So I’m currently reading ‘I Drink for a Reason’, by David Cross. And it’s bad. I mean, it is shit-the-bed bad. It is is-this-actually-meant-to-be-an-ironic-douchebag-persona-he-created-for-this-book-a-la-Colbert, change-the-name-of-the-show-retroactively-to-“Mr. Show With Bob and That Guy He Carried On His Back for Four Seasons”, oh-my-god-did-he-actually-just-put-in-a-chapter-explaining-that-while-he’s-not-bitter-or-angry-about-bad-reviews-they-are-“bordering on libel”-and-he-must-respond bad. I am 82 pages into this 236-page book, and there’s been exactly one bit that I actually thought was funny and I feel kind of dirty for laughing at it because it’s about a guy entering a pole-sitting contest and being pelted with Rupert Murdoch’s feces. (It is, though, kind of funny in context.)
But I’m not quite ready to quit reading yet. Because I started the book. And I don’t like starting a book and not finishing it. I feel like I need closure, even if the closure is just “Yep, that’s 237 pages of unfunny material that I’m going to pretend he was forced to produce at gunpoint, probably by the same sadistic bastards who made him do ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel’. (And yes, I did go look up the correct spelling of “squeakquel”.) But the point is, I know that this is irrational behavior and yet I can’t stop myself. I can only think of two books I’ve ever given up on reading, and I admit to wanting to go back to at least skim one of them to the end.
(‘House of Leaves’, by Mark Danielewski. I couldn’t stand the Johnny Truant or Zampano material, but part of me wants to at least read the Navidson records.)
(‘The Laughing Corpse’, by Laurell K Hamilton. Bought the first two books at once in a fit of optimism because I heard good things about the series and they looked short, gritted my way through the first one, and realized that the second one wasn’t getting any better.)
What I’m getting at is, am I some sort of weird aberration? Does my pathological need to finish what I’ve started and complete even the sloggiest, draggiest book mark me out as some sort of crazy person, or does everyone else gut it through bad books too? And if you do tap out, how long does it take you? Do you give it a chapter, a section, a paragraph, a sentence? Are there specific events that make you decide to nopetopus your way out, like a horrific and gratuitous violent sequence or the use of a particular hacky trope?
And most importantly, should I go with my instincts and continue reading the remaining 154 pages of smug, unfunny ‘comedy’? (Sample joke: “Imagine! A grown man treating the idea of exorcising the ‘Devil’ out of some mentally ill woman as a real thing! Crazy!”) (No, that’s not the setup for a joke. “Crazy!” is apparently his idea of a punchline.) Or should I just sell the damn thing to some other poor unsuspecting fool and get on with my life?