Juggling Books

Monday, March 14, 2016

No, not juggling the books. I’m not doing anything funny with my taxes or other financial accounts. I’m just trying to read three books at once.

That’s pretty typical for me, and last week was no different. I often have one book that I’m struggling to get through, one that I carry in my purse to read while waiting in line or at the doctor’s office, and one that I enjoy during my at-home reading time. But that creates a problem when I start reading the book in my purse and become absorbed in it before I have finished the one I’m reading at home.

The book I was enjoying at home is Rescuing Ivy, an early middle grade book by Karen Kulinski. It’s a five star book with plenty of cliffhangers to keep me turning the pages. But I had to put it down in the middle on Saturday so I could run errands before my writer’s critique group meeting.

While out, I stopped at a restaurant for lunch and began reading my purse book, which was An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by PD James. Even though I had read it before, I had trouble putting it down. So when I got home after my meeting, I had to choose between two books when I really wanted to read both. I may be good at multi-tasking, but I’ve never learned to read two books at the exact same time.

In the end, I chose to finish Rescuing Ivy because it was a much quicker read. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman has now become my home reading. But I really should get back to . . .

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe is the book I’m struggling with. I’m a sixth of the way through, and not much has happened yet. What little action there is was wrapped in description and lecture the way Ralphie’s little brother was swaddled in snowsuits and scarves in A Christmas Story. That was a common practice for authors in the 18th and 19th centuries, but writers like George Eliot at least managed to make the wrapping interesting.

So why do I keep returning to The Mysteries of Udolpho and trying to slog through the next bit? It isn’t a compulsion to finish every book I start—I broke myself of that in graduate school when we were assigned to read Portnoy’s Complaint. But The Mysteries of Udolpho is considered the archetypal Gothic novel, and Jane Austin makes fun of it in Northanger Abbey. Although few people claim that it is good literature, it did influence many first-rate authors, so I feel that I should read it. Still, I’m not taking bets on whether I will ever make it to the end.

For now, I’m happy to get back to An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. Let’s hope I finish it before I start my next purse book.

Because I love to read but I don’t always want to juggle books.

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