I went to a bookstore yesterday with the intention of buying Ian McEwan's Atonement, having watched the movie the night before. It was a nice movie. James McAvoy as the wrongly accused young man was simply delicious. And the story was, what’s the word I want, tragically endearing. Very Shakespeare. I haven’t read much Shakespeare but didn’t he write all those tragic, lovers dying in the end kind of stories? Or was it only Romeo and Juliet? Whatever it is, Atonement was very touching, leaving you all sad and moody and asking why did they have to die, why is it so unfair? Well, the bottom line is, it was kind of haunting in a pleasant emotionally distressing way.
So I went to the store and located the book. I sat there for about half an hour reading it, it was good. Well written. But I didn’t like the cover (too filmy although I wouldn’t mind having a picture of James McAvoy anywhere) and so I didn’t buy the book. There were a thousand other books that screamed from the shelves “Read me, buy me, take me home!!” so I ended up buying The Kite Runner.
I went home, opened The Kite Runner, it looked good. But I didn’t read it because I am currently reading Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones-The Edge of Reason, and I need to finish this book soon because I was in the middle of Jane Smiley’s Moo which I abandoned halfway to read PG Wodehouse’s Something Fresh.
But Atonement still haunted me. I regretted not buying it. So what if the cover is filmy? I told myself, the contents of the book still remain the same, the story unchanged. I will go back next week and buy it, I concluded.
The point I am trying to make here is, am I the only one, or do you also have this habit of reading many books at one time? My bookshelf is full of books which I haven’t finished, books I haven’t even started reading and some which I have given up reading. Take for example Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. I bought this book on 28th July 2007 and I am stuck somewhere in the middle. Well, that’s more than a year ago and if I didn’t finish reading something within a month of its purchase it usually means (a) I was too busy to read (b) I had some other books to finish first, or (c) It simply wasn’t interesting enough for me. Most of the time it’s almost always (c). I bought this particular book only because it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and I am gullible enough to believe that anything shortlisted for an award this huge must be good so I should read it. But I didn’t like it at all. Maybe it was way beyond my grasp and I just wasn’t smart enough to figure it out. Or maybe it was too literary.
Another regular Booker customer I couldn’t figure out at all is Salman Rushdie. I borrowed The Satanic Verses from a friend and when she took it back a year later I had only read a couple of chapters. Another friend gave me Shalimar the Clown and after two years I still haven’t gone beyond a few pages. Midnight’s Children I haven’t read though (or attempted), but I hoped it would be good; after all didn’t it win the “Booker of Bookers” prize? (There I go again).
Love in the time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez. Date of purchase: 16th November 2004. Pages read-maybe 50. Dust collected on cover-a couple of inches.
Do you also buy books you never read? I am quite impressionable when it comes to books. Big names and famous authors always attract my eye in bookshops. If it’s something that everyone is reading it immediately gets added to my list of books to read. I also tend to judge books by their covers (a huge mistake) and by their titles. Cutesy names and funny sounding titles catch my attention more easily and I’ve ended up buying some books with the best of titles but with the worst content.
But the bright side of this multiple reading? One can never get bored.