Monday, April 12, 2010

Mark Booth has left the room


Tulips in front of the Supreme Court.

When you start a book do you feel like you have to read the whole thing? Not me. I have no problem with abruptly sticking an unfinished book on the shelf. If it isn't teaching me anything, if it doesn't hold my attention after 50 pages, or if it's actively annoying, that's it. I quit reading Eat, Pray, Love on page 136 because even though everyone told me I would LOVE that book, I found it completely predictable in every way. Plus I couldn't stand what's-her-name who wrote it. I know it is a classic among many. I didn't like it, and since I'll never have the time to read all the books I'm interested in, when one doesn't grab me, it's prudent to move on. Do you agree?

When I tried to read Natalie Angiers book, The Canon, I eventually became exasperated by her snotty dismissal of all things mystic. As of this morning, I'm beginning to feel the same way about A Secret History of the World, only in reverse. The author, Mark Booth, keeps referring to scientists as atheists who suffer from "reductive" thinking, whatever that means. In his view, "ancient" world views are more valuable than contemporary thought, a purely romanticized perspective. He's just as prejudiced as Natalie Angiers, though he stands on the other side of the looking glass.

Wouldn't it be great if there was One Perfect Way to understand the world? If ALL mystics were nuts or ALL scientists were atheists? It would make life so simple. OK maybe it wouldn't be great, maybe it would render the complexity of the world somewhat less intricate. And anyway, it's not true.

Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." That's not reductive, is it? And as for mystics, well, is the Dalai Lama a nut? Of course not. He is a voice of reason helping people reconnect with spirit and compassion.

So I'm going to chuck this book into a drawer until Tom of the blog Half-Moose with a Twist comes to town. If anyone can get the wisdom of A Secret History ..., it's Tom.

As for myself, I will turn instead to The Mongol Queens. Life is short. Carpe diem!!

27 comments:

Expat From Hell said...

Life is short, dear Reya, and there is so much in print. Read what you will, and subject those who don't measure up to the drawers of your world. There is so much good literature out there, so much that is more edifying to read. Including your posts, good friend. EFH

Hilarywho said...

I just read a book I hate (Don Delillo's Mao II) because it's a requirement for a seminar I'll be going to. When I finished it yesterday I threw it against the wall - which was very satisfying.

ellen abbott said...

I'll usually slog through to the end unless I find it totally tiresome. It took me three tries to read Joseph Campbell's Primitive Mythology. I just couldn't get past all the Freudian crap at the beginning. It kept pissing me off.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ellen you have a lot more patience than I do.

lacochran said...

I only wind up reading a handful of books a year, these days. I'm not going to spend time on stuff that's exceedingly mediocre. (Read: Yes, I agree.)

Lynne said...

What an absolutely glorious photo of the tulips! I love the light and the Supreme Court behind them. They almost look as though they are holding up their own kind of justice. Spectacular! And the light through the backs of the dogwoods too! I love spring!

Don't read what you don't want to. I put books down all the time. Sometimes it takes four or five starts of different books to find the right one. Too many books, so little time!

Reya Mellicker said...

Lynne, that's EXACTLY how I feel!

The Pollinatrix said...

Ah, those tulips! Who needs books when you have those?

Actually, I'm a bigtime reader, and I'm the same exact way about putting books down. I have many partially read ones on my shelves.

Ironically, Eat,Pray,Love was one of the few that has completely and utterly grabbed my attention and I read it like it was air. The most recent book I've read that had that effect on my was Life of Pi.

It doesn't happen often, though.

Linda Sue said...

We live in a book town- more book shops than churches or bars- good thing! There are piles and piles of free books in front of nearly every store- This is a well read population, authors stop by for regular readings- we are very spoiled- tossing books just one of the perks. Can't waste time on them if they are time wasters...Hope you did not buy the book, hope you found it in the free bin.

Elizabeth said...

You are so wonderfully honest,
such a breath of fresh air in a world of mealy-mouthed prevaricators

Hee hee
I also found Eat, Pray Love to be self-indulgent and awful ....
For example she did not set off on her 'spiritual quest" until she had a book contract in her pocket..... but at least she was honest about that. Hmm.....
However, I did read it all.

I'm totally stumped by R.Musil's Man Without Qualities. Beautifully written but like swimming through mollasses --rich, wonderful and quite impossible. I should admit defeat.

Took photos of wisteria for you today.

Tom said...

ahg..! you give me too much credit; i was counting on your review--which isn't terribly favorable. but i'll be happy to give it a go, and of course i'll have a trade (not this ant that i just found crawling on me)

Chris Wolf said...

uh oh. I just bought Eat, Pray,. I'll see how far I get, it's our book club book for May. Have you read the Turtle Catcher? (Minnesota Author) It was the fiction choice in April. Curious story

Ronda Laveen said...

Oh, those glorious tulips...reaching up to the Light. So strong. So committed!

On books, somtimes I only read certain paragrphs, or pages, or chapters. I don't think all books come to us with the purpose of needing to be read in entirety. Maybe there is just one or two things we are to receive from them. I've even been known to just put one under my pillow or sofa cushion or just sit with it on my lap to absorb the vibration or the energy.

Sounds like you got what you needed from that one and moved on. Maybe a few years from now, there will be another message in it for you.

steven said...

reya there are books in little stacks and spread across shelves all through this house - i return when they ask- otherwise i ignore them. books that suggest they have the insight i need, the knowledge i crave, the wisdom i have heard tell of but have not found, well i stay well away from them and go for a walk instead!!! sweet dc evening!!! steven

Dan Gurney said...

I abandon about half the books I begin. Our time and our attention are just too valuable to invest in books that evoke irritation, boredom, or disagreement.

Not many books are worth the trees whose lives were lost to make them. Like steven, taking a walk is likely to be of as much value. You might encounter an "ordinary" person whose ego is small and wisdom is vast.

(Most authors, when you meet them, turn out to be regular people.)

C.M. Jackson said...

if a book doesn't speak to you and make you talk back, then yes it is time to put it down--I have so many books that whisper 'read me' and so little time--I yearn for that book which within the first twenty pages transports me to a new place and I am oblivious to where I am or what time it is--they are few and so far between--keep reading until you find one and let me know about it!

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven and Ronda, you are my gurus.

Linda Sue: I bought it. When I walk into a bookstore, I generally do not leave without buying a book. They are irresistable to me. That said, I have read many discarded books that were fabulous.

I'm still dipping into the Secret History, at least for the next day or two. He makes describes some interesting ideas, like Adam and Eve as plants ... but in general he bugs me too much to make a commitment to the book.

Tom I do NOT give you too much credit. You get things no one else does.

Thanks, Dan. Life is short! Carpe diem!!

Reya Mellicker said...

Elizabeth - I think Eat, Pray, Love appeals to people with different hormonal imperatives than you or me. That's the only way I can explain why I felt EXACTLY like you do about the book.

Ivy and Haley said...

I wish I read more, it is so hard to get books you want to read in when you have to read books for school. Reading has become work for me, that is a shame.

karen said...

Hi Reya. I'm so enjoying your spring photos - just awe inspiring beauty all around!

I used to feel compelled to finish every book I picked up, but now I permit myself to ditch them if I feel I need to!

Delwyn said...

Hi Reya

Hurrah... someone else who thought whatshername was a self indulgent bore...

I gave up after a few pages...

Happy days

Mrsupole said...

I rarely finish a book anymore, and I am not sure why. I think it is because I am spending too much time on the computer doing other things. There is so much more to do then there was many years ago.

Think about how many things out there are vying for our attention then there used to be.

Plus many people are working more hours then ever, and come home too tired to even think about reading a book. Then they have a lot more work to do at home and too little time to do it all.

I think those tulips are just gorgeous and makes me wish I had planted some last fall. I will have to think about them this fall. Thank you for sharing the pictures.

God bless.

Spiny Marshmallow said...

I am fascinated that so many comments say that time is too short to spend on books you dont like. Chuck 'em out. I absolutely agree. I see you are still dipping into the Secret History. I tend to have stax and piles of book everywhere - some I snack on from time to time and some I eat and gorge on. They end up a bit tattered looking as if I have devoured it literally. Those are the ones I love.

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ooops - sorry the same comment gor replicated 4 times. Dodgy internet connection