run away

I did something last night that I haven’t done in a long, long time. I gave up on a book. I just stopped reading it, in the middle of a chapter, even in the middle of a sentence.

I’d been forcing myself to keep at it for a few days, always thinking that it was going to get better or somehow tie in and make sense, but all it seemed to be doing was getting deeper into . . . catechism.

The book is Running & Being by George Sheehan. I’ve been reading a lot of books by runners lately (and for the most part, I’ve learned that they — at least the elites — are not the kind of people I want to know) and I saw this book the last time I was at Powell’s in Portland. The title suggested that it touched on two of the three things that are important (writing being the third?).

Was I surprised. This is an old book in the field, first published in 1978, and I should have guessed from the tagline that it was self-congratulatory: “The book that got the whole world running.”

From what I could see (and I got nearly half way through it) Sheehan simply spouts airy platitudes, quotes disparate philosophers out of context (to show his erudition?), takes conventional wisdom and asserts the opposite (in a way that I suppose he believes is shocking), and then delivers a lesson in Catholic teaching to sum it all up. He struck me as the kind of person who had a lot of opinions that he thought everyone would benefit from, but he never had an audience.

This book was not about running. I think you could literally (and I think I used that word correctly here) substitute “swimming” or “glass blowing” or “bank robbing” every time the word “running” came up and not affect the drift of the ideas.

I could probably scrape together a few more complaints I have about the book, but I don’t think it is worth the bother. It’s gone to my giveaway shelf, and good riddance.

But what to read now?

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6 Comments on “run away”

  1. pete29anderson Says:

    But wasn’t it actually Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running that got the whole world running? I’m reading John Williams’ Stoner right now, which I think you’d enjoy, especially for the Missouri setting.

  2. Paul Lamb Says:

    Pete, my reading group had done Stoner a few years back. Although I think the story could have been set in any state college, there was apparently a lot of local politics that were scandalous at the time.


  3. I know there are people who refuse to put books down, even if they don’t like them. I’ve given plenty of books chances and set them aside without feeling bad. Whether it was the marketing department making something into what it wasn’t, or other things…I never understood hoping for a payoff when a book is drudgery. So good for you!

    I know the argument goes like, “Had I put this book down, I would have never experienced what it became.” I’m sure there are books like that, but I haven’t found that book, yet. When I kept at it hoping for something wonderful, at best, I was left with, “Yeah, that was okay I guess…”

    I set aside one book last year: Station Eleven. It seems that every few years, a book receiving high praise leaves me feeling flat. The last book before Station Eleven I put down was The Night Circus. I’m still tempted to jump into Station Eleven, just because I want to like it, and so many people I normally agree with when it comes to tastes love it. But there’s so much dialogue like:

    “Do you remember that time I said…”
    “Yes, wasn’t that when…”
    “Ah, see — you DO remember. And do you remember what happened?”
    “Refresh my memory…”
    [Here, details not even a 6-year-old would have forgotten.]
    “Oh, that’s right! And do you remember what I told YOU after that?”

    On and on…

    Maybe at some point, the book becomes a beautiful statement of art, but the dialogue and the passage of time after an apocalyptic event allowing plenty of time to rebuild things (but yet, horses pull stripped down cars and trucks decades old across the land)…NOPE!

    I’m glad there are others who put books down when they aren’t their thing…

  4. emily Says:

    I have a hard time quitting a book. I keep thinking it must get better if I stick with it. And I think there is also a part of me that feels like it is me that has failed if I quit a book. But sometimes it is just a bad book. And sometimes it is just the wrong book. This book did not work for this person- but someone else will love it.

    I loved “Station Eleven” that Christopher did not. It did take me a while to get into it though. I’m getting better at quitting books I really don’t like- I’m glad I’m not too quick about it.

    I’m currently reading “Wild,” which is kind of trendy (there is a movie). But just enough backpacking in it to keep me happy.

  5. Annam Says:

    I quit a book when I can’t keep reading it, but because I’m still committed to it, I am not reading anything else. A bad book leads to stagnation (at least for me).

  6. Teri Says:

    It’s years later, but I’m still sick about paying good money and time to read Lance Armstrong’s IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE. It wasn’t about the bike, that’s for sure.


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