This is about the books you will never finish reading. The stories whose ends will never be reached. (We can talk about all the ones we’ll never finish writing some other time.)
I was brought up to finish what I started, and I’ve only recently changed my approach to books (and films).
Are there reasons other than a book turning out to be rubbish that make you just stop, and maybe start and stop again, but never finish. Not busyness or laziness, but something in the writing or the story?
I’ve been meaning to bring this up for a few weeks because of Patrick Leigh Fermor‘s trilogy about his walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, as an 18-year-old in 1933.
Part One – A Time of Gifts – is a wonderful read – one of my favourites to which I return in the hope some of his erudition will rub off on me. It follows the teenager through Holland and Germany to the Hungarian border.
Part Two – Between the Woods and the Water – carries on through Transylvania and Romania to the border with Yugoslavia. The final words are: To Be Concluded.
Part Three – given that parts one and two were written long after events described, it wasn’t out of the question that a concluding literary leg of the journey would take us into Turkey and over the Bosphorus. But the news that Patrick Leigh Fermor has just died knocks that on head. It also explains why I’ll never finish that story. (Or will I? Hot news.)
I suspect I’ll also never finish Woodbrook by David Thomson. It’s a lovely book, highly praised by Seamus Heaney as “simply one of the most enchanting books I’ve read in a long time… it begins in delight before it ends in wisdom.” But I’ve stopped. So far the story has triumphed over the twilight of the Ascendancy in southern Ireland and found new momentum and love. But I know it’s all going to go tragically wrong. And I don’t want to have to suffer it.
Italo Calvino‘s a tricky character. I enjoyed his book If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller and read it cover to cover. But the constant interruption every time a story within it gets underway, means the reader is forced to abandon tale after tale. Oh, he’s mischievious.
Children aren’t spared this kind of floor wobbling approach to literature either. Take Charlie Cook’s favourite Book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It’s about Charlie Cook who’s reading a book about a pirate captain, who is reading a book about Goldilocks, who is reading about a knight, who is reading about a frog, who…. You get the circular picture. (Good book too. The same people did The Gruffalo and The Smartest Giant in Town.)
Then you have the seemingly eternally productive blockbuster writers like Alistair MacLean and James Patterson. The joys of franchising. Hard to know when they’ve come to the end, begun to share the load with a collaborator or handed over their pen completely. (OK – in MacLean’s case it’s safe to say he’s finally done.)
Funnily enough, I’ve just begun collaborating with another writer on a new book. It may get gory. More on that another time.
What book or story are you unable to finish – or simply refuse to complete? And why?