Books That Make You Want to Quit
Do you ever finish reading a book and just want to throw it across the room and cry and never touch paper/keyboard again, because you’ll never be that good? I was chatting the other day with my friend Caitlin about this–“So good you just want to kill yourself,” was the way she put it, though with her it’s film and animation and opera that gets her. I always end up with this unbearable desperation when I read a book like that, this fury and passion bubbling up inside me where I want to dive into my chair and write until my hands fall off, and simultaneously move away and change my name and never think about writing again.
The thing is, the books that make me want to quit are also the books that make me want to write. Yes, reading them is this super painful reminder that there is such a long way to go on my own path in terms of writing, but reading them is also a reminder that I have no choice but to keep following it.
So, in the interest of shared masochism, I wanted to show you guys some of the books that affected me this way, and still do to this day. And, hopefully, hear some of the books that do this for you. Because come on, let’s share the agony!
The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle
This is a book that has grown with me as I’ve gotten older. I saw the movie before I ever read the book, and watched it obsessively–like more than once a week–as a little kid. Then, when I read the book, it was even more magical. The book was just as amazing when I picked it up nearly a decade later to reread it. The story has a lot to do with magic and growing up and how the wonder fades from the world, and what must happen to regain it, and… oof. I can’t even describe it. The prose is also so gorgeous it makes me cry–not because of the subject matter, just because the sheer words are so good that I can’t stand it. It’s the book I’d choose to have with me if I had no others.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Another book that changes with me as I grow. You realize things about Jonas’ world that you just aren’t capable of understanding when you read it as a young child. (Or, at least, I wasn’t!) This story is so beautiful and haunting, and the writing so simple and true, that it makes me look at my long tangled manuscripts and convoluted sentences and despair of ever having that economy and power with my writing.
What books make you want to quit? Or if we’re feeling more positive today, what books make you want to write?