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Monday, February 18, 2013

A Mouse a Cookie, a Book a Chance

Does the first half of today’s subject heading ring a bell? My nephews had the book, Give a Mouse a Cookie, or I might not have caught the reference in a movie David and I watched not long ago. He didn’t catch it. (I had to explain.) I don’t remember the movie or even if it was any good, but I was intrigued that the theme of a children’s book from the 1980s would be deemed a well-known cultural reference for film-goers. Obviously, the movie must have been aimed at 20-somethings.

This morning I was also wondering how much of a chance other people give books before deciding they don’t want to read further. Does a book have to grab you on the very first page? Some do that, others don’t. I enjoy being hooked at the start but am willing to give a book more of a chance than that. One of my favorite novels, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, started off slowly, with a lot of expository background. Toni Morrison’s Beloved was one that confused me for many pages before I found my way into it. Both of those books were enormously worth reading! If I’d stopped at the first page, how much I would have missed!

Someone told me once about the “Rule of 50,” which I’ve never forgotten. This rule owes its existence to Nancy Pearl. Here’s how it works: Until you are 50 years old, you should read at least 50 pages of a book before deciding against going on. After age 50, you are allowed to subtract one page per year from the required minimum, so that at age 51 you only need to read 49 pages before quitting, etc. At the age of 100 you need only glance at the cover and are then allowed to say, “No, thanks, not for me.” Yes, I can see that centenarians have earned the right of dismissal.

As for how many pages the Rule of 50 mandates for me this year, NOYB! How many pages I actually read before setting aside varies with the book, anyway. With a nonfiction book, I may jump around and try other chapters. Only very, very rarely—almost never!—do I skip to the end. Do you ever read the end of a book first? A few people have told me they do that, and I can’t imagine it as a regular practice. If we could fast-forward through life, and then hit ‘reverse,’ would you?


dmarks said...

I tried Ayn Rand's "Fountainhead" two or three times, not able to get more than two or three pages into it. I won't try again, and this makes me reluctant to try "Atlas Shrugged".

P. J. Grath said...

Rand makes a big impression if read in one's late teens or early twenties. After that reality gets in the way.

THE CRYING OF LOT 49, by Pynchon, and Frazier's COLD MOUNTAIN were a couple I had to try several times before going forward. Finally gave up on Kerouac's ON THE ROAD: boring, boring, boring!

dmarks said...

The only thing I have to say in Rand's defense is that her views are relatively harmless. I compare her to the other writer whose simplistic ideas make a huge impression on people in a similar age group. Perhaps a hundred million have been executed in the name of Marx, with mamy millions more rapes and other violent crimes. Not many harmed in the name of Rand.