Bummer Books

I’ve had a streak of bad books lately. It’s been kind of discouraging, since I’ve been really overwhelmed and I haven’t had as much time to read as I would like. My son’s wedding in next week and I’m ALMOST done with the dress, but not quite. Still, I can only sew for for a few hours before my back just can’t take it anymore. And that’s a perfect time to curl up with a good read. It’s finding that good read that has been the trouble.

I tried (and abandoned) a couple of classics – Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. Marcus Aurelius is frequently quoted for his thoughts of life, his precepts and stuff. Doesn’t mean it’s an interesting read straight through. I picked this one up because it’s often recommended along with The Art of War by Sun Tzu. It really was satisfying, since he organized his writings by a theme and it was full of great insights. I’d read that one instead.

I got further into The Old Curiosity Shop, but when I realized I was only still reading because it was one of those classics everyone knows than because I was enjoying it, I gave up. It’s the story of Little Nell, a saintly girl who’s actually 15 or 16 and so not that young, her morbid grandfather who is gambling his life away, and Quilp, a deformed evil dwarf who terrorizes his wife and wants her to die so he can marry Nell. After rolling my eyes for the hundredth time at Nell’s pious suffering, I deleted the book. This one cause a sensation when it was released in serial format back in the day, with Americans lining the docks waiting for newcomers to tell them if Little Nell survived. I hope she didn’t. OK, that’s mean, but really, times change, and this is just too old-fashioned for me to put up with.

One sort of on the margins of classics was a collection of short stories by Katherine Mansfield. I read two of her very long short stories before deleting that one too. She has a very definite style, always dwelling on the most unpleasant secrets of her characters. Not always, but I would definitely not call these enjoyable stories. She’s great at setting a scene and at creating characters, but they’re not characters I want to hang out with. I would actually read another story by her again, here and there, but she’s a difficult author for me.

I finally gave up on new books and reread Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold. If you’re a fan of the Vorkosigan series, this is the one where Mark goes after the cloning operation in Jackson’s Whole and it ends in disaster. Well, that part does, but eventually things work out so that – well, I won’t give it away in case you haven’t read these and plan to. Definitely don’t start here; this is book 9. I love this series; it’s space opera at its most fun.

Well, I can’t stick around. I have to hem a wedding dress and then I really want to find something decent to read.


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