Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Something or Other Interruptus (But Not That)

Have you ever had a case of interruptus? I mean, do you have problems finishing what you start? For some reason, I've been battling it more than usual lately.

I most notice it in my reading habits. I pick up a new book -- fiction or nonfiction, it matters not -- and begin with excited anticipation, turning pages like an accountant on April 14. But then, by the time I'm halfway through the book, my interest flags. Sometimes I trudge on anyway, thinking, "This is a good book. It's even considered a classic. I should read this and finish what I started." This logic, quite frankly, is what got me all the way through the unabridged versions of both Les Miserables and Moby Dick, books which are great at the beginning and end, but drag terribly by page 726 or so.

But sometimes, I don't even finish. I just give up. I quit. My list of books each year that I start and then don't finish is most assuredly longer than the list of ones I do finish. Maybe this is why I try to read Goodnight Moon at least once a year, to get that feeling of literary completion without a lot of effort.

(I've just re-read this about 10 hours after I wrote it, and on second glance I realize I sound like a bit of a lazy dilettante, starting in on a book and just dropping it on a whim because maybe there aren't any more pretty pictures or because I want to go to sleep and drool on the couch all day. In reality, what occurs is a teaming of two fatal forces: the book becoming a little boring, and my discovering a new book that seems even more exciting and worthy of my limited free time. I'm like an insatiable playboy philanderer who starts dating his new girlfriend before he even gets around to dumping his old one. I know this only in theory, by the way.)

My latest "stuck on the tar baby, caught in the brier patch" book is Little Women. I enjoyed the first quarter a lot, and I appreciate how it paints such a pleasant picture of life. But now I'm smack dab in the middle of the thing, after I've learned the father recovers from his war injuries and little what's-her-name doesn't die of fever, and I'm trying to decide, "Do I want 250 more pages of this?" I haven't touched it in a week or so. The thought of sneaking off to a new book -- maybe a juicy modern mystery or a Wodehouse comedy -- is seducing me like a sultry painted lady of the night. But then I think, what about Jo and the girls? What will I say now if someone ever asks if I've read Little Women? I'll have to answer, "Duh, I've read half of it," as if the prose was just too complicated for me to understand or something.

I do the same thing with movies. It's very rarely that I watch a DVD or even a movie on TV in one, uninterrupted sitting. I'll watch a third or a half, get called away or find something else I want to do instead, and the movie never gets finished. Can you tell me if Rhett and Scarlett live happily ever after? Did they ever figure out what "Rosebud" was? Was Norman Bates' mother the killer in "Psycho?"

Another thing that happens is that I will finish the movie, but I'll do it by watching in 20- or 30-minute segments as I'm running on the treadmill or doing another task. These viewings don't all take place right after each other, so I'm many times popping in a movie and asking myself, "OK, what was going on when I left this a week ago? And who are the characters again?"

I know that this is no way to read books or watch movies. I like to think I have more of an attention span than this would indicate, but maybe I don't.

I'm curious, readers. Do you also have problems with literary or video interruptus? When you get well into a book or movie and it loses its zing, do you drop it and move on, or do you stick with it?

Today's Quote:

"We Christians must simplify our lives or lose untold treasures on earth and in eternity. Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible, The need for solitude and quietness was never greater than it is today."

--A.W. Tozer


jenA said...

um, yes. and do you really not know what Rosebud was? I can tell you. I like knowing the endings.

Anonymous said...

holy crickies, i suffer from this malady daily. i'm currently in the middle of a movie. i might finish it, i might just wait until it's due at midnight, and say, "oh well, maybe i'll rent it again some day". if a movie is badly acted, written or otherwise boring, i never finish it. there are certain people on the other hand that will see it through to the bitter end "just because" i say, don't waste your time. there's always something else to move onto. i don't think you're weird at all. maybe you are having some sort of crisis. or not. i don't know. not enough people have weighed in here.

ps, i do the same thing with books. about the only thing i finish is my bathroom duties

Carrie said...

Sounds like you need medication. Just kidding.

I have had this problem with some books, Les Mis is a good example for me also. I find that some of the classics are a bit slow but as I read more of them I get better at hanging in.

Maybe we're a product of our fast-pace culture. The old classics need a certain amount of patience to just enjoy the story as it goes along knowing that it may not all come together until the last page.

Reading novels for me takes a committment. If I don't read them fairly quickly I lose interest. With two small kids at home, I just don't have the time to commit. Maybe that's why I like blogs, I can get interesting information in smaller tidbits whenever I have the time.

Muley said...

Jen: I know what Rosebud. I guess your question either demonstrates my poor handling of satire, or my inability to divine your own use of irony.

SBQ: Are you related to the Crocodile Hunter? I believe he says "holy crickies" as well. Thanks for saying I'm not weird. I'll use that at my next hearing. I don't think I'm having a crisis, but give me half a chance. Nice to know I'm not the only one who can't finish things (other than bodily functions).

CW: I agree, reading at least some of the classics takes time and patience that's in short supply. Gone are the days when someone could open a book on a lazy summer afternoon and could read, uninterrupted, until they'd finished. Maybe those days never really existed, I don't know.

I like blogs as well. The only problem I have with them (besides not having enough time to read them, either) is that you have to sift through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat.

GNOOEL: "Merry Christmas" to a gnu.

sarahgrace said...

What a nugget of gold your quote is for this days post!