On Being Stuck

I am in a sort reading quandry, and it’s why I haven’t posted in a while. If you’ve looked at my GoodReads recently (though honestly why would you) you’ll see that I am ‘currently reading’ two books – something I never do. I started Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter back at the start of October, and I am still wading through it, even though it isn’t very long. I bought it with several other gems from ladies of the 20th century, including Jean Rhys and Joan Didion, and dived right into it for fear that if I left it for a while I would just never read it. It’s one of those books – not essential or urgent, but one that I do want to read.

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image: amazon.co.uk

It’s not a long book but it’s very dense – small type, hardly any page breaks, and no chapters. It’s divided into a couple of massive sections, and it’s easy to get lost in them. It also doesn’t really help that the ever industrious Simone, as I have discovered her to be, does not leave out a single detail of her formative years – which in theory could be a good thing, but it means that she gets too bogged down in these details and the reader feels dragged down with her. A lot of time is spent on her brooding teenage years, with their tempestuous relationships and her musings on what she should do with her life, and what sort of person she should become. Perhaps it is not surprising, given that de Beauvoir is such a celebrated and successful philosopher, that so much of her memoir of her youth could be described as ‘navel gazing’. It is entirely self-centred to the point that it is hard to picture her every day life and how she interacts with the people around her. Instead it is like reliving those tortuous teenage years, except this time in Paris in the early 20th century. I’m about two-thirds of the way through Memoirs and I am very close to giving up altogether – though I hope I will soon feel empowered to go back to it.

I started reading Loving by Henry Green in an attempt to give myself a break from Simone, hopefully to return to her more refreshed. I first read Loving at university, for a course on the concept of time in the 20th century, and I loved it straight away (no pun intended). It was first published in 1945 but is considered a modernist work, in that it is almost entirely character-driven and is a bit experimental with language and storytelling. Most of the plot moves forward through the characters’ dialogue and there’s very little exposition, which I quite like. In that sense it feels very natural, and more like real life, where all our information comes from the communication of other people, whether verbal on non-verbal. I shall probably write a proper review of it when I have finished reading it – which hopefully won’t be in several months’ time…

That’s it for now. I will endeavour to devote more time to reading, and to blogging, both of which have been a bit neglected recently. I adore this time of year, with Christmas and a lot of birthdays, but it’s also just really fucking stressful and tiring, so at the moment I feel a bit like the picture of Simone de Beauvoir on the cover of the Penguin edition I have of her memoirs (pictured above). Hopefully I will find enough time to relax and get some serious reading done!

What do you like to do when you are stuck in a reading rut?

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