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Friday, May 11, 2012

The Problem with Finishing a Good Book

In “Addicted to a Good Book,” I talked about how I’m a compulsive reader.  Sometimes, I just get the urge to start another book.  I can’t stop to remind myself of all the other books I’m currently reading.  I don’t draw up a list of all the books I’ve had the longest.  I don’t weigh the pros and cons of which books it’s more important, for whatever reason, for me to read first.  I literally cannot help myself: the urge, like the unexpected craving for a favorite food, overwhelms me.  So I open the book…and then I have yet one more book in-process, dividing my scarce reading time even further.

One of my intentions for this blog was to write extensively about all the great books I’ve read.  But sitting down with a novel, going through it rationally, taking stock of those aspects that resonated most with me the strongest when I was reading it, and then dividing such salient points into blog entries is hard.  Not only because it takes time, but also because it involves saying good-bye, one more time, to a good book.

One of the series I wanted to talk about, when I started this blog, was the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust.  When it was cold outside and the central heating seemingly couldn’t get me warm, when clouds and fog hid the sun for days or weeks at a time, when my life and career seemed to be going nowhere, I could sink into one of his Vlad novels and find warmth, belonging, and hope.  I’ve read through the entire series, barring the latest installment, and now I’ve read the first three novels a second time.  Yet I have written nothing about Jhereg and Yendi, two books that are fun and noteworthy.  Nor have I returned to Teckla, and begun to flick through its pages, so that I can communicate the story’s greatness to you.  

But the Vlad novels are not the only ones I'd like to examine in greater detail.  I’ve recently finished the Lovejoy novel Faces in the Pool, the Dune prequel The Butlerian Jihad, and Greg Bear’s novella “Hardfought,” part of a Tor Double along with “Cascade Point” by Timothy Zahn.  Instead of writing about any of those stories, I’ve blogged about movies, actors, the writing life, TV shows, and even movie trailers.  Yes, I’ve talked about the Robert Silverberg story “Born with the Dead,” but I found facing and analyzing that story a little easier.  For it was the third time that I had read it, and I’ve lived with the story for a decade now since Phases of the Moon: Six Decades of Masterpieces by a SFWA Grand Master came out.  Why haven’t I done more of what seemed most important to me: what I primarily set out to do?

When I wrote “The Blogging Wars: My Hope,” it was my intention not to blog about me, but about great stories.  What I’ve found is that it’s impossible to divorce the one from the other.  For Fiction doesn’t exist outside the human vessel.  Fiction only lives when it finds a home inside you.  When I started, books seemed to me the most obvious example of how Fiction fuses with our very beings.  (After all, my house is stuffed full of them).  Now I recognize more fully how much of the Fiction we take in, from so many other sources, influences us as well.  

Another reason I’ve held back from covering more novels is because I love them so much.  Finishing each one is a joy, but that joy is mingled with pain, because a meaningful journey has reached its end.  Re-opening that book right away, and contemplating the aspects that struck me most forcefully, reinforces this fact.  Yet we all move on.  Since I wrote “Addicted to a Good Book,” I’ve reached journey’s end with several great stories, and started reading a few new ones.  I’ve flipped over the Tor Double to read “Cascade Point” by Timothy Zahn.  My wife and I have started the next Robert Silverberg story in Phases of the Moon: “Schwartz between the Galaxies.”  (“My Schwartz is bigger than your Schwartz!” my wife exclaimed when she saw the title, quoting a great line from the movie “Spaceballs”).  And I’m a hundred pages into Steven Brust’s novel To Reign in Hell, his re-envisioning of the classic story about the revolt in Heaven. 

Actually, I haven’t started that many books, have I?  Perhaps I could start just one more.

What novels were the hardest for you to finish?  What novels, while providing a perfectly satisfactory ending, left you heart-broken because you had reached the end of a particularly great story?

Related Dragon Cache entries

Related Internet Links
A List of all 35 Tor Doubles (five of which include Robert Silverberg stories)

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