Saturday, January 14, 2006

1.5. The Adventures of Augie March

by Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March was the January selection for the Gapers Block Book Club and, okay, I was cheating a little on this 52 books thing because I started reading this way back in December with every intention of posting it to the 2006 list. Those last couple of weeks when I didn’t post anything new? Those days were filled with Bellow. (And catching up on my magazines because I kind of let those slide in effort to complete the 52.) The meeting for Augie passed and guess what? I didn’t make it. I didn’t finish the book in time. And I’m not going to finish the book ever.

It seemed like such a good idea. Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. Augie comes in at number 81 on the Modern Library 100. And the book is a significant part of Chicago history. Here’s the thing, though: I hated reading it. Well, I didn’t really hate it, because sometimes I would actually get into it and want to continue reading, but every time I put it down I found it increasingly difficult to pick it back up again. I dreaded that 600 page tome, hating it all the more because I didn’t want to let it beat me. I told myself I’d read to at least page 400 before the meeting, figuring the remaining 200 wouldn’t be too much to complete without deadline.

I got to page 330 in my Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century edition. I never made it any further.

The last time I didn’t finish a book was due to a conscious choice. The last time I didn’t finish a book because I just couldn’t make it? Well, it’s been years. It feels like a failure. And, because I’d already spent at least three weeks on it, a big waste of time, to boot. I’d already put so much effort into the book, shouldn’t I suck it up and finish it? I was already half way through, what was 300 pages more? Then I looked at it from a different perspective. I put my Carrie Bradshaw lenses on and thought, when you’re with a man and it’s not working, you don’t continue to be with that man. It doesn’t matter if you’ve wasted three weeks or three years, when it’s not working, it’s not working. Barring children or other extenuating circumstances, you break up, move on, and hope for the best in your futures.

So, Augie, I’m breaking up with you. I think it would be better if we didn’t see each other anymore. No, of course it wasn’t all bad. I enjoyed some of the time we spent together. I’d like to know how things end up for you, but I can’t take that journey with you. You’re more…existential. You like to sit around with your Great Books and ruminate on the philosophy of life. I’m more…pop. I like to sit around with my Seinfeld DVDs and ruminate on how every situation in life can relate to an episode with Jerry and the gang. We could certainly learn things from each other, but we can never be together. You understand, right?

No hard feelings. I’m sure you’ll make someone very happy. I’m with a book by an Esquire editor about his quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica. It may not be love, but we’re having a lot of fun. In the end, we have to remember that’s what this reading thing is all about.

1 Comments:

Anonymous ST said...

Read Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels

3:13 PM  

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