I can’t read. Maybe I should rephrase that. Lately, I can’t seem to finish reading an entire book. I’m lucky if I can get halfway through. It makes me feel like I can’t read. Right now I have 15 hardcover books checked out of the library. I’ve read the beginning, some more some less, of nine of them. I’m also partway into reading at least seven paperbacks.
Normally, I’m reading at least three or four books at the same time. I like variety. I do that all the time. But I finish them. And then start others. It is not normal for me to have started reading more than a dozen books, yet not finish ANY OF THEM. As my kids would say, that’s just messed up.
I have become very familiar with the library’s online renewal system. Sometimes the system tells me I can’t renew a book, so I take that one back. And bring home three more. As if I’m stocking up, hoarding what I can against a long dark winter where books will become scarce and dear.
I’ve run out of bookmarks and started using Kleenex. Quincy the Wonder Dog tears off and eats the bits that stick out along the top and sides. Sometimes he pulls the entire thing out of the book. Doesn’t matter if I can’t find my place again since lately, once I put a bookmark into a book and set it aside, I’m not likely to go back to it.
There is nothing wrong with these books. I’m sure they’re all interesting and well-written and wonderful. Many of the authors are those whose books I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed in the past and there is no reason to think any of them, let alone all of them, have suddenly lost the ability to write a compelling and entertaining story. No, the problem is with me and it seems to be getting worse.
I’m sure it’s very unfair of me to keep these books stacked all over the place when other people could be reading them. Poor things, sitting there partially read and cast aside like inedible half-baked lumps of dough taken from the oven just as they started to heat and rise. But I keep thinking I’ll finish reading them. Soon. Right after I see whether the next one is perhaps more captivating.
I have finished reading exactly one book in the past month. Maybe two months. I checked it out because of the author’s name: Per Petterson. You have to be at least curious about the writing of someone named Per. And also because he’s from Norway and wrote the book in Norwegian and this was the English translation. I grew up listening to Norwegian men tell stories, I was curious to see how this compared.
The name of the book is OUT STEALING HORSES. It is unlike anything I have ever read. The writing is beautiful and spare. The first person narrative is all over the place but the words flow so smoothly you don’t care. You know there won’t be a happy ending but you don’t care about that either. The writing is pure and wonderful and you just want more so you keep turning pages. The ending comes abruptly like a slap to the heart and you draw a great shaky breath and hold it while you decide whether to cry and somewhere deep inside you know– you will never forget those words. If any of my Norwegian uncles had given a similar small glimpse of emotional vulnerability in the stories they told, they might have sounded like this book. But they didn’t, so I’m not sure about that.
OUT STEALING HORSES is a book you can’t not finish reading. Even if you can’t read.