on finishing what i started

I would like to begin with a few words in praise of Mr. Neil Gaiman.

I love Neil Gaiman, although I’ve only finished two of his books.  I obviously had to read Neverwhere, because it’s set in (quite literally) the underbelly of London, and I love books set in the underbelly of London.  I’ve also read The Graveyard Book, which is a fantastic young adult novel that won the Newbery in 2009.  The latter proves that Gaiman really knows how to handle a cemetery with the proper degree of humor, eeriness, and tombstone crumbliness.

I have also heard many wonderful things about Neil Gaiman the Person.

Despite my Gaiman fandom, I’m faced with a problem.  I’m halfway through one of his books — Anansi Boys — and I’m thinking about quitting.

I call it quitting because I consider this a failure on my part as a reader.  I hate replacing a book on the shelf before I finished it.  What if, two pages later, the author trots out an ingenious description or plot device that would completely change my mind?  What if I discover, on the final page, that in fact I’ve been missing the point, and EUREKA! I get it now!  Or what if I’m just in a reading funk, and I’m not giving the author a fair shake?

At times such as these my brain begins lobbying for the author, citing particular character quirks and turns of phrase that I found funny or endearing or clever.  As I fell asleep last night, pondering the fate of Anansi Boys, the wee Gaiman lawyer in my brain was collecting evidence.  But remember that part with the flamingos?  You like the part with the flamingos!  And what about that business with the mirrored brothers in the photograph?  Nice.

I’m going to finish Anansi Boys, because I’ve realized that I care too much about the characters to leave them frozen in their current postures, on page 197.

And, in any case, I suspect that my restlessness is not entirely due to the novel but instead to the surprising and unprecedented length of my to-read list.  Trying Leviathan by D. Graham Burnett is still sadly unread, I just picked up Into the Woods by Tana French for three bucks at Half-Price Books, and the behemoth of one of the newer relevant critical books in my field — The Evolution of Childhood by Melvin Konner — leers at me from the top of my bookcase.  And oh so many others.

So carrots readers — are you compulsive book finishers?  What, if anything, makes you take out your bookmark and close the covers?

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13 thoughts on “on finishing what i started

    • Drood is currently sitting, quite heavily, on my shelf. I feel compelled to read anything Dickens-related, of course. But with your experience, I might put off that one.

  1. I, like you, must finish a novel once I start. Occasionally it takes more than one attempt when life gets in the way, but I always finish.

    And, as a Gaiman note, “Anansi Boys” was pretty good, but its predecessor, “American Gods” was quite superior in my opinion.

    • I have heard some good things about American Gods. To preserve my love of Gaiman, however, I think I’m going to take a hiatus.

      I had to start Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children about four times before I finally made it through!

  2. Neil Gaiman is one of the gifts Sonya gave me although I haven’t read “Anansi Boys.” I’ve got

    If I start a book, any book, I’m very likely to finish it. If it’s non-fiction and gets boring I can put it down. A novel is different. I can count on far fewer than the fingers of one hand the number of novels I started and didn’t finish. My “going-to-read-next stack” is literally 2 feet tall at the moment. Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” awaits.

  3. American Gods was superior but you have to finish Anasi boys it really is a good book. Also I can’t stop in the middle of a book.

  4. First, regarding Neil Gaiman, I actually had the same problem with Neverwhere. I got really bored about halfway through and yet somehow felt compelled to keep going. I finished it, but I’m sure that I couldn’t have spent the time better reading something else.

    As for always finishing books, I have no qualms with giving up if a book starts to bore me. Books are a lot like relationships – sometimes they start well and then fall apart, sometimes they keep enticing us with promises for the future, and sometimes we just have to realize it isn’t working and move on. I guess the key difference would be that even the very best books will always eventually come to an end.

    • I think that’s a good way to look at it. And appropriate. Because really — if the book really isn’t holding my interest, I just get increasingly resentful as I plod along toward the end.

  5. Hi Carrots,
    I had to tell you that you really cheered me up. I was having a down lonesome day and i decided to check my niece’s blog. I randomly clicked on one of the lists of blogs that she reads, and from there I was drawn to “running with carrots” ( I HAD to check out that title). I just so much enjoyed your writing and your humor. As a novice writer, I always appreciate a writer who can make me smile. It’s easy to make me cry, not as easy to make me laugh. So thank you for that. Also, I got a great new list of picture books I want to buy for my grandchildren. So you even helped me with my Christmas shopping. So, I wanted you to know that sometimes we cheer people up and we don’t even realize it, because we are just being ourselves. Best to you,

    • Thank you for such a kind comment! YOU cheered ME up. I’m always happy to have new readers. Do you mind if I ask who your niece is?

      Have a great week!

      • Dear Carrots,
        My niece is Analee and her blog is called “in progress”. On her blog list is ” the life I read” which is K. Pipes blog. And on K. Pipes blog list is “running with carrots”. This makes me sound like I sit for hours, searching aimlessly around blogs, but actually this is the first time I’ve done this. And getting to meet you on your blog has been a fun little adventure. I will so enjoy following your blog.
        best, Kay

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