In my entire life I have only read one book that I hated. I have only put aside two books that I was unable to bring myself to continue with.
I hated Eve's Tattoo by Emily Prager. I read it as part of a post modernist class in which I discovered the joys of Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon. But I hated Eve's Tattoo. I tried very hard not to. I tried to read it from the perspective that I disliked the protagonist not the writer, I tried to read it from the perspective that I disliked the story not the writing, I tried to read it from the perspective that we were supposed to dislike the protagonist and her story, I even tried to read it from the perspective of a world judging the actions of the Nazi's whilst forgetting the horrors that still resonate in the lives of those whose families suffered. But I hated Eve's Tattoo. The protagonist was an annoying, self involved narcissist with no clear perspective on anything but her own inanity and the writing was bad. It was a bad story about unlikeable people written badly. I still have it on my book shelf though I will never read it again. Something that inspires this much emotion should not be taken lightly. I keep it for the same reason some people keep pictures of their formerly fat selves taped up on the fridge. It reminds me of who I am as a reader (chuckle) and who I don't want to be as a writer.
At the same time I encountered Eve's Tattoo I encountered The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. You may want a stiff drink before commencing this work, it's a rollercoaster but oh so hilarious and well timed. Each word trips from Pynchon's pen like Charlie Chaplin stumbling across the stage - artfully without art. So when I found a first edition of Mason and Dixon quite cheaply I snapped it up and looked forward to succumbing to his words once more. When I got married and was an unemployed, nation-less wife I pulled it off the bookshelf, it being one of the few belongings that had as yet made it from my world to Husby's. It's probably 7 or 8 times the size of The Crying of Lot 49 and could quite happily serve as a butcher block should you have the need. It wasn't bad writing but I struggled to find a motivation to continue reading with every word on every page. It was the first book I ever put aside unread that I actually cared about. The first I put aside barely warrants mentioning - it was a book someone loaned to me "You have to read this" - but really, really I didn't. I hate borrowing books from people, don't loan me one, I won't read it and you'll never get it back because I'll still feel that I have to read it. So I laid aside Mason and Dixon and it lives in perpetual storage at my in-laws house. As post modernism was a brief flirtation of mine I have very little regret.
The book I lay aside today I will regret. It will gnaw at me. It will stare at me from my shelves and mock me. The book I lay aside today is the second novel of one of my favourite authors and I just can't face it anymore. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro has not been a fun read or an interesting read. I can see what he's trying to do, in fact it is very similar to ideas that I have had and been unable to effectively convey on paper (yes I use a typewriter on occasion), I just don't think it works. It's kind of like that itch that you can't scratch on the bottom of your foot. Nothing quite does it and so it sits there irritating you but not injuring you. This book is an itch on the bottom of my foot. So I am going to chop it off. The story follows a world famous pianist, a bachelor, coming to a small European Hamlet to give a concert. He has never been there before except that his "wife" and child live there. He seems to have some kind of memory less, forgetting and remembering long past events and daily occurrences equally. This might be exciting except that Ishiguro's protagonist has no personality and no appeal. He is consistently confused and I come away from the novel feeling like I've had a bad dream in which I was trying to get somewhere but was inexplicably stuck in invisible quicksand. I have to let it go or January will pass, February will pass and I will still be stuck in this book having indulged myself in nothing else.
This book is by no means my white whale but it will gnaw at me every time I glance at it. State of the Union time...