I recently visited the D’Arcy Thompson Museum at the University of Dundee, where a young girl was being shown around by her mother. The collection is full of animal specimens from Sir D’Arcy’s work, but this girl was having none of it, constantly saying, “This is boring, there’s no dinosaurs.” There have been a couple of occasions recently where I’ve felt like doing this myself.
One of them was at a talk by Jeanette Winterson to promote her latest novel The Gap of Time. The majority of the event was spent showing videos about Shakespeare and speaking about his life. It wasn’t obvious at first that she was referring to the structure of her book, but even when it became clear, it felt rather disjointed and rambling. Thankfully, once Winterson began answering questions, her own personality shone through; much more engaging than the showmanship that had gone before it.
I also recently began reading E M Forster’s A Room with a View, one of the ten Penguin Classics I have on my shelves. However, I was soon overcome by some confusion. Much of the first couple of chapters is about the two sisters, then other characters appear, but it isn’t clear where they’ve come from or where in Italy they’re currently located.
My puzzle is what to do if I don’t like an event or a book, or what should I have done.
In the case of Jeanette Winterson, I probably would have left the room if I hadn’t been seated in the middle of a row of about two dozen people. By the same token, I would have missed the excellent question session if I’d gone. As for the book, I’m still reading it because I’ve been gripped by the dialogue, but the appearance and disappearance of characters is rather jarring and I’m debating whether or not to abandon it.
So my question this week is: what would you have done if you were at an event you couldn’t take to, or reading a book that didn’t fully engage you?