Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book of Revelation

I can't remember the last time my thoughts on a book have changed so much in the course of reading. I'm now about 385 pages into Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale--you may recognize it from its constant presence for like 2 months in my GoodReads feed. For 200 pages, this book was a slog. I don't know whether it was being busy with school or being only moderately enthusiastic about magical realism or what, but I couldn't read more than a page or two at a time before wanting to move on to something else. I would try to read at night and fall asleep within a paragraph or two. I would do things to avoid reading it--including reading whole other books. I was very seriously considering just putting it on the shelf and trying again later (or not).

Then last week something clicked. As the story moved from Peter Lake (who I wanted to like but somehow didn't care about) to Hardesty Maratta and Virginia Gamely, I found myself enthralled. Suddenly the pieces are coming together, Helprin's poetic description is affecting me, and I can't put it down. In fact, I'm supposed to spend the day today grading finals and cleaning my desk, and I just wanted to kick back and read more.

I don't remember the last time I've done such a complete 180. I don't know about you, but I usually can get a sense of my feelings early on; rarely does a movie or a game or a book or a cd bore me for 1/4 of its length before suddenly captivating me.

Of course, there are exceptions:

Sweeney Todd took 20 or 30 minutes before I got into it. Then I got hooked.

Life of Pi was interesting but somewhat dull for the first 70 pages, then it got moving.

Many a classic film has started slow and then sucked me in.

I don't know what compels me to keep going even when bored. Obviously it backfires frequently. I've seen plenty of terrible movies that I knew were terrible early on, but I kept hoping would somehow become incredible. Maybe I'm just patient, but really I think it's just because once I've invested any time or money I want to get some kind of payout, some kind of pleasure.

The other option is I'm just a sucker wasting his life on stuff he's not sure he likes. But I hope not.

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