If I were at school right now, I’d be failing English. I set myself a goal this year to read more classics. I started well with Cold Comfort Farm, but have gone steadily downhill since then. I got two chapters in with Love In a Cold Climate, before being distracted by a Scandinavian crime novel.
Then I watched The Wire and decided that The Great Gatsby might be the go. D’Angelo Barksdale had very good things to say about it during his brief time in prison. I managed half of that. Before being distracted by a cheap American thriller.
So far I’d have one A and two Fs for not finishing the book. (Mind you, I could probably still write you a pass essay on both of those novels, without ever finishing the book. I am sure I am not the first person to have done that during their academic career. A handful of quotes, some decent notes in class and, hey presto, move on to the next one. Though if my mother is reading this, I never actually tested this premise.)
I’m not sure why I’m struggling so much with this challenge. These are Good Books. They have been Good Books by Great Writers for many years and will no doubt remain so. Penguin thinks they’re good enough to warrant the orange-and-white cover.
And yet I’d rather read crime fiction.
I know why I’m so addicted to crime. I love a good conclusion. All the loose ends tied, the questions answered, the problem solved and wrapped in a bow. Even the gore doesn’t bother me. Me, who closes her eyes during RPA to avoid any sight of a knee operation, reads lengthy descriptions of decaying bodies and insect activity (crucial to the time line) without batting an eye. Because I can be certain that it will all work out in the end. If only life were so accommodating.
The Great Gatsby offers no such promise. This is the third or fourth time I have started this book and not so much given up, but faded away. I know Gatsby wants something he can’t have. So do I. I want to finish the book.
Demoralised by my inability to read Good Books, I have come up with a cunning plan for my next foray. My lovely guitar teacher B is doing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at school (year 11) and has asked me to help her with her assignments. I said yes (despite misgivings about just how much help I will be), and in a show of leadership and grown-up-edness, I have begun to read the book.
I am four pages in. Last time I tried this book I got halfway through. I’m aiming higher this time. I need to be able to talk knowledgeably about the nature of the individual and the beauty of Nurse Ratched’s name in two weeks time.
Now all we have to hope is that a must-read Scandinavian crime novel doesn’t hit the shelves in the meantime.