Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Freedom just another word for nothing left to lose?

Sunk costs are unrecoverable past expenditures. These should not normally be taken into account when determining whether to continue a project or abandon it, because they cannot be recovered either way. It is a common instinct to count them, however.

At what point do you stop reading a book you're not enjoying?

I find it easy to not finish a book I find boring. It's not a conscious decision--I simply stop picking it up and, after a while, realize I'm never going to pick it up again. I stopped reading Interview With the Vampire about five pages from the end. I just didn't care about it one way or another. I didn't stop reading it on purpose--I just stopped reading it.

But books I don't find boring but take an active dislike to? I'm not sure what to do.

I'm about two-thirds through Jonathan Franzen's much-praised Freedom, and quite honestly, I hate it. Not in the way I disliked, say, The DaVinci Code. To me, DaVinci just seemed like a penny dreadful that somehow went viral, infecting everyone except me. I easily finished DaVinci--in two sittings, as I remember--because it was so eager to be read that it was difficult to stop even when I liked virtually nothing about it.

Freedom is a different beast. It's a quote-unquote literary novel, praised by just about everyone, written by a novelist whose last book was praised by just about everyone. (That would be The Corrections, which I haven't read.)

Every character in Freedom is either a jerk, a whiner, or a whiny jerk. There are pages of dialog at a time that consist of two characters bitching at each other--plot is not advanced, theme is (to my mind, anyway) not developed coherently. Shouldn't I have a good idea what the book is about by page 352? I actually found myself getting angry at the book itself last night as I read before going to sleep. WHY AM I READING YOU WHEN I HATE YOU SO VERY, VERY MUCH? (As I posted on Facebook before turning out the light: "Am on page 352 (of 562) of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and want to punch every single character in the face. Hard.")

I think I'm hung up on sunk costs. I've devoted this much time and energy to Freedom, so I feel like it's all a waste if I don't finish. If I were bored by it, I'd just put it down and never think about it again, like Interview With the Vampire. But somehow, I'll feel defeated by this damned thing if I don't plow through.

Incidentally, Freedom has not been nominated for a National Book Award, which everyone seemed to think was a given. Hmmm. Maybe I'm not the only one who doesn't get it.

3 comments: said...

If you read only every other page, you'd be finished by now.

Mark said...

I really, really liked The Corrections, but everything I've heard about Freedom makes me afraid to even pick it up (and that includes hearing a reading Franzen did for a Free Library of Philly podcast that only made me want to punch my iPod in the face - hard).

Knatolee said...

I never read the DaVinci Code and I never will! And I'm thinking I'll take a pass on Freedom too.