Sunday, December 15, 2013

Read-Along Fail: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler


Read-alongs are the best, even if I ultimately fail to finish... as was the case last month with If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. I'd been curious about the book for years, and more than a little intimidated too, so was happy to learn of Care and Melissa's month-long project.

If on a Winter's Night A Traveler is basically a book about reading a book, or more precisely the quest to read a book. Each of ten chapters features the story of the Reader, and later the Other Reader, procuring a book and then the first chapter of that book. The book purchased in chapter one is incomplete, so the Reader tries to obtain another copy in chapter two, but it turns out to be a different book entirely. This continued for five chapters, the Reader still had no success locating the book he originally intended to read (If on a Winter's Night a Traveler) and I'd read introductions to five very different novels along the way.

In the end, I reached the midpoint early, took a short break, and then lost interest. Why? I was actually enjoying the book… which was strange because I usually run from anything even vaguely experimental. Somehow I had managed to relax, let myself go with the flow, and savor Calvino's language and cleverness. I had no idea what he was trying to accomplish, but was able to simply enjoy the ride. The first five chapters went very quickly so, not wanting to get too far ahead, I put the book aside and read my latest book club selection.

Big mistake.

When I finally went back to If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, I just couldn't get into it. This time the book beginnings just frustrated me and I became impatient with Calvino. Was it my own tension and impatience building over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday? Did I feel a need for closure? I'm not entirely sure, but will chalk this failure up to my own mood.

Overall, I experienced surprise, enjoyment, confusion, and frustration while reading If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, but ultimately, have no desire to finish the book.

I did learn two thing from this experience though. First, I am most definitely a "mood" reader and second, I have a hard time reading on a schedule. My mistake here was losing momentum. I should have just written the midpoint post early and kept on reading.

Let this be a lesson for the next read along.



22 comments:

  1. That happens to me sometimes, I lose interest if I let a half finished book sit too long without being finished.

    Harvee
    Book Dilettante

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    1. Harvee - From now on, I'll just keep reading if I'm enjoying a book.

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  2. About the two things you learned: me too and me too!

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    1. Audrey - We readers are a temperamental bunch ;-)

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    1. Kathy - I'm glad I read the first half… just wish I'd kept on going when I was in the right frame of mind to appreciate it.

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  4. You do have me interested in this book now. I'll have to get a copy by the end of the month!

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    1. James - I probably shouldn't even mention this, but it's one of amazon's monthly kindle deals…only $2.99.

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  5. I think I'm still interested in this one but my takeaways from your experience will be that I need to make sure my mood is right and that I keep going once I start!

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    1. Lisa - I do wish I'd just kept reading. Hope you have better luck.

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  6. I'm totally a mood reader, and rely on momentum. Like right now, I'm distracted and have ZERO momentum and it isn't doing me any favors. I had the same thing happen to me when I tried to read Doctor Zhivago. Crash and burn.

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    1. Sandy - Don't feel bad… I've tried and failed with Dr. Zhivago twice. Maybe it's time to try a different translation ;-)

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  7. I'm glad you joined us, but I think we should have made the readalong shorter. I ended up reading the first half, writing my mid-way post and then immediately finishing the rest of the book. I think I absolutely would have lost interest if I'd slowed down. We'll keep that in mind for the next readalong we do!

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    1. Melissa - It's really hard choosing the right length for a read-along if you haven't read the book… and if you had, then why would you lead a read-along? Next time I'll approach things your way, but I'm still glad I attempted this one. Who knows, I may even finish it :-)

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  8. I'm a moody reader and have a hard time reading on schedule too. It's always good to know what works and doesn't for you.

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    1. Vasilly - I think I've finally figured out my optimal read-along strategy!

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  9. I'm a mood reader as well. I wonder how a read-a-long would work for me? Sometimes a book totally doesn't work for me and I go back to it later and love it. Such was The Age of Innocence when I first read it.

    Great honest review!

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    1. Laura - Funny you should mention The Age of Innocence… it will be one of my favorite books of 2013, yet when I first attempted it years ago, I never got beyond page 50!

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  10. I am with you that I really wish I had kept reading! and it IS short so I could have easily get at it. Maybe in a month without a holiday that third week? LOL.
    I pushed through and I can say it was a fun read and perfect kind of book to readalong with other great readers. I just think I would have liked it even more if I had read it all in one big gulp.

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    1. Care - Gulping is definitely the way to go with this one! Thanks again for co-hosting.

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  11. This was the first readlong I finished on schedule, but I do think that it's a book that needs the right moment and to be read at the right pace. I went back and forth a bit to try to piece things together, and I think that really helped.

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    1. Jane - I'm going to hang on to my copy of this book because it's entirely possible the mood ail strike again.

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