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The Emergency Bookcase

The Emergency Bookcase

Here's another post in my A Letter from a Merry Go Round series.

You can find them all here.

I’ve always been a picky reader.

Rejecting a book takes a matter of moments. Sometimes a page is enough, while at other times, a paragraph will do it. Once I commit to a book though, I’m reluctant to throw it aside. If the first page or two have grabbed me, I’ll stay the journey, even if it hurts.

There are exceptions. ‘Literary’ novels promise so much and are so highly thought of by a certain circle of reviewers, that I’ve often subjected myself to their tender mercies, drinking them down like some foul medicine, imbibing page after page of tortuous drivel. But when the treatment appears to be killing the patient, it’s generally wiser to withdraw the medicine, and many a literary novel has been thrown aside with sufficient violence to express, what I feel, is a nicely metaphorical display of my inner turmoil and mental torment.

I will, from time to time, stick with a favoured author through thick and thin, ploughing on through a hundred pages or so of unpromising exposition to get to the meat within. These are always traditionally-published books, especially from well-known authors, that really ought to have been quite severely edited to eliminate the padding from their first third. I suppose that when you are dealing with a writer who’s been around for a while, such as John le Carre, it must be quite difficult for a publisher to insist on swingeing cuts to the reams of overwrought prose, but really, the publishers would do us all a tremendous favour if they would just bite the bullet and get on with it. I’ve picked on John le Carre in particular here, because I’ve been wrestling with one of his books for some time, and I still have absolutely no idea what it’s about, who the main characters are, where it’s set, and more importantly, where it’s going. Even so, I’ll stick with it a bit longer, because over the years, he’s built up a bank of trust as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll try to hold on, for as long as I can, to the idea that the book is going somewhere. But this book is testing my patience, and this brings me neatly to the topic of this blog post: the existence of the emergency bookcase.

I must read. Every day. This is not open to negotiation. Though for those occasions when I can’t face doing battle with a book that is giving me difficulty, or for when I’ve just finished a book without having its successor lined up, there must be a supply of emergency books on hand. At one point, I would have been able to call this post, The Emergency Book, but I’ve moved beyond that point many years ago. There has to be a selection within easy reach of my pillow.

The residents of the emergency bookcase are very particular titles that must fulfil a number of requirements. read more…

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