I DNF’d a book today.
I know – shoot me! Right?
You may as well put me out of my misery, because the guilt is already slowly killing me!
I remember my grandmother reprimanding me as a child, every time there was as much as a single pea left on my dinner plate: “There are children starving in Africa!” Perhaps it was the concept of my fussiness being responsible for a country’s famine that has instilled in me an overinflated sense of importance (don’t we love to blame our character flaws on others?). But in the vast sea of this year’s book reviews, my one single DNF is as niggly as the pea under the princess’ mattress (to stay with the pea analogy). It is a thorn in my side, a raw bellyache, a cloud hovering over my day. It will make me toss and turn in my sleep tonight, with the jilted book haunting me in my nightmares, crying accusingly: “You gave up on me, you ingratiate!” And whilst no one gives a toss about my good-little-catholic-girl like guilt, I am convinced that the publisher will blacklist me from their ARC lists and never grant me an ARC ever again. Someone give the girl a valium!
You may appreciate the general premise of this post, that DNFing does not come easily to me. As a perfectionist, I will do battle with most books, no matter how bad, just from the sense of duty of having pressed the “request” button on Netgalley – and therefore making this whole dilemma my own fault in the first place. Any measure of “I shouldn’t have” and “Why did I?”s is not going to fix that. You are looking at a reader whose TBR pile is as a high as an Alpine mountain range, and about as insurmountable in a single lifetime. I stock up on books like others squirrel away cans of food for the day of reckoning. If it wasn’t for my husband, my house would be on day-time TV, with reporters trying to squeeze through the narrow gap of paperbacks lining every available surface to get an exclusive interview for their report “Book hoarding – a new Australian epidemic?”
So yes, there is all that ... On the other hand, I find myself between a rock and a hard place. With full time work and my family’s ridiculous demands that I cook and clean occasionally, or show my face without a book in front of my nose, life is too short to spend on a book I hate, or which bores me to death. If my dusty skeleton is ever found clutching a paperback, I at least want it to be a good one, not the hundredths clone of the new Gone Girl with that killer twist you won’t see coming (because you have long died of boredom waiting for it).
So why DNF?
And that brings me to the main reason I will DNF a book – boredom. At work, we have DNR – do not resuscitate. For me, the books I DNF are the DNR’s of the bookworld – they have flatlined, and no amount of jumping up and down on their chests will revive them for me. Dead as a dodo. If I catch myself nodding off during a book – repeatedly – it’s a Gone Book to me!
The only other reason I will DNF is if a book affronts my sensibilities to such a degree that I cannot bear to be in the same room with it any more (and I am not easily shocked or surprised). I remember one instance, where a book disgusted me so deeply, that I first took it out of the room; then got up to throw it in the outside bin; and not being satisfied even with that, took the bin out to the kerb (which upset the whole neighbourhood, as bin day was still a few days away). And then I had a shower. Ugh, I still shudder thinking about it.
Do you DNF?
For anyone stumbling across this post by sheer accident, you may judge me harshly on my Sunday confessional. However, there is a slight chance that someone, somewhere out there can relate to something I said. I would love to hear from anyone on how they handle their DNFs. Do you feel guilt, shame, unbearable sadness on DNFing? Will you read on doggedly, no matter how indescribably boring the book is? Do you consume huge quantities of caffeine to give you the adrenaline hit otherwise missing in the pages? Leave me a comment, it would be great to hear your thoughts ....