Unfinished Books

Ah, lists. 2017 marks an experiment to read outside my taste. Every year there are unfinished books, but this year I’ve decided to keep a list to see if any patterns emerge that might themselves be intriguing. I generally don’t write unfavourable reviews because I rarely finish a book I dislike, but a few words on this page, buried off blog might aid my search for patterns.

If, in my eagerness to read great literature, I’ve mistakenly abandoned a fine piece of art, please let me know in comments.

  1. Carmen Boullosa, Texas: The Great Theft (trans. Samantha Schnee), Deep Vellum (2014) – Abandoned at page 75/281. The story’s context is so densely drawn that it is too substantial for its innumerable characters to bear.
  2. Antoine Volodine, Post-Exoticism in 10 Lessons, Lesson 11 (trans. J. T. Mahany), Open Letter (2015) – Abandoned at page 31/93. Perhaps not a place to start with this writer; hermetic game-playing.
  3. Sergio Chejfek, My Two Worlds, (trans. Margaret B. Carson), Open Letter (2011) – Abandoned at page 39/103. Sebald imitation without personality: ponderous.
  4. Fleur Jaeggy, Last Vanities, (trans. Tim Parks), New Directions (1998) – Abandoned at page 9/96. After reading two Jaeggy novels, which, despite appreciating the sentence-by-sentence technical skill, left me cold, this seemed just more of the same.
  5. Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, The Golden Calf, (trans. Konstantin Gurevich and Helen Anderson), Open Letter (2009) – Abandoned at page 10/315. Trying as I am to read against my taste, this sort of heavy-handed humour is several steps too far. I’m probably not the reader for ‘wild tales’ and fun-filled ‘romps’ (see also The Master and Margarita).
  6. Nadja Spiegel, sometimes i lie and sometimes i don’t, (trans. Rachel McNicholl), Dalkeith Archive (2015) – Abandoned after trying several stories. I’ve little patience for this type of thing. In this case it ran out quickly.
  7. Claire Donato, Burial, Tarpaulin Sky, 2013 – Abandoned at page 19/90. Twee and irritating.
  8. Camilla Grudova, The Doll’s Alphabet, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017 – Abandoned at page 27/182. Not without charm, but leans too far towards magic realism for my taste.
  9. Roberto Bolaño, 2666, (trans. Natasha Wimmer), Picador, 2009 – Abandoned at page 183/898. Unconvinced by the characters and the world that Bolaño conjures; ultimately I didn’t care enough, at any level, to continue.