Friday, August 10, 2007

In Praise of Half-Finished Books

Last June, I made a ‘To Read’ list, composed of five novels-Mozart’s Women: His Family, Friends, His Music by Jane Glover; Hot and Bothered, Annie Downey; Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T.S. Eliot by Carole Seymore-Jones; and Howard’s End, E.M. Forster-to be finished within a year. Pretty ambitious, considering the proposed books are all within the 200-300 page range, one at nearly 700+ pages. Some would say, that doesn’t sound ambitious at all!
It is when there is a toddler running around the house.

These days, I rarely have the time or the brain power to actually sit down and read a book all the way through. Not unless you count Miss Spider’s Tea Party, The Cat in the Hat, and the entire Madeline series-all favorites in the household and all of which I can fully recite by heart.

I made the list as a challenge to myself, knowing I would finish at least two of the books within a year. I surprised myself and finished two as well as delving half way into two others on the list.

Mozart’s Women was easy to read for a biography and fascinating, a hard combination to come by in that genre, although, this one took me three or four months to read.
In stark contrast, I finished Hot and Bothered during one night, in a fit of restless insomnia. This was an extreme rarity. Just about any woman who has kids could relate to the main character. It was the language/dialogue that caught my ear with particular story, as is the case most of the time.

Of the two I turned half-way into, one happens to be the longest and more difficult, yet intriguing, of the bunch: the Vivienne Eliot book. This is a heavy book to read, both in language and content: immense amounts of background information on both Vivienne and T.S. Eliot, did I mention it’s nearly 700 + pages? It’s been sitting on the shelf, on and off, since about March or April, a bookmark is tucked deep within the book (page 116, hardly cracking the surface, actually), and is likely to stay there for a bit longer.

I began Howard’s End a little over a year ago, fully intending to finish it, spurred on by the thought of how the movie compared to the book and the language of the story. Yet it remains on my shelf today, page 71 crisply dog-eared, half- finished, waiting to be picked up again.

The other, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, currently remains on the list, unread.

I’ve always been an avid reader and don’t want to lose that just because I had a child. My love of words is something that keeps me alive, makes me feel alive. Surely there is room in the heart and mind for all that keeps one alive?

My mother once told me she didn’t read any books for two years while my siblings and I were very young. I can understand this, but I just don’t know if I could do that. I need to have words: words to be read, words to be written, words to keep me sane. I’d rather have my nose in a hundred books, even if they remain half-read, than not read at all.

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