I always used to hate starting a book and then giving up on it – it actually pains me. No matter how many chapters I've done, whether it's one or twenty, it feels like wasted time. And if I was reading major literary works and hating them surely there must be something wrong with me? But some years ago I finally found it in me to leave this obsessive compulsive disorder behind.
The epiphany was Elias Canetti's Auto Da Fe. I thought I'd lost this when on holiday and felt such elation! But then I found it again at the bottom of my bag and was plunged into the slough of despond. Was I really going to have to trudge through the rest of this shaggy dog story, with its loathesome characters, supposedly wittily realised but actually literary torture? Only then did I realise, with the violent see saw of emotion, that I was causing myself psychological harm. Since then I’ve felt liberated, reclaiming my time and merrily rejecting numerous canonical books.
I had waded my way through most of Jean Genet's Thief's Journal. Championed by seemingly everyone I was only twenty pages from the end but I could take no more of Genet's nihilistic self-indulgence, and how it made me wish for the rebirth of a repressive society, and I threw it joyfully aside.
The most recent casualty has been Roberto Bolano's Nazi Literature in the Americas. I loved the idea, a novel wrought through encyclopaedia entries, but each mini-biography seemed clichéd and refused to develop a relation to the others. So despite the praise heaped on Bolano of late I had to put it down.