February’s missteps

Perhaps it’s a timing thing. Two of the three books I abandoned this month were within a day of each other. Meanwhile, the third raises some interesting questions for me about re-reading.

The month’s first casualty was The History of History by Ida Hattemer-Higgins. The premise of this debut novel was interesting. An American woman living in Berlin awakens in a forest in 2002, unable to recall the last several months of her life. Her search for what happened seems to be a concomitant descent into insanity focused on Nazi Germany. While the book draws you in initially, the book’s emphasis on magical realism leaves it circling the mystery. I guess I need more forward progress by the time I’m one-quarter of the way into a book.

Shortly thereafter, I conceded defeat with Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights. In 2006, Mitsuse Ryu’s book was voted the best Japanese science fiction novel of all time. It ranges from the creation of life (in a relatively short prologue that brilliantly explains evolution) to the potential end of the universe with the characters including Plato, Jesus and Buddha. I say I conceded defeat, though, because by cramming such a wide range of ideas into about 250 pages made it relatively hard work too early on. I hate to admit a book may be too intelligent ambitious for me.

Finally, back in the ’70s I read The Triumph: A Novel of Modern Diplomacy by economist John Kenneth Galbraith. He tells a satirical tale of a revolution in a small Central American country and America’s approach toward it. First published in 1968, it’s tale of Vietnam era political and diplomatic activity was quite prescient of what would be taking place between American and Latin America in the 1980s. I enjoyed the book enough that a year or so ago I bought it from a used book site. I decided to re-read it and was actually enjoying it. Unfortunately, there was this nagging voice in my head asking whether that time would be better spent reading books I haven’t read. As a result, it was abandoned relatively early in.

Hopefully, what brought me to my knees on The Triumph won’t always come into play. I can think of a couple other books I’d really love to read again, but for the fear a favorite book will lose some luster.

Disappointment proves that expectations were mistaken.

Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms, Eighth Selection

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