“And Other Poor Excuses”
Writer Susan Hill calls them her “Never Got Around to It, Don’t Like the Look of It, Couldn’t Get Beyond Page Ten and Other Poor Excuses” books. In other words, all the books we know about, perhaps want to read, probably buy, and yet simply do not read. It is the curse of the bibliophile to always have not just a “to be read” list, but an even longer list of things you once had good intentions of reading and which have since slipped into the “poor excuses” pile. I have a sad little group of them here in London and an even more daunting display back in the States, just hopefully waiting for me to turn a favorable eye in their direction. But will I?
I think the “Never Got Around to It” set are simultaneously the most likely candidates in terms of eventually being read and the lamest excuse. Never found the time? Really? Starting a book takes nothing and then some of them could at least be transferred into the “In Progress” pile (why hello Don Quixote!) or the “Couldn’t Get Beyond Page Ten” pile. My “Never Got Around to It” pile includes mainly classics: Vanity Fair, Oliver Twist, and Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress. Although The Adventures of Detective Jack Cribbs would surely also fit in this pile.
In terms of “Didn’t Like the Look of It,” why would you want to read it if you don’t like the look of it? (Although American readers would be forgiven if they turned away from David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet on account of the icky US cover.)
Meanwhile, there sits the “Couldn’t Get Beyond Page Ten” set. I have a terrible aversion to not finishing books no matter how much I dislike them, so I unflaggingly claim to still be reading things which I clearly should just give up on and place them firmly in the “Couldn’t Get Beyond Page Ten” category. I swear I’m still working on them!
When do you give up on a book though? I almost like the hopeful attitude of “Couldn’t Get Beyond Page Ten,” as if you will one day get beyond that page and finish the book. Maybe? On some sunny future Utopian day? There’s definitely a fine line between definitively never getting beyond page ten and still counting something as “in progress.” I count Don Quixote, The Pillars of the Earth, and Built of Books in this slightly ambiguous category.
What about you? What excuses do you use and what books do you use them on?