I gave up on a book yesterday. Except in cases of truly terrible writing, it always seems a betrayal. Or an insult. Or a waste of money. In this case I abandoned Herta Müller's The Hunger Angel, which started out well. But after some pages in the labor camp, I grew fatigued. For days I hauled the book back and forth to work, but always found something more interesting to do than get down and read. I haven't abandoned it completely, just for now; I think I may have had enough "bad old Europe" in books recently.
Instead I picked up Kent Haruf's Plainsong, set in eastern Colorado. I saw it recommended on Good Reads and found it used in Philly last month but didn't know the plot. When I started to read it I thought it might as well have been written in 1952, but I looked in the front flap and it was 1999. It is enormously engaging, and my reading cramp has dissolved.
Just yesterday a German colleague asked me what "to go on a tear" meant, and that's exactly what I did on Amazon for other day, shopping for books for my son. It's difficult to find books that appeal to him, much less that he'll stick with. He loved the James Daschner 'Labyrinth' series, so much so that I convinced him to read the third book in English instead of waiting who knows how long for the German translation to come out. Anyway, I found six books for him, in German no less, and am even more excited to receive them than I would be if I'd ordered them for myself.