I’m currently in the middle of a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey, and I’ve encountered a problem. The mid-book slump. I’m just tired of reading it. My favorite books are those I can lose myself in. I like for a character’s life to become entangled in my own. A plot that makes me unable to put the book down. These are the best books, to me anyway.
I so looked forward to Cuckoo’s Nest. It seemed right up my alley. Bunch of psychos in a mental hospital? Great! Con man who weaseled his way onto the psych ward to escape a work farm? Bring it on! Oppressive and possibly crazy head nurse? I’m so in! But I just can’t get into the story.
It’s not that the writing is poor or the characters are lacking. To the contrary, I think Kesey is fabulous. He expertly describes the delusions, the feel and smell of the ward, the entire atmosphere. Maybe it’s the fact the book is written in first person, from inside one of the Cuckoo’s heads. I have to think about what I’m reading. The narrator skips words and describes things like…well, like a crazy person. Try as I may, I can’t get lost in a book I have to think too much about, and to me, that’s the joy of reading.
There was a good blog post over on Dystel Goderich about Virtuous Reading that connected with me on this subject. Except, I’m not reading Cuckoo’s Nest because I think I should, or because a book club, or professor told me to read it. I’m reading because I want to. I’m just not sure if I want to any longer.
I hate the idea of stopping before I finish. Perhaps I’ll come back to it at some other point. There have been very few books I can’t get through. Go ahead literary junkies, berate me all you want, but the “Hobbit”? Ugh, couldn’t do it. “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”? Dry as burnt toast. Anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne? Sorry, I’d rather watch grass grow. I read two pages of “The House of Seven Gables” and put it down. Somehow, I managed to get halfway through the “Scarlet Letter”, don’t ask me how.
On the other hand, there are books I love that would cause a lot of people to have the same nose wrinkling, I-just-smelled-a-skunk, expression I get when someone hands me Tolkien. “Crime and Punishment”? Brilliant! “Anna Karenina”? Amazing! “A Clockwork Orange?” Genius!
In the end, I guess I know what I’m going to do. Move on to greener (more interesting, less blah) reading. I hear Stephen King will be releasing his much anticipated sequel to “The Shining”, “Dr. Sleep” soon (jumps up and down with the joy of a new King tome for my hungry eyes to feast upon! Click the link to hear Mr. King read an excerpt from the book). In the meantime, my shelf is jam packed with books just waiting to be read (or re-read), so I guess I won’t be hanging in there with Cuckoo’s Nest.