Bournemouth Books & Coffee

by Maria on May 6, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about being in the south coast of England for a few months and wondered if any CT readers live here, too. It turns out some do!

So to commenters Sean, Billy, Kevin, James and anyone else (?), we have a meet-up. Tomorrow, Tuesday 6th at 1800 in Espresso Kitchen on The Triangle, there’ll be a highly informal gathering of a few people to maybe organise a book club or just have a coffee, cake and chat. It’ll be a BYO Book, i.e. bring one you’re interested in, reading or just can’t get along with for some show and tell.

I’m also bringing a couple I’ve read recently & am done with to see if they can find another home; Hollinghurst’s Stranger’s Child and Mohsin Hamid’s rather wonderful How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

Finishing Stranger’s Child was a slog for the last few hundred pages, but the scenery was interesting. And by scenery I mean characters. But it is objectively a very good book, far above the faint praise that it is ‘beautifully written’. Which prompted me to wonder about when you do/don’t bother to finish a difficult book, especially given comments on Corey’s thread that have segued for some into a discussion on Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. I gave it the full college try a year ago, and still managed only 200 pages. My efforts were heroic, and my will was strong. But still. Surely there’s more to it just liking or not liking a difficult book that is nonetheless interesting and worth the effort? Or is anything else just rationalisation of personal taste, anyway?



Ronan(rf) 05.06.13 at 11:47 am

I’m ashamed to admit I wouldnt even attempt to tackle any fiction over 400 pages any more, and even anything over 300 Id be very wary of. I find Pynchon and DFW unreadable. My inability to concentrate has even extended to films, anything longer than 90 – 120 mins seems completely unnecessary (I blame David Lynch)
It’s all short stories and Friends re runs nowadays. I’d have no problem abandoning a book at any stage though, but just cant get in to audiobooks – which are probably the solution to my problem – (it feels like cheating for some reason!)


Maria 05.06.13 at 12:50 pm

On a slightly related note, rf, my best friend’s grand-father stopped reading books in his seventies because he didn’t want to risk starting something and being dead before he finished it. He lived another twenty years!

OTOH, some years ago a family member began Elizabeth Gaskell’s 4-500 page North and South, having already been in terminal hospice care for a couple of months. It always makes me happy to think of that willingness to plunge in.


James Camien McGuiggan 05.06.13 at 7:25 pm

Hope ye have a great evening; I’m a bit busy to be training down to Bournemouth this week though. It sounds like a great format.

The ‘difficult’ book thing is indeed funny. I read Ulysses and Infinite Jest, and struggled at both; but I loved them for all that, and didn’t ever doubt I would finish them. But it really took every ounce of will, and a number of months, to read the two hundred pages of Wolff’s The Waves, which doesn’t have any endnotes, and uses, not only sentences, but short grammatical ones for the most part. When I wonder about why I like some art, I often look to the often-fruitful analogy of friendship. The analogy is a bit strained in this instance, but it might go like this: some friends are vicious or awkward, but we keep them as friends, because they are the way they are because it is the only way they can do something – be trustworthy, earnest, whatever – that we value. We don’t see such a virtue in other people, whom we then call just jerks; or, if we’re feeling generous, we’ll say that we and they are too different for the understanding or empathy or whatever required for friendship. (So I say of The Waves not that it was bad but that I was not in the right place to glean anything from it.)


Tony Lynch 05.07.13 at 2:08 am

My PhD supervisor told me long ago that there is an entire genre of “Books to be read after one has completed a PhD”. On top of the list was Gravity’s Rainbow. I read it at the appropriate time and loved it. I suggest the same may be true of DFW.


Sean Purdy 05.07.13 at 1:28 pm

Hi Maria, sorry I won’t be able to make it. I’m in London today, and not back south to civilisation till late. Hope you have a lovely evening … and organise another one sometime soon when I can be there.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Gravity’s Rainbow when I read it as an undergraduate (for fun rather than study) but it’s a long way down the list of books I want to re-read.

I’ve got through Ulysses two and a half times and wish I had the time to read it again – but probably from the beginning rather than where I last left off in 1992. A period of unemployment gave me the chance to take that third run at it, then someone rather inconsiderately gave me a job and Joyce got sidelined.

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