Once I begin a book, I have to finish it. Even a bad book. I don’t know why – maybe I hope to find something that redeems it? Maybe it’s so bad it’s fascinating? Maybe I’m looking for reasons why it’s bad so I can recognise a good book when I come across one? But I don’t need to read a bad book to recognise a good one, so maybe it’s to make a good book seem an even better book when I read one after a bad book? And then I guess it also something to do with the fact that I often drop a line to people to tell them how well-read I am.
Don’t know, but I end up spending a lot of time deciding(read struggling) how to finish reading such books. I vividly remember my first such struggle was with this book. Now I was really keen to know how Sculley went about making transition from Pepsi to Apple but the book just went about dragging and seemed to not to end. This illustrious list also includes luminaries like this. To say such pangs are limited to certain genres, will be an under-statement.
I’m a little better when it comes to Shakespeare, though. I read Shakespeare as prescribed text for seven years of my life. I can still quote extensively from Macbeth, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice and the rest. (Incidentally, another excellent source of Shakespeare quotes is PG Wodehouse).
Another of such struggles was about dealing with this. And I didn’t like the book. Perhaps because it was Fantasy. I can’t say I’ve read a lot of it, but what little I have read never inspired me to explore the genre in any meaningful way. I’ve always thought it weird that I don’t like fantasy. I mean, I’m fascinated by sci-fi, astronomy and stars and the whole wide universe and can largely make a claim about reading the entire Asimov oeuvre . At school, I’d pore over the ‘universe’ entries in all the encyclopedias, gaping, awed, at the pictures. As a teen, I spent hours on the terrace after dark, gazing up at the sky (and getting a horrible crick in the neck), asking myself every now and then, What if I were offered a place on a spaceship out to explore – but a spaceship that would never come back. Would I accept? (In my teens – obviously more angst-y than I was consciously aware of at the time – the answer was a given. Yes. Of course. Today, well, I’d have to think very hard about it, but I suspect the answer would be No.) Given that kind of interest, I think I don’t like fantasy because the fantasy books I have read are so dry. Written in such a way that even the author seems unable to get into world she or he has created. I wondered if, maybe, I was being unfair by thinking this as I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, so I picked up the Chuck Hogan/Del Toro book that was next on my reading list and read the first page, and yes. I was correct. Within a single page, I was well into Hogan/Toro’s created world, but entire fantasy thing has made me feel left out. NOT a good thing when it comes to novels. I’ve read only fantasy book that I really liked. That was Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, and I read it not because I was suddenly suffused with the desire to read fantasy, but because Debashree, the God-mother of SFF genre, thrust it upon me with evangelistic fervour. I was deeply sceptical and said so loud and clear, but Debashree assured me I would love it and, to my surprise, I did. But not enough to even read more books, let alone exploreFantasy. So the genre has always and will always remain a closed book to me (sorry, this is a most un-funny pun). I am better able to cope with sci-fi, however. Especially comic sci-fi. But I still can’t say it’s anything close to a genre that I specifically look out for. That was sparked by Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was on a Infy bus wondering what I am doing to my life when I started reading it, and laughed so loudly and hysterically, snorting and weeping, that everyone including the driver turned to stare at me as though I was mad, but I just couldn’t put the book down. And of course I read all the others in the series that began as ‘A Trilogy in Four Parts’ and ended as ‘A Trilogy in Six Parts’. I tried re-reading it recently and was appalled to discover that I can’t. It just seems so… tired. And outdated. None of the passages that had made me laugh so hysterically raised even a smile. Maybe I’ve just read it too often, I thought (and it’s true, I’d re-read it many times), but that can’t be it. Because I’ve re-read all my P.G. Wodehouse books at least a hundred times each, not to mention all the Asterix comics, but they still make me laugh. Anyway, Douglas Adams inspired me in my youth to look for more comic sci-fi , and I found Terry Pratchett – of whose enormous output, I found the one book I read was quite enough. How, HOW had I found those books funny? Terry Pratchett seem so juvenile to me these days – books by writers who say, look! I made a joke! Everybody, clap! Still, somehow, I seem to be drawn to writers like this. My Pratchett of today is a man called Jasper Fforde who has a series of sci-fi fantasy books featuring a ‘literary detective’ named Thursday Next. For some reason I have yet to figure out, I have to read every Thursday Next book as it comes out (the last one was called First Among Sequels. I ask you!). They’re great as one-time reads, so I buy, read and then pass them on to my nephew or deposit on the office Book Exchange (the top of a cabinet where anyone who has a book or books to dispose of dumps the said book or books, for any random passer-by to pick up and take home – rather like http://www.bookcrossing.com). But otherwise, I’m not at all fond of Fantasy.
Gimme a real world, any day. This planet has its problems, true, but I’m rather fond of good old Earth.