I have to admit it: I have now become a quitter. Specifically, I quit reading Will Self’s Umbrella only 40 pages in.

I have a condition by which if I begin a book, I must finish it. This is not a stance I can easily be shaken from, not one I can easily talk myself out of. Often, friends, family, or even myself ask, “You clearly don’t enjoy this book—why don’t you just stop?”

I don’t have a good answer to this question. It’s a reasonable one, I admit, yet not one that I seem willing to face reasonably. At least I’m consistent: I don’t really quit anything easily. I have a persistence, tenacity, and stubbornness that usually goes far beyond the rational and is often more of a hindrance than a help. I have been known to hold out for people, plans, etc., long after a sane person would’ve given up on them, and usually end up sabotaging myself in the process.

In the particular case of Umbrella, it just was not really my jam. In hindsight, I should’ve known better after unfortunately seeing it referred to as “unabashedly literary” and “[the injection of a] revivifying drug into the somnolent body of literary modernism” (yeesh). It was this month’s book selected for my nostalgic English majors’ book group (I completely failed to blog about our last meeting—short stories—but I have notes about it somewhere for the next time I get bored/inspired).

This isn’t so much an entry about Umbrella, though, since clearly I didn’t get anywhere near far enough into it to even begin to discuss it (and thus why I skipped the book group meeting—quitter, quitter, quitter). This entry is more dedicated to my own musings as to why I feel so guilty putting down a book unfinished.

I was the kid who should have never, ever watched any of the Toy Story franchise, because I was already so convinced that all inanimate objects had feelings that those movies sent me into a years-long shame spiral as a child. I would cry whenever I lost anything, not only I was sad I no longer had it, but also because all I could imagine was that object alone, friendless, and forgotten. So part of it, I think, hinges on that—I’ve somehow decided that not finishing a book equates abandonment.

The other half is completely self-centered and the primary reason I tried so hard with Umbrella. I have also somehow come to see not finishing a book as a personal failure, a sign that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to complete what I had started. Even though most of my thoughts while reading Umbrella ran mostly along the lines of “I don’t understand this, this is miserable,” all I was able to hear was “I don’t understand this, I’m disappointing my teachers, my parents, and myself by not trying hard enough.” It’s not a fun realization, to be sure, but one I have a hard time letting go of.

So. I credit this weekend’s library book sale with helping me to let go of Umbrella—at least for now. But when you have five brand new (to you) books waiting on your desk, each easily surpassing 400 pages and selected with immense care from tables upon tables upon boxes of books, what’s a girl to do?

{are we having fun yet?}

I’m slowly forging my way through Faulkner’s Collected Stories—slow going not because I dislike them, but because it takes me about 40 minutes to read each 10-page story. And the book is really, really long.

For those of you that are not Faulkner-ed out (probably no one) (are we having fun yet?), I also recently read this 1956 Paris Review interview with none other than William himself.

The reason I don’t like interviews is that I seem to react violently to personal questions.

This interview is just so many gems—of truth, hilarity, wisdom, sarcasm, literally everything I like. Funnily enough, I find myself unable to comment on much of what he says, for a few reasons. First of all, clearly not being a writer myself, I don’t have a whole lot to say about that. Second of all, and more accurately, I read through this interview almost in a trance. I got so caught up in reading his responses that I almost forgot was he was talking about—that’s how much I was paying attention. The story about working with MGM? Priceless. Every story should be told like that. How is he at the same time so straightforward and so meandering?? Ugh. Genius.

Everybody talked about Freud when I lived in New Orleans, but I have never read him. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I’m sure Moby Dick didn’t.

I love Faulkner for so many reasons, one of which is his dedication to Southern heritage. Personally, I find the American South to be the most fascinating cultural phenomenon in the history of this country, and I literally cannot get enough of it. Say you disagreed with someone and so didn’t want to be around her anymore, except then she is like, “EXCEPT YOU WILL NEVER GET AWAY FROM ME AND I AM GOING TO DESTROY YOU TO PROVE IT.” Maybe if you are seven, you will appreciate that explanation of the American South in the Civil War and understand why I find it so compelling. If you are older than seven, maybe you will like my other Faulknerific entry better than this one.

Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?

Read it four times.

P.S. As of earlier this month, my friend actually works for the interviewer from this article… Wowza. I tell him that is truly the stuff of memoir. After all, who wants to read the memoir of someone who worked in textbook publishing? I certainly don’t, and I am the one living it. Oops.

{in gear}

Spurned on by a handful of friends showing interest (!! [or, if “interest” is too strong, then at least cognizance]) of this blog, I made the first really productive trip to the library in quite some time. I had a handful of recommendations and a few more books that I had heard so many good things about.

So what do I start with? The one book I checked out that had absolutely nothing to recommend it. What can I say—it was a weekend! I was lazy and tired! My emotions were spent and I didn’t want to read anything that would strain them! I only wanted to read a mass-market thriller!

And so I am. The end.

{in which i fail as an english major}

Yesterday, Gabe Habash posted his Literary Wall of Shame on the Publishers Weekly blog, and it inspired me to do the same. As an English major with a huge weakness for history and a stubborn inability to understand anything theoretical, I managed to obtain my B.A. with a solid grounding in 18th- and 19th-century literature, but not a whole lot else. I’ve always been aware that there were some glaring holes in my reputation as a bibliophile, and I decided to take this opportunity to face them head-on.

Ten Books/Authors That I Haven’t Read and Probably Should (Or, Things I Pretend to Have Read So I Won’t Sound Stupid)

1. Virginia Woolf. Pretty sure Woolf is equal only to Shakespeare and the Bible for the number of times she is referenced in/compared to/thanked by all of modern Western literature. Also, I really want to see The Hours and understand what’s going on.

2. (More) Dickens. This is really the most shocking omission, considering my education in Victorian literature. Technically, I’ve read three of his books (and dear God, who could forget the brilliance of A Tale of Two Cities?), but that’s still pretty shameful. I find Dickens amazing in small portions, but somehow can rarely muster up the endurance to conquer a whole book.

3. James Joyce. The “real” English majors at my college studied Ulysses for an entire year as their senior seminar. I, obviously, chose historical fiction instead. Since then, I’ve always felt unworthy to share their degree.

4. The Clockwork Orange. This book tops my list of “literary theory books,” namely because of that Connor guy. I recently read part of his undergraduate honors thesis, which was about something pretty important in this book that I can’t remember at the moment. He was looking for some constructive criticism, which I supplied by deleting a lot of commas and erroneously changing “aesthetics” to a plural noun.

5. Ayn Rand. I can’t even count the number of times Atlas Shrugged has come up on a Sporcle literature quiz. Plus, they talk about her a lot on Mad Men, so she must be pretty good.

6. Lolita. I always see people reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, which makes me feel like I’m missing out on something.

7. (More) Tolkein. Okay. This one I really just don’t get. I did have The Hobbit read aloud to me, but I was ten years old and overwhelmingly bored by it. I honestly tried to read The Fellowship of the Ring last year, but didn’t make it past Bilbo’s surprisingly dull birthday party. I would say it’s just one of those things you have to grow up reading, but I honestly can’t imagine myself loving these at any age.

8. (More) Steinbeck. I read Cannery Row in middle school and quite liked it. Every once in a while, I’ll ironically reference Of Mice and Men and hope that no one sees through to my ignorance. Just one of those authors I’ve never gotten around to, I guess.

9. The Divine Comedy. Because I feel like a poser every time I laugh maniacally at this.

10. Paradise Lost. Milton is so important that he is one of three authors that all English majors at my school must study. I, obviously, took the easy way out and went with Shakespeare. The other option was Chaucer, but I felt that I’d said “pil-grim-AHJ-es” and “kn-ICHT” enough times while studying the Great Vowel Shift (!!) to consider myself exempt.

I’m now realizing that exactly zero of these have even heard of Madonna, so maybe my tastes run a little to the outdated side. I’ll throw in a bonus #11 of The Hunger Games, since I can’t spend more than 5 minutes on Facebook without someone posting a movie trailer. Probably should get on that.

{cold discomfort farm}

It’s been a long week, cyberfriends. Today (!!) the parents return from their 2.5-week jaunt around Morocco. Overall, the housesitting experience was good, except for the misery of last week when the house fell under a Halloween curse, causing the furnace to break and the indoor temp to plummet to 50 degrees. I spent the next four days living in a frigid wasteland, mourning the fact that the local public library appears to have lost their only copy of Cold Comfort Farm, which I need for my upcoming post on the Book Blob. Thus the title of this post (ha, ha). I hate to use a clichéd and overused meme/hashtag (do I really? That doesn’t seem right), but FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS.

In other book news, my dear friend introduced me to this excerpt from Mindy Kaling’s new book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Clearly, I need this book. First of all, the title is something I ask myself pretty much every day, a lovely example of girlish self-esteem. Second of all, exactly one day before reading this, my dear friend and I were having the exact same discussion of men versus boys. Although our version was much less funny and much more sad, the coincidence cannot be denied. After next weekend’s shopping trip, I’ll have to call my old boss and thank her for the B&N gift card that allowed me to indulge my inner (and outer) quarter-life neuroses while maintaining my dignity/bank account as an unemployedian.

I’m slowly but surely working my way through Death in the City of Light in my likely-doomed effort to read more nonfiction. I really do love nonfiction in a very nerdy, scholarly-research type of way, but I don’t tend to gravitate toward it at my leisure. This quest is further hampered by the fact that my long-standing library hold on Maine has finally reached its destination. I’m torn between complete excitement lasting from early July when I first saw M on the shelves of the Tattered Cover, and complete annoyance that my aforementioned hold on CCF is not so happily resolved.

Sadly, that’s really all I have for now. I will now attempt to blow through DitCoL for a big post in the very near future—then on to Maine!

{a quickie}

Just in case you were super concerned by the fact that I changed WHAT I’M READING, rest assured that I will be posting on Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s just that the two books were so similar, I decided to have them both off in one go, and will therefore be doing a megapost once I finished the second.

In other news—if you like Germans and war crimes, read my review of The Reader at the Book Blob!

{in which i reject self-awareness}

Last night, I came across the following quote on a friend’s Facebook:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. —Eleanor Roosevelt

As much as I do like said friend and respect his opinion, I took issue with this quote. Boo to ideas and events; their only interest lies in how they affect people. Small minded I may be, but I would much rather discuss people.

In keeping with that notion, last week I went on a rare and ill-fated self-improvement kick, which involved watching the following film and reading this almost book-length article from The Atlantic.

Also this weekend, I took a physical trip down Memory Lane and visited my alma mater, as well as the city I worked in last year. These visits always result in some sort of emotional turbulence, during which I attempt to question what my life has become since college and how I can change that. Meh.

What could all of this possibly have to do with book learnin’? Well, this is my long-winded explanation as to why I chucked Swell: A Girl’s Guide to the Good Life. Sometime this weekend, I had a fit of pique about my self-improvement project and instead gave myself up to internal rants on being told how people perceived me, how to perceive myself, how to acclimate myself to a lifetime of spinsterhood, and how to make this all a worthwhile and ultimately successful endeavor. Hooray!

Instead, I immediately picked up Bridget Jones’s Diary and gave myself over to emotional fuckwittage. Because that’s real life, people.

I watched the BJD movies one winter in high school. My parents were out of town and my younger brother was obvi out on some social engagement, so I hightailed it down to BBV, rented the double feature, and watched in sitting on my living room floor, wrapped in my duvet and eating reheated casserole out of the pan. Rarely have I ever had such a meta moment.

So, faced with funemployment and home-aloneness during the parents’ vacay to northern Africa, clearly there were no better books to read. I’m already loving BJD, and can’t wait to blog more about it later.

What do you think? Do you agree with Eleanor Roosevelt? Do you embrace activism/sociology, or do you just sometimes get tired of it and just want to read a hilarious and slightly racy diary?

{kicking it}

Whew. Back in the trenches. By which I mean my couch.

I spent the past week visiting the bro at college (and re-experiencing the complete Bizarro World that is the American fraternity house) and then bopping around Portland, Ore. with the ‘rents. After catching myself saying, “Can we go home now? There’s nothing to spend money on at home,” I realized that I had probably blown through two months’ spending budget in three days, which, when you’re unemployed and living with your parents, is a lot to sneeze at.

But the trip wasn’t a total waste, since I did get to bond with my favorite kindergartener in boots.

Bookwise, I’m still plodding through Unseen Academicals. I did get briefly sidetracked by an impulse guilty-pleasure Powell’s purchase, but I’m forcing myself to save it for later. Except I’m already halfway through.

So, with no book news, I leave you with this article. Lengthy enough to be practically a book, and educational!

P.S. The only other big news is that almost one week ago, I applied to basically my dream job. Not only my dream job, but one that I feel quite qualified for, a practically extinct combination. So, please—good thoughts! I need this job!

{goal orientation}

Goodbye, weekend! Of course, unemployment + living with parents means that really the only difference between weekends and weekdays is that during the latter, my hedonistic lifestyle goes relatively uninterrupted. A blessing at times, but usually guilt-ridden.

I started reading a new book today, in the latest of what has turned into a long journey to find an appropriate Glass Castle follower. I originally had the advanced reading copy of a nonfiction work about a serial killer in Nazi Paris, but I decided I needed a bit of a pick-me-up after my TGC-induced nervous breakdown. So I turned instead to a harmless little cozy about an idyllic hamlet and its philanthropic minister. While certainly the opposite of an anxiety attack, I found it unable to maintain my interest. It actually would’ve been perfect for immediate post-surgery reading, when all I could do was lie in bed with my leg elevated, but when it competed for my attention with more strenuous physical therapy, a baby social life, Oregon football, and my first official job application work (!!!), it simply did not make the cut.

So. After some spontaneous Borders purchases with the change I scrounged out of my car after my last physical therpay appointment, You Know When the Men Are Gone has jumped to the forefront of my reading list. It’s a single-author short story collection about a present-day military base in Texas, with most of the men off in Iraq. So far it’s great! But I’ll save any other thoughts for my finished post.

In case you didn’t catch it earlier, yes, I have officially (after muuuuch procrastination) begun the job search! I spent all day today on one application, going for quality rather than quantity. Since being back with the parents doesn’t give me much of an opportunity to live beyond my limited means, one app a day isn’t bad, right? At least I have a seven-year plan clearly mapped out.

P.S. Dashiell Hammett is a boss. My post on The Maltese Falcon was posted this Friday on the Book Blob.