July 12, 2012


Over the years I've gotten pretty good at getting rid of and avoiding the acquisition of what I call "stuff."

I don't enjoy shopping, so I rarely acquire new material possessions.  E & I have essentially the same furniture that we've had since we met, in 2000.  I mean, we live in Silicon Valley and both work in technology-related careers, yet this is what passes for an entertainment center in our house:


(Why yes, that is a 38" CRT and an HDTV antenna to send signals to the free converter box from the gubment to convert those over-the-air HD signals to NTSC).

I make a pile to go to GoodWill so regularly that the pile has its own dedicated corner in the house despite my general hatred for clutter.

I enjoy the act of purging "stuff."  I never feel guilty or wasteful for getting rid of something that still has use.  In fact, I feel freer, happier.   The later thoughts of "didn't I used to have a...." never cause me to regret my decisions.  They just make me smile.

Yes, yes, I did used to have that thing.  But I don't have it now.  How wonderful.  Space!

But Ideas?  Goals?  Books? Pictures or videos of memories? For me, these things are not "stuff."

I collect them.  I hold on to them long past their useful life.  I grow unreasonably attached to them.

So I have boxes and boxes of photos.  And shelves and shelves of books.  And lists all over the house full of things that are unlikely to ever be achieved.  We even have a VCR and videotapes of memories from childhood (see above) that have survived my otherwise strict regular purging policy.

I also have an unreasonable attachment to the idea of *finishing* books.

Prior to today, I've only given up and agreed not to finish one book: Ulysses back in my early 20s.  Because of its stature in the literary world, and the fact that I just could not get myself to enjoy it, I finally admitted that I just wasn't "getting it" and thus it would be a waste of time to finish it.  Too many characters and complexities for me, thanks.  Perhaps one day I will return to it, but I doubt it.  There are more books in the world than I could read in my lifetime, so it seems unlikely that I'll go back to one I didn't like rather than try a new one (to me) that might.

But other than Ulysses, historically, if I start a book, I finish it.  And, I usually only read one pleasure book at a time (I'm mid-way through several educational books at the moment, on law, Chinese characters, etc. but I don't consider them part of my reading for fun habit -- I won't curl up on the couch with them or cuddle up with them in bed).

So, imagine my surprise when I admitted yesterday that despite absolutely adoring Anathem and REAMDE, I just couldn't bring myself to read another page of Quicksilver.  I slowed my typically page-ripping pace as soon as I started this one.  I'd been reading along at approximately 1,000 pages a month this year, and then, from May until now, I've been struggling to get through a handful of pages in any sitting. 

Yesterday, after yet another fitful few pages, I realized I was only on page 361 of 962!  And I'd bought or borrowed the whole Baroque Cycle Trilogy!

So, I had a chat with myself and admitted that I needed to make some more space in my thoughts, just like I need to constantly make more space in my physical life.

Not only am I not going to finish this book, I'm not going to finish the whole trilogy! Instead, I am going to go through my books, make a pile of books to sell to the used bookstore, and include the two books in the trilogy I bought. (I'll return the third one I borrowed back to metamatt.)

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm going to admit that I'm also really struggling with River Horse.  It was a lovely gift from Arvay, and it's a treat.  But it's *so* *slow* that I actually agreed to cheat on it and start Quicksilver.  And look where that got me!

So, I'm going to follow several of the comments on GoodReads and relegate it to bathroom reading -- it's reassuring to learn that some folks took 4 years to get through this one.  I like it enough to finish it over the course of 4 years.  

And with that, I'm at 6,103 pages for the year and ready and excited to start a *new* pleasure book.

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