When you simply don’t like it.

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.

A genuine extract from my notebook upon seeing Jeanette Winterson
A genuine extract from my notebook upon seeing Jeanette Winterson

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?

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The Paper Trilogy.

I intended to make only one entry on the theme of paper, which turned into a second post. This entry will be a short third and final update on this topic, as I just keep finding more material.

I’ve discovered more notebooks, including some early drafts from my second novel, and a review of Tron: Legacy for my old LiveJournal blog. Once again, I’ve never reached the last pages of these pads. I find this rather strange, as I’m not the sort of person to leave a job half-finished. Once, I would have preserved them as they were, but I’ll use the other pages in the future if I need to.

My pencils are a different story. I have dozens of them around the house, and I don’t like to waste them. In fact, here are my two smallest ones joined by a rubber grip. I’ll use them until I physically can’t hold them any more:

The world's smallest pencil

I’ve also discovered from Mental Floss that every new prime minister leaves a handwritten letter about what to do in the event of a nuclear conflict if both he and his assigned second-in-command are dead. It seems a little strange that such a format is still used. If I was PM, I’d make sure I spelled it out in 16-point Helvetica so the commanders aren’t standing around asking, “Does that say, ‘load weapons,’ or, ‘lower weapons?'”

More poignantly, ListVerse posted a collection of last words written by people facing certain death. Not all of them had the luxury of pen and paper, including the prisoner of war who scratched out a memorial on a rock, and a diver who wrote his on a slate.

Lastly, I’d like to show you the paper books I plan to read throughout the rest of the year, including modern writers such as John Twelve Hawks and Richard Dawkins, a selection of Penguin Classics, and a number of local anthologies:

Paper books to read this yearIf you want more information on any of these, let me know.