I am half-way through The Naked and the Dead.
This is the novel Norman Mailer published in 1948 based on his first-hand experiences of World War Two on a made-up South Pacific island of Anopopei.
As I said, I am halfway through.
And struggling a little.
I am at the stage of wondering why I decided to read such a long book – it is a little over 800 pages.
I chose the book as it had been sitting on my shelf for over ten years and I had just finished 4321 by Paul Auster which was another 800 plus book that had been sitting unread for a long time (since 2017).
I remember buying 4321 and was very excited to read Auster’s most recent book but never managed to get into it.
Well, Lockdown has given me the time and the lack of access to Waterstones (I have opted not to buy books from Amazon or Tesco) I have been working through old stock in my home.
4321 is great, now that I’ve read it. The story is about Ferguson a man with similarities to Auster as he grows-up, falls in and out of love, studies and finds works during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s in America. The numbers relate to their being four different stories all with the same characters with different lives or plots – in one the protagonist’s dad dies in a fire in the shop he owns and the character grows-up with fond memories of his dad, in another the dad becomes a successful businessman who divorces his mum and becomes estranged from Ferguson. Four different versions of the same life lived through different timelines.
It is an original concept and tricky to remember what is happening to different people at different times – in one story Ferguson has a step-sister, in another she becomes a step-cousin, in another she doesn’t exist.
If anyone reading this hasn’t read Auster, I suggest you look into Moon Palace or Leviathan (Ideally from Waterstones Online).
Anyway, back to The Naked and the Dead.
I wasn’t planning a book review, more describing my problem.
I am half-way through this book and finding it tough.
Maybe a little too much description, characters I can’t relate to. I know it is building up to something but a part of me wants to put it aside and read another (I have James Kelman’s How late it was, how late, another old unread copy waiting to go) (He has been a Lockdown discovery (Dirt Road and A Disaffection)).
I am plodding-on with the book as I know if I stop, I won’t ever finish it.
I have a copy of War and Peace that is half-read.
I half-read it about 20 years ago and it sits on one of my shelves taunting me to this day.
It is a regret I’ll never overcome. An embarrassment.
A failure. I can’t ever say, ‘I’ve read War and Peace’ (Woody Allen jokes aside), although I guess, ‘I’ve read half of War and Peace’ says something.
I don’t want the same fate to fall TNATD.
In 30 years, I don’t want to be an old man with two large books in his possession which are both half-read.
And yet, time is short.
Maybe I could give-up and hide it or donate it to a charity shop? Would anyone notice if I added it to the recycling? This feels like making one wrong much worse.
This seems like cowardice, especially with those brave soldiers facing-off against the Imperial Japanese Army.
Oh, what to do.
I might set myself a future limit.
A Glastonbury Romance is unread on another shelf – Cooper Powys can get lost.