DNF Shelf

Camus

Every once in a while, we come across books that are too good for us. Perhaps they are too dense or too descriptive or just too darn ambitious. Regardless, we are better off leaving them. In basketball parlance, these no-shows are called DNP- CD (did not play – coach’s decision). In the readers’ world, these unwanted books are annexed to the veritable DNF shelf. Did Not Finish. This year, my book pool has stretched. With that comes my fair share of bad reads. The following is a list of books that didn’t tickle my fancy.

The Plague (Camus). A literary classic written by a renegade French-Algerian philosopher, this had all the inklings of a must-read. Though he left us rather soon, Camus was one of the youngest recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The language awed many people and moved me to get my hands on a copy. Alas, the hoopla was misdirected. After twenty pages, I can’t see the forest for the trees. After forty, I knew that I was just forcing myself to continue. I thought that the plot and writing would get better, but I was mistaken. Camus’s job title was a giveaway. He finds the reason in everything. I decided that I couldn’t stick around for a bit, as I was taking an unnecessary exercise.

For Whom the Bells Toll (Hemingway). This was my first Hemingway and it was not a good intro. His prose has demi-god status among writers, his works legendary. His maximalist style immediately bothered me. Imagine a paragraph spread across two pages. I guess you could say that we started on the wrong foot, but I quit after thirty pages. Some said it’s best to start with his stories before progressing to novellas and finally, novels. I guess I should’ve gotten the memo. In fairness, the novel had a rather cool plot set during the Spanish civil war. However, this backfires as the translation from Spanish leads to many awkward phrasings.

A Clockwork Orange (Burgess). An instant classic when it was released in the sixties, Orange became a media sensation with its depiction of teen violence and hedonism. It gained even more notoriety after being adapted into a Kubrick film. The most defining thing about the book, apart from the unabashed devilry, was the language used. Burgess being a linguist, the text is peppered with words and phrases that have been given new meaning. The author christens this register of words as the Nadsat. Some say it takes a period of adjustment to grasp the new patois, but that job was beyond me. Though the adaptation was sad to watch, I liked it much better than the text.  

Note: I won’t name-drop living authors on this list.

Many moons ago, I saw the movie with my friend and it was worth it. So, I expected a lot when I grabbed a copy of the 2013 novel which formed the basis of the picture. I did some research and the book was well-loved. Once I started perusing the text, my enthusiasm was quickly doused. The writing reminded me of his next novel, released late last year. No offence, but from my perspective, there was hardly anything beauteous in it. It was hard to read and employed a lot of internal monologues and description, way too much in my opinion. Given that it was 600 pages, I decided to move on.

I borrowed this book by a contemporary Australian writer. She had grand ambitions and charted her journey through the Outback in search of country. There was some hype surrounding this output, so I anticipated a fairly straightforward read. Contrary to her glowing reviews, I disliked it to the point that I dropped it and stopped chipping away. It was nice of her to celebrate her culture and find common ground among Aussies. It just so happened that her valiant efforts failed to strike a chord with me.

Honourable mention: As I shared before, I almost gave up on The Beekeeper of Aleppo. However, upon trying a second time I realised that it wasn’t so bad. I ended up finishing said novel and sparing it of a potential relegation to the DNF. While many people would allege that these books are classics and bestsellers, we are all unique. In the end, to paraphrase a quote, two of us will never ever read the same book.

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