Cornered vs. Lemmed

I am sure everyone who reads enough will have lemmed a book or two. In fact I had a whole discussion about it on G+ – just forgot that there was an actual term for it.. 🙂

BTW: “lemming” (for those who did not read the blog linked) is slang on for books you cannot finish. It comes from one of the moderator’s inability to finish through Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (honestly, not the most appealing title, huh?).

I have lemmed so many books, that you could fill a library with them! I have not cornered many, because those I actually do give to the local Public Library. Occasionally I visit them, open their covers to see how many times they have been checked out. Am embarrassed if I see a lot of stamps, and gloat when I see it blank.

À la recherche du temps perdu? Never made it past the madeleine cake in Swann’s Way. LOTR? Nah! Too many words about not very much. Ulysses? Mr. Bloom can take a leaping dive into the Irish Sea as far as I am concerned…Foundation Series? Psychohistory is psychobabble (and I love Asimov! More about this below.)

Alas, if I could simply lower my scruples I am certain I would be impressively well-read in no time at all! Or perhaps if I could learn how to objectify disgust in the manner of academics and professional critics, I might actually be quite good at eviscerating works, develop a cult following, and have leading articles in TLS and NYTBR…but no such luck. I am a bad reader. Do not make friends easily, and will drop a book without giving it a fair chance to explain itself. Too bombastic for the delicate dark arts of critique – where words are served cold as revenge, and arranged like haute cuisine.

So this leads to the interesting part of lemming, the part that really brings out the guilt, for me at least. Take an author you enjoy (Asimov, in my case), and have read multiple of their works (almost everything by Asimov…almost – no one can read everything that Asimov wrote!).

Suddenly you hit a particular piece,a whole book, a chapter, a paragraph, which you just cannot swallow. What happened? Is it me? Is it him? Where did we go wrong? I thought we were ok? Or maybe it is not instant, but over a series of a couple of books the fire dies slowly, the electricity which you felt when getting the latest new release by your author begins to fade. You buy the book out of some misplaced loyalty, or perhaps hoping that all your time before has not been all in vain. The relationship is reaching entropic maximum – after which there is only repulsion. Should we seek counseling? Just go our separate ways knowing we will always have that last good book? It is sad and complicated this business of lemming. It leaves scars.

Since I am in a confessing mood I also confess that one time I threw a book across a room in disgust, after slogging through most of it. I was so angry at what I felt was an underhanded betrayal of all this time we spent together that (and I blush to think of it) wanted to burn it!

I ripped out its cover, carefully, using a wooden ruler, and went out on the balcony, which overlooked the apartment complex’s swimming pool, and from which you could see the Camelback Mountains shimmering purple in the distance. I placed the cover on the tiny little grill I had outside to burn hamburger patties, and set a corner of it on fire with a match.

For about 10 or 15 seconds. I could not bring myself to burn the whole cover (let alone the whole book). I think I feared that if I let it burn too much ghosts of the Inquisition would be released and torment me forever! So I blew off the small flame and looked at this barely-charred cover with deep angst. I wish there had been a suitable soundtrack for the moment, and perhaps a camera doing a slow close-up, at which point I would have whispered “So, it comes to this!”

But there wasn’t and I didn’t. What was left was a symbolically cathartic, slightly charred expression of my disgust. Disgust at my behavior, at the author’s deceitfulness.

BTW: I disliked the book so much that I will not even deign it with telling you its name. It doesn’t deserve even that very minor notoriety.

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About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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