I recall Kevin of kevinfromcanada once commenting on how he reads. If I recall correctly he has a chair (quite a nice chair I think) in a pleasant and well lit room where he has time to sit comfortably and really get to grips with a book.
It sounds idyllic. Given life and money enough I may well have the same myself one day. Not yet though. Presently I read on the daily commute and during free moments at the weekends. I don’t have that many free moments at the weekends. I actually have no particular complaints about that. Not everyone even has time to read on their commute so I’m not particularly badly off. Occasionally though it does mean that my reading gets a touch interrupted.
If I get busy at work I of course work longer hours. That then means I am likely to be tired going in to the office. Perhaps too tired to read. It happens, particularly if what I’m reading requires close attention.
The irony is that interruptions only happen to good books. If I’m reading a light crime novel then the odds on my being too tired to follow it are pretty low. Even if I am I’ll probably pick up the thread again when I get back to it. With a more serious book though frustration can very quickly set in.
My most recent blog entry was about JG Farrell’s novel Troubles. That was actually my second attempt at reading it. The first time I got to about 50 pages or so in and then got so busy at work that I didn’t have time to give it the attention it needed. When I found a spare half hour I was so tired I would read the same sentence twice without taking it in. Happily 50 pages isn’t that much. I put the book back on the shelf and gave up on it for a while. It was months before I returned to it. Enough time that I could restart it without an overpowering feeling of deja vu in the early pages.
Recently I’ve been reading Gordon Burn’s non-fiction work Pockety Money. It’s been badly disrupted by work. I’ve had to pause it in fact on three occasions now, and the truth is it’s lost all sense of flow as a result. The problem is I’m about halfway in.
So, what to do? If I continue I know it will be a grind. I’m no longer enjoying what I can recognise is a good book. I’d be finishing it for the sake of doing so, which is pointless.
The alternative of course is to shelve it. I’m so far in though that it’s inevitable when I pick it back up that I’ll spend a fair while reading material I’ve already read. I’m so far into it in fact that to restart it could just lead to my abandoning it again as no longer fresh. I could potentially never finish it which given it is a good book would be rather a shame.
Sometimes there aren’t good answers, and of course this isn’t a serious problem in the grand scheme of things (or even the middling scheme of things). I know for a fact that if I continue I’ll be killing the book given how much it’s now been disrupted, so I won’t continue. That may mean I won’t ever read it, but at least I give myself the chance to do so (probably in a year or two).
A question then. For anyone reading this, is this a problem you have? Do you always press on? Do you shelve and revisit? If so do you actually revisit after shelving? Do you just plain give up and move on, accepting that sometimes even a good book just doesn’t find the space it needs to be read properly?
For me the answer is that Pocket Money is going back on the shelf. I started Bukowski’s Factotum this morning. I’m already enjoying it hugely, and the Burn will be waiting for when I’ve forgotten it enough for it to be fresh again. Not ideal, but in the absence of a comfortable chair in a well lit room with plenty of time not ideal is sometimes where we find ourselves.