

I've had this book on my shelf for ten years now. And I haven't read more than a hundred pages of it. At the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge; now it seems like an impossible slog. And it's not because it's too long, because I've gone through The Count Of Monte Cristo, which is even longer and it's one of my favourite books. It's just that it has generated more psychic mass the longer it's stayed, unread, on my bookshelf. If you could project my mental representation of this book onto a wall, it would be twenty feet tall with muscly arms and, somehow, fangs. I've started reading it, and it's not bad, but I just hate opening it up. It feels like it takes a great deal of effort just to open the front cover every time.

Anyone else have anything like this in their lives? A book, or a movie, or something else, that they have to carry around like a giant, smelly seabird.


Anonymous said...

The Arctic Grail, by Pierre Berton. I got it for a birthday present once, long long ago, and was intimidated by the fact that it was a hefty non-fiction hardcover, so I never bothered to read it.

It's still on a shelf in my old room at my parents' place: now that I'm less easily intimidated by literature, it doesn't look that big. I still don't ever have room for it in my luggage, so it remains unread.

The Doc said...

I've always wanted to read some Pierre Berton, but haven't ever picked any of his books up. I'm always interested in learning more about Canadian history, though, so maybe I'll make one of his books a challenge for myself when this behemoth is down.