nobody here but us chickens

Category: books i can’t seem to finish

I have an embarrassingly long list of books started and never completed. Allow me to share them with you.

This American Lion in Black and Drugs and Murder and Mayhem and My Baggage

Handsome, and deeply flawed, men.

Not really. But kinda. The title I mean.

Look. I can’t even remember the last time I posted about this Johnny Cash book. It’s just so goddamned detailed. I mean I feel like I personally knew the man at this point and I’m only like halfway through. And I have to tell you. Growing up with an addict for a parent makes reading about addicts rough.  I can’t read this straight through. It’s not like just ripping off the band aid and getting it over with. It’s more like “Yep, my mom did something like that once and three cars ended up rear ending a semi on the freeway as we rolled by going about 25 in a 55 nearly taking two of those drivers out after they’d gotten out of their cars. I was like 13 or 14. I can’t remember. No one helped me. The police never stopped her. How did no one get her plate number?” And I can’t decide if it’s harder to read now that she’s dead or not. Do I really feel like I need to keep trying to finish this book? I just don’t know. Also that might be as personal as I’ve ever gotten on this bloggy thingy.

The thing is, Johnny Cash was a very interesting and deeply flawed man. I love his music. Well. A lot of his music. Some of it’s just. Meh. Whatever. Didn’t you already do this song and call it something else? Which even the book points out was a thing when he was deep in the throes of drugs drugs drugs.

Much like with my mother, I both love you and hate you, Johnny Cash.

But there’s a lockdown in week eleventy ordered through questionable authority and motivation and I looked at it, sitting on my nightstand for over a year and picked it up again.  I feel like this is a book I’ll be reading for the next ten years. Lockdown or no lockdown, I can only stomach a few pages at a time. I guess I’ll report back in a few years and let you know how it’s going. Right now he’s about to do his live from Folsom concert. He’s semi-sober.

I can’t even comprehend living your life that way. And then when you do sober up you’re suddenly some kind of hero. I’m maybe a little bitter. Let’s move on to the other book I’ve been reading for three years.

My favorite historical nutball.

Here’s the thing about Andrew Jackson: Aside from his totally racist and bigoted motivation behind the genocidal push of Native Americans off their land and into the West, he would have been a pretty brilliant president. Also he was a total badass. Dude was in more than 100 duels and walked around with a bullet permanently lodged in his person from one of them.

And here’s where I encounter a perpetual dilemma. Can you ignore the bad actions of otherwise decent men (and women) and look to the good they’ve done? I mean Ted Kennedy is a prime modern example of this, right? Montstrously dickish human. Never suffered any consequences for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. But devoted Dems far and wide loved that man. They don’t care about that poor woman who might be alive today if not for his drunken ass. Not to mention the countless other women who suffered for being near him. Actually, never mind. Ted Kennedy most certainly was not a decent person. Probably you can think of other examples. Oh, Obama. How about all those drone strikes. But y’all loved that man. “Still miss him!” Right? Extra judicial execution of innocent American citizens be damned! Shit like this happens all the time. Jackson’s actions unquestionably caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people. And I’m not bringing up examples of prominent Democrats to excuse that. I’m just trying to make a point, and not doing a very good job of it. But anyway, he also did great things for the country. Like getting us 100% out of debt – to this day, the only American president to ever do so.

All that aside, this book is written in a painstakingly detailed fashion, much like Cash. And I am slogging along through ENTIRELY TOO MUCH DETAIL. But this one also will, in the middle of talking about Jackson’s inaugural speech, suddenly jump to years later and Calhoun and some detail seemingly totally unrelated, but perhaps we’ll understand later. How is it that this is the kind of writing that always wins the Pulitzer?

P.S. It’s PULL-its-er, NOT Pewlitzer. Stop saying Pewlitzer. You’re saying it wrong. Trust me on this, if nothing else. You Pewlitzer folks drive me batty.

Also Andrew Jackson totally looks like this guy I went to middle and high school with and was one of the “cool” kids but I haven’t seen or spoken to since then because I was never cool enough to be friends with him for real. I think he’s an opera singer now. No joke. Crazy talented.

Anyway, this post is lacking in my usual humorous take on why I can’t finish shit, but you can blame it on my mother. Or not. I don’t care. This current way of life has me perpetually seething just below the surface, on the verge of giving up on reaching out to people, and generally just quietly cranky. Fuck it.

Look how skinny I was. I miss skinny me. Tellin’ secrets to giant Andrew Jackson’s head in Houston in 2013.

I fully condemn Jackson’s order to force Native Americans into the West. But I do find his life fascinating. We’ll see if I ever finish this one, I suppose.

I don’t know what y’all are reading, but if you’re in the Read Death Book Club, I fully expect it to be Being Mortal!


Lonesome Me

here’s my printed out book cover on account of my book has disappeared. or it was stolen. it could have been stolen. you don’t know.

Hello, intrepid chickens! Did you miss me? I know, it’s been ages since I made a book post.

Today I bring you …. Lonesome Dove! Lonesome Dove was recommended to me by several people. Read Lonesome Dove! You’ll LOOOOOOVE it! Fee Waybill went on and on one night in my dining room at a party about how much he loved the Lonesome Dove series. So I thought I’d give it a try. I mean, Fee Waybill. SURELY he would not steer me wrong. Right?

crappy photo of a photo of fee as frank in rocky horror that i shot for the Barn Theatre some years back. i was looking for the photo of him on the floor with my dog at the party i mentioned, but can’t currently find it.

I started reading it. I got a couple of hundred pages in. And holy hell was it a slow burner. So I put it down. I thought I’d take a break. Come back to it later.

And now I can’t bloody find it.

It has completely disappeared off the face of the Earth. My house has eaten it. My house consumes books at an alarming rate. It’s swallowed at least two copies of Atlas Shrugged, along with every copy of 1984 we ever had (and we’ve had several). Of course I still have two different covered copies of A Clockwork Orange.

It’s bizarre.

here’s a picture i took of it in 2014. it wasn’t long after this that it disappeared.

I left off somewhere around the part where they decide to go ahead and do another cattle raid. Does that sound familiar? I don’t know. Maybe I’m imagining it.

But now if I want to find out, I’ll have to buy a new copy. And you know as soon as I buy a new copy, it will turn up. Because that’s what happens every. single. time I lose something. So I’ll keep looking, I guess. But I am putting this in the can’t seem to finish category because I was genuinely having trouble loving it. But also it’s physically impossible to finish it!

I can see how I’d love this book in film or series form (though I’ve never watched the televised/filmicized version of the tale). I think I’d love it if it weren’t so bloody loooooooooooooong and excruciatingly detailed. I mean I was really starting to feel like I was there in Texas, living the drought, smelling the stink, hacking up a lung. So. I guess McMurtry’s pretty good at realism. But man.

Anyway. Every time I think of this book that I am unable to finish, I get Galveston stuck in my head. I know it’s blasphemy, but I like David Nail’s version better than the Glen Campbell original. And I love Glen Campbell.

Have you read Lonesome Dove? Thoughts? Anyone want to send me a new copy? I think I bought mine off Alibris, so I suppose I could find another one there. I love Alibris.

jentober, contemplating the whereabouts of her copy of this epic tome. and also the unnatural smoothness of her skin using the self portrait camera on her phone.

Did I send you my copy? That’s a possibility too. In my giving away all the books frenzy. So. Many. Books. Maybe I thought “I’m never going to finish this nine thousand page book, I’m just going to ship it on to someone else.” That seems like something I’d do and promptly forget about.

Also? Every time I type Lonesome Dove, I type Loneseome Dover and have to fix it. Every. Time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and neither do you.

P.S. You’ll notice I have not yet launched my book blog. That’s for many many reasons including being HEAVILY focused on my MA practicum. Also I’m planning a podcast. For reals, yo. So it’ll all come together in the end. Truuuuuuust me.



Obviously not my photo.

Guess what, Scoobies? I could not finish that Meddling Kids weirdness. It’s really only because I just do not have time. Suddenly this section of my class has 467 chapters to read and a hefty paper attached to them. So. There we are.

I encourage you to read it though, if ever you were a Scooby Doo fan. Just be prepared that it is, indeed, W.E.I.R.D.

But you like weird, right? Otherwise why would you ever come here?


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

We can clearly see that I have reached the stage of not giving a fuck about what my hair looks like in this humidity. 

This book is so effective that I don’t even give enough of a fuck to finish it. (Just kidding, it just wasn’t that interesting.)

In other words, I’m not impressed. I mean I picked this book up because I was genuinely looking for a way to care less about shit in my endless pursuit of zennishness. Work shit. Political shit. Work shit. Self righteous virtue signally shit. Work shi- yeah, you know, just a lot of work shit. I thought, “Maybe this is like when Peter is hypnotized in Office Space and he just doesn’t give a fuck any more and somehow becomes wildly successful at work. Cos I need to be Peter.” But yeah, it’s not.

Manson fills all these pages up with gems like “Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another,” and “Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow,” or “In my life, I have given a fuck about many people and many things. I have also not given a fuck about many people and many things. And like the road not taken, it was the fucks not given that made all the difference,” like some drunken frat boy philosophizing at a kegger in the hopes of getting laid.

Kudos to you, Mark Manson, for saying a bunch of crap everyone already knows and has said a million times and capitalizing on it. Credit where it’s due. But I’m gonna have to hop off your bandwagon on this one.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again …”

Here’s how I’ma “unpretzel” my mind: by throwing this book in the burn pile. I’m not even going to donate this bitch. I’d hate to have any part in perpetuating its circulation.

I’m not even normally the self help type. It’s all so much touchy feely lie back and tell me all about it while we get in touch with our inner child and soothe it to sleep with milk and cookies foolishness, in my view. I don’t really do FEEEEELINGS. So I think it’s safe to say I was at a pretty low point in the course of events that led me to picking this book up. Plus, let’s face it, I’m a sucker for a book that so blatantly flaunts the fuck word. (Though it would have been more daring to drop the ink splat in the title. So much for not giving a fuck.)

Or is this book supposed to be tongue in cheek? Humor? A self help mockery? I honestly don’t know. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s dead fucking serious.

Of course, what do I know? I’m not a best selling author, I just trash their books on my blog. (Which I would feel kind of bad about, but I’ve remembered how to not give a fuck. And a lot of these books really do suck. Also that wasn’t even the point of this series in the first place. I need to get back to books that are actually good, but that I just keep putting down.)

I’ll tell you this though: This book reminded me precisely why I don’t read self help. So, I guess there’s that.

You wanna know how to not give a fuck? Just don’t give a fuck. Also a little Xanax never hurt either.


The Trespasser

Once again, I have only the Kindle version, so I printed the cover for your entertainment purposes.

Let me preface this by the usual – there are possible spoilerish statements in what follows. Read on at your own peril!

Let me also preface this by expressing my love for Tana French. I really, truly, love Tana French. I love how each of her installments progresses organically from the last without being a technical sequel. I love that they’re gritty without being cliche. I love that they’re set in Dublin and the surrounding area – a stop on my someday maybe list. I love that her characters are all deeply flawed human beings but flawed in entirely believable and realistic ways.

I do not love this book.

I really, really do not love this book. I did not love this protagonist when she was introduced in the last book. I love her even less now that she’s the main character. She is entirely cliche. I’m something like just under halfway through the book and I swear to God, I’m having chest pains from holding my breath waiting for the massive chip on her shoulder to tip her down a flight of stairs.

Why do so many writers fall into the trap of “If I’m going to portray a strong female lead she has to be a ball busting bad ass with no room for any kind of softness because soft = weak and GOD FORBID A WOMAN SHOULD EVER APPEAR WEAK” even though softness does not at all imply weakness and why is it OK to portray men as soft but not women and also, why do we have to hate on men and emasculate them at all?

What I’m saying, in all my run-on glory, is that French has suddenly fallen into that (to me) tired ass trope of you can only depict women two ways – (1) I will kick your ass and maybe share some steamy sex with you, but I will not be NICE because NICE IS WEAK; or (2) I’m a weak pathetic milquetoast who needs either a good strong man to lift me up or a (see no. 1) STRONG female to show me the light and the error of my weak pathetic ways.

Plus. Also. Backstory of some sort of trauma involving a man – daddy left. Fiance died tragically. Blah blah boring ass blah.


I just don’t remember French being so obvious about it in the past. I mean every book comes with its share of tropes and cliches and what have yous. That’s pretty standard everywhere. But it’s like she got to The Trespasser and just suddenly didn’t give a fuck any more.

And the story line itself. I feel like the first 40something% because page numbers are not reliable in e-versions which is kind of annoying was just a giant red herring waste of time. And yet another massive cliche in itself. And I’m honestly questioning if I even have the energy to plow through the rest of this thing.

I mean I probably will. If for no other reason than to find out which character will be featuring in her next Dublin Murder Squad installment, which, if there is a God and He is in His Heaven, will be back up to the standard I’ve come to expect from someone who is normally a really frigging outstanding novelist.

I guess there is one thing I love about this book. The cover. That’s a great cover. But I still haven’t even figured out what the hell the title means. Did I mention I’m almost halfway through the book? Usually a girl can discern the meaning of a title by now. But also? Why is French’s name bigger than the book title? That just seems like “Hey, we already know this is not Tana’s best work, so buy it because it’s a Tana French and let’s just not get into the rest of it, mmmkay?”

Have you read it? Tell me I’m not wrong. Tell me it’s as bad as I think it is. And then tell me the next book will be better. Sooooooo much better. Because if it’s not, I really think Tana and I just need to start seeing other people.


The Goldfinch

I couldn’t hold up the book, because I only have the Kindle version, so I printed out the cover to share my disdain.

WARNING – This post is a big fat spoiler, so if you haven’t read it and plan to, don’t read on.

I’ve thrown this image of the painting in here to block the spoilers for you (you’re welcome) and also to say – LOOK. The painting itself isn’t even particularly compelling. It’s like they made the very cover of the book a big fat foreshadowy warning.

I’m throwing this on the pyre since I mentioned it in my introduction. The difference between this and other titles in my series is that I know precisely why I can’t finish this book – I fucking loathe it.

Sorry (not sorry at all), perhaps that’s a bit harsh. Nevertheless it is true. This book has no redeeming qualities. None. And it just keeps going on and on and on and on and on. I mean Jesus. How long must you subject the reader to the seemingly endless poor life choices of your utterly despicable protagonist?

I take it back. The dog. The dog was the one decent thing about this black hole of human waste.

Literally every single bad thing that happened to this jackass-not-a-PRO-tagonist (whose name has completely escaped me now) was one hundred percent his own damn fault. Everything could have been avoided had he simply not been a selfish asshole for five minutes. But no, he made bad choice after bad choice. He lied, he stole, he consumed untold quantities of illicit substances – he was a giant dick.

I don’t care how this book ends unless it’s in his untimely and well deserved death.

He could have redeemed himself at any point, too. That’s the truly irritating part. Like, dude. Just make one decent decision. Just tell the truth about one goddamn thing. Just give back the stupid painting. But no. Shove it back in your pillowcase or wherever the hell you’re keeping it today and keep panicking. Marry the sociopath. Forge more antiques. BE A DICK ALL THE TIME. Yeah, that’s totally the right path.

He’s not even an anti-hero. He’s just a villain all the way around. (What the hell is his name? … Theo. Thank you, Google.) I mean I love a good anti-hero. What red blooded American girl doesn’t love a good anti-hero?

And I’ll admit, I don’t have a lot of patience for addict stories. I’ve known an addict or five in my life, and I don’t have a lot of sympathy. Sorry (again, not sorry).

I guess that’s my whole problem with books like this. Or even reality. Everyone has a choice. Everyone has endless choices. Why are people always making the wrong ones? Shit. Now this has turned into a preachy homily on living a better life. Like I’m better than anybody else. I’ve made my share of bad choices. (I mean, let’s just not talk about the 90s, OK? Also that period around the 2008 election in which I finally threw off the shackles of pretending to be liberal and went a little overboard. Actually genuinely sorry about some of that vitriol, chickens.) I guess I just think if you’re going to write 700+ pages on some drug addled angst ridden selfish piece of shit, there better be a healthy dose of redemption thrown in. And if there is one thing this book is lacking, (and there isn’t just one thing, let’s be clear), it’s redemption.

Unless that happens at the end, which I’ll never know, because I am not finishing this book. I like myself too much for that.

I wish the world offered refunds on books you bought and now wholly regret. Is it true that it took Donna Tartt ten years to write this book? I can’t believe it isn’t taking every reader ten years to slog through it.

I’ve just this minute realized that two of the books I hate most in the world were Pulitzer contenders. This piece of trash won it for fiction, and Eggers was nominated for non-fiction. Who the hell makes these decisions??

Maybe I should file this one under a new category – “Books I Utterly Despise.”


Books I Can’t Seem To Finish

(This is not a fair representation. Some of these I’ve read entirely. Some I simply have not gotten to. But Joe Pernice, I love you so, but I just never did finish that book.)

I meant to write this a week ago. I kept forgetting. Obviously I should do it now, with a million other things on my to do list.

I have a pile of books, chickens – some on the Kindle (app, cos I don’t actually own a Kindle), some real, solid, physical, paper books – that I have started, and just cannot seem to finish. I don’t know why. Well. That’s not entirely true. Some of them are just terrible books. I’m sure there are people out there who thought they were brilliant. Certainly there were editors and agents who read them and said “By God! THIS is a bestseller!” (The Goldfinch, anyone? Of course, they were right, but I still can’t get through that awful piece of trash.) But I just can’t see it. And chickens, life is too short to finish books you just can’t get into.

The last book I forced myself to see through to the end was A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and let me tell you, I will never read another word uttered by Dave Eggers again. By the time I turned the last page in that angst ridden pile of pulp I wanted to punch that smug, whiny, self righteous ego maniacal hipster jackass right in the neck. (Not that I would, I’m not advocating violence against self important critics’ darlings.) I will never suffer like that again, chickens!

(Zamyatin was a gift. I need to get off my ass with that one. Who doesn’t love a good Russian dystopian future, really?)

Unfortunately for me, there are plenty of other books that are perfectly worth the read, that I just cannot seem to stick with.

I’m becoming a … I don’t know … what’s a word for a girl who can’t stick around past the fourth date? I’m that. I can’t commit, try though I might.

And thus, here we are. I thought I’d do a series on these books – what I think of them, why I should give them another go – or not. Sort of like an unbook club. You should join me. I’ll even throw in a few I actually did finish and what I loved or hated about them (kinda like a real live book review! el oh el Although. Now that I thin about it. Maybe those should go in a different category. Cos duh). I do love reading. I’m not a monster.

(Politinerd. Straight up. I’ve read a fair amount of this stack, but a lot of it is in the “to read” category. Also, sorry for the tilted, not up to my usual quality photos. these were all shot sort of haphazardly on mah phone.)


The Righteous Mind

(does this photo seem really LARGE to you? it’s not supposed to be so LARGE, Marge!)

Here’s the thing: This is a really good, insightful, interesting, thoughtful book. I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Haidt. Heterodox Academy? Hells to the Yes. (Even though they won’t let me in because I’m not tenured faculty. Fie, I say. I work at a liberal arts university full time. I’ve seen the destruction first hand! But I digress.) But I’ve been reading this book for, oh, going on two years now, and I’m not even halfway through.

And to be absolutely contrary about it, I wish everyone would read it. It’s important shit. For real.

One thing that I find off-putting about it as a whole is the summary at the end of the chapter. It’s not a textbook. Now, maybe it should be a textbook, but it isn’t one. Just add a blurb in the introduction (was there an introduction? I don’t even remember, it’s been so long since I started reading this book) that says something to the effect of “Listen, just grab your favorite brand of highlighter and be prepared to light some shit up. You’ll want to refer back and also probably share this with your particularly smug, self-righteous friends.”

There is an introduction. I just checked. Problem solved. Almost.

There are some amusing anecdotes sprinkled throughout that are funny and cute and help illustrate the point nicely. If I remember correctly.

I even brought this thing to work thinking, hey, it’s like professional development or something. I can read it when shit is slow. And I did. Like three times. In the last six months.

Honestly, at this point I feel like I need to start the whole book over at page one. (Not the introduction. Most of the time I feel introductions contribute nothing of any real value to the work, though there are exceptions. Important exceptions.)

The thing is, of all of the books on the (sort of becoming embarrassingly) long list of books I can’t seem to finish, this is one of the ones I’d really like to. So maybe I will start over. With a highlighter. And come back and share some of the more interesting points with you.

But just between us? You probably shouldn’t hold your breath.


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