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April 06, 2005: Taking a pass

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On work day mornings, Richard and I have a tendency to eat breakfast together while reading. It's a nice way to catch up on random reading - either recently received magazines, or something off our well stocked shelves. Short stories and fluffy magazine articles (or books of knitting patterns and techniques from the library) are perfect for breakfast reading because I usually don't have a whole lot of time, and one of the downfalls of being able to read extremely fast is that I tend to prefer to be able to read through a book from start to finish in one sitting.

This particular book is a rather large collection of a lot of classic fantasy and ghost stories. And while I'm usually willing to give most text the benefit of the doubt and continue to slog on even if it fails to capture my interest, there are a few exceptions. This morning I determined that anything written by Henry James is one of those exceptions.

I tried. I really did try to engage myself in this particular short story (The Jolly Corner). But after three pages of random babble about some nondescript man who might have been building a house or something that might or might not have had a ghost, I just couldn't care. The style is painful to read - conversations are buried in long rambly paragraphs of unrelated blathering - and even when I forced myself to stop my usual mode of skimming whole lines of text at once to try to read it word for word, I still could not work up any reason to care.

I am sure there are those people out there who adore Henry James' work, just as I am sure that there are people out there who can read anything written by Hemingway without wanting to gouge out their own eyeballs with whatever sharp object might be handy. Unfortunately I have neither the patience, or the desire, to wade through James' ponderous text (or Hemingway’s annoyingly repetitive and awkward prose), and after about ten pages of torturous reading I finally gave up and flipped hastily on to the next story the book had to offer.

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