Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 5: There Are a Lot of Reasons, Really
I Sort of Encountered It Already/No Narrative Lust - This is basically the opposite problem of yesterday’s post. Sometimes you read the dumbed-down and sugar-coated version as a child; sometimes you see a movie or stage production or some other medium. Because you know where the plot goes, more or less, you don’t bother with the unabridged, unadulterated prose of the original book.
This is part of the reason Lord of the Rings took me such a long time. It’s why I haven’t been especially inclined to read certain Shakespeare plays: A Winter’s Tale, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Henry V, and Coriolanus can wait. It’s why I haven’t gotten more than 100 pages into Les Miserables or 3 chapters into Moby Dick or any pages into A Christmas Carol. Having read a version or two of Arthurian legends, I haven’t read Morte d’Arthur.
But who knows? Maybe one day I’ll want to see how the author originally wrote it.
Critically Acclaimed and Hated - That is, critics loved it, but a friend/relative/other trusted source reported it as loathsome in some respect. This is why I never bothered with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and sequels.
I Read It And Then Forgot It – “The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. We have all known women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it. But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life.” Thanks, Jack. By that metric, I don’t even know how many books I ought to reread.
I Dropped It in the Bath - This reason comes from Thalia. I have never actually done this, because the idea of dropping a book in the tub has dissuaded me from the salutary practice of reading at bathtime. The peace and rest would be shattered by frantically grabbing the volume, attempting to towel off the cover, thumbing helplessly and hopelessly at the waterlogged pages. When it eventually dries out, the crinkled pages remind you of your folly forever.
It’s in a Language I Haven’t Learned (Yet) - This one is also from Thalia, but resonates with me. Some things are more than adequate in translation, or so we are assured, but we won’t be able to judge that for ourselves until we’ve read the original Greek/French/Russian/Atlantean/etc.
No One Has Commanded Me To So I Figured It Wasn’t Urgent – If it’s a book that has no champions, not even the advertising e-mails from the bookstore, then I will probably pass it over in favor of something else. But by that token, no one will care if I’ve ignored it. Victory!
I HAVE NO EXCUSE; I AM A VICIOUS AND SLOTHFUL CREATURE. Increasingly, this is my answer. Opening a new book is lovely, but it is a commitment of sorts. Sometimes I am so lazy that even that teeny little commitment is off-putting, such that I end up wasting all sorts of time online instead.
What’s your go-to reason?