by Cygne Sauvage
I have lost count of the number of times I have attempted to concentrate on and finish Infinite Jest, the voluminous opus of one of my adored writers, David Foster Wallace, known simply by his initials in the journalistic milieu. The several failures to make it to the last page of this more than a thousand work of fiction by one considered a genius in contemporary American literature drives me to a scheme of devoting two hours of pre-bedtime moments to reading a chapter. But to no avail. The earmarked schedule is mostly consumed by having to refresh back to where I left off owing to the profound writing style of the author, and most likely due to my inadequate grasp of DFW’s literary realm. The book has been listed as one of the best novels by Time magazine.
Finishing a lengthy novel is a big challenge… and achievement. The myriad twists and turns in the story may not always be pleasing to the reader. Likewise, long-winded works often go beyond the plot’s crescendo half-way to the conclusion that the narrative ends up dragging and seemingly interminable. There are several celebrated novels left unfinished by my bedside, each carrying a bookmark where I stopped perusing, with the promise of going back to these pages someday. But until now, I have not returned to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace which aside from its convoluted theme is peppered with hundreds of difficult to memorize names of characters. Nor have I visited again the pages of The Luminaries, Booker Prize winning work of Eleanor Catton, which I bookmarked at Chapter 4. Had it not been a requirement in my college literature subject I would have not been able to endure till the last page of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations which is deemed as the British author’s obra maestra. Perhaps I had it at a time when I have already consumed two Dicken’s tales of a young orphaned boy’s travails in the dark side of London: David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.
On the other hand, I ardently devoured Donna Tart’s The Gold Finch in just three days, more or less. I never put down Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and became an avid Howard Roark fan. There was no struggle as well in perusing Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, with Scarlet O’hara leaving a dent in my outlook in life, not Rhet Butler, of course. I have finished three of the longest novels of James Clavel’s Asian sagas one after the other: Shogun, Noble House and Gaijin. And many more.
Methinks finishing a book, regardless of the many accolades it has earned in reviews or the multi-awards accorded to it, is a function of one’s mindset and receptiveness during perusal time. Hence, don’t feel inferior if you have not completed an edition, whether fiction or non-fiction, and dub yourself as not erudite enough. This happens even to the most fanatic bibliophile.