Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dangerous blogging

I suppose it's unwise for one to blog when one is feeling cranky and irritated with Long Island and disgusted by the general state of humanity and the world, but then again, if you can't vent to the blogosphere, to whom can you vent?

There are two kinds of people in the world. (i know, i know: those who say there are two kinds of people and those who don't. yeah. what i meant was...) There are people who always have to finish a book once they've started it and people who can put it down and never return to it. Oh wait, three kinds of people. There are also people who don't read. You know, like our so-called Commander in Chief.

Anyway, for a while I used to feel that guilt if I started a book that I should finish it. Therefore, in my past, I have finished books that I didn't like. And not in a Prozac Nation-didn't-like way (infuriating, but decent writing) or in a The Life of Pi -didn't-like way (WHAT?! how can you end it like that?! but years later I come to like it revisionist-style because it only pissed me off because it was brilliant) but I mean in a I-really-don't-like-this-book-but-I-simply-have-to-finish-what-I-started way. I don't do that anymore.

I've had this discussion with a lot of people. I forget who once put it so simply: life is too short to waste reading things you don't like. On the other hand, sometimes a challenging book or other work of art does need time to fully develop its potential. Just as we should not judge a book by its cover (although, sometimes, a cover can really intrigue you, and no one seems to have a problem with that, so maybe the cover-judging should just go into the "If EVERYONE jumped off a bridge, I might, too" files) we should also not necessarily judge a book by its first few pages.

Take The Corrections. By Jonathan Franzen. Which is totally in my top 5 and is just one of the best things I've ever read ever (and, I might add, my greatest Pulitzer disappointment in recent memory). The beginning of that book is weird. But later you realize how brilliant even the weirdness was! Oh, that book is so brilliant. But I know some people who started it and were like, no, man, that book was too weird. "I couldn't get into it," they say. Yet, everyone I know who has read it loves it. Because it's phenomenal. I tend to use the 100-page rule. If I am reasonably interested in a book going in, I'll give it 100 pages before I throw it across the room in a strange fit of passion. (she said, alluding to the Anita Shreve book she finished but despised, which made her seriously question Joe's and Jodi's judgment and has steered her clear of Ms. Shreve ever since) (but that was just a blip on the radar, Joe and Jodi and I have read many things together and we are so cool with agreeing to disagree!)

I've discussed this with Brian, too. His take is interesting. He says he rarely (never?) dislikes the books he reads and movies he watches because he knows himself and his own judgment and he never really goes after the things he doesn't really want. (And yes you can apply that last statement on many levels.) Which is interesting. Brian is also extremely easygoing. I suspect those two qualities are related. There was a time when I would not have been described as easygoing. Well, actually, I should say there have been situations in which I would not have been described as easygoing. Most of those situations involved either Borders customers with egregious senses of entitlement or conservative/religious people who are uncomfortable discussing radical things like truth.

Maybe I've mellowed with age. Actually, I rather think teaching in Korea made me more easygoing, too. After living in Korea you just can't be fazed by some things that would have fazed you before. In fact, I wanted to start a club called "I've taught English in Asia so I can't possibly go ballistic over my law school classes" but I've found only two other potential members.

But I digress. Handily! My point is: law school. A mere week from today, I will be done with my first year classes. A month from today, I will be DoneDone, with all my finals, and with the journal audition writing competition, and everything. And that's fun to contemplate, being one third of the way through. But of late I've also been contemplating less fun things, like how much I hate Long Island, and whether I'm wasting my money (because despite the scholarship I am taking out loans for living expenses, you know), and wasting my time?

So, you might read the above paragraph and think, "Wow, Linda's thinking of dropping out of law school!" To which I would reply - well, duh. We all think about dropping out of law school, all the time. A couple times a day. It's part of the fun. What's new and exciting is that I have been thinking about how much I like to read things and how I read lots of different things and how even when they're good for me if I get to that 100-page point and I still so don't care (that's right, Harry Potter! I. Don't. Care.) then I put the book down.

So the real question, it would seem, is this: Law School - do I want to find out how the book ends?

1 comment:

Brian said...

I would say the correct word to use is "rarely," as in I extremely rarely dislike the content with which I engage, provided I went in expecting to like it. Though it would also be true to say that there are occasions when I will read or watch (or do) something I know I probably won't like, but there are other benefits to it - I guess being easygoing lets me access those other benefits more easily. Maybe the same with you and law school? Remember Calvin's impression of his father - "being miserable builds character."