Some of you may have noted in past posts my references to the mysterious “DEOTO debacle”. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and it occurred to me that I should probably fill you in on what it’s all about.
Before I begin, let me give a bit of a disclaimer. Now, my reading tastes have changed a lot in the 17 years since I read this novel. I may not despise it as much if I read it today. And to be honest, I don’t even remember much about it at all. Just that a boy (Ben? Coppodora?) goes missing for years and a bunch of boring, boring, boring, and then he shows up when he’s older, and then more boring, boring, boring. Oops, hope I didn’t ruin it for anyone. Allow me to state clearly that I have nothing against Jacquelyn Mitchard at all. She has written several other outstanding novels; my favorite is The Most Wanted, and A Theory of Relativity is a close second. OK. That said…
The year was 1996. Oprah Winfrey had just unveiled the first novel of her new Book Club. Her selection was the (then) recently published The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Now, I am a fan of Oprah. My friend, Sue, is a fan of Oprah. And Sue’s daughter, Carrie (my BFF) is a fan of Oprah. Sue and Carrie decided to hop on the OBC train and read The Deep End Of The Ocean. Me, not so much. I’m not sure why; it’s possible I just wasn’t included. More likely, I declined to participate in something that resembled a group activity. I’m not much for group activities, myself.
I don’t remember who gave up first; it was probably Carrie. But they both whined and whined about how long and boring the book was, and that it was simply impossible to finish. One by one, they closed their books forever. Please, I said. Give me the book, I said. Let a Professional Reader handle this, I said.
I am telling you, it was one of the most boring books I have ever read. It moved so slowly that minutes felt like hours. When I was half-way through the book, I looked up, dazed, and began praying for it all to end. But I refused to give up! I would not fail where lesser women before me had! I would Show Them How It Was Done!
Y’all, this book would not end. I am a fast reader, and I was reading this book for days. Even when I got to the last few pages, it seemed as though every time I turned a page, another one would materialize. It. Would. Not. End. By this point, I resented this book as though it were a living being. Finally, finally, with my eyes dry and bloodshot, I reached the last page. Sweet, sweet relief! This had been by far the worst reading experience I have ever had. I measure all books by my hatred for this one. Hence, my frequent references to DEOTO as a disastrous event.
Reading The Deep End of the Ocean did, however, mark a turning point in my reading life. After the awful, never-ending experience with DEOTO, I was for the first time able to begin to set aside books that I disliked before completing them. In the past I was trapped by the ridiculous misconception that all books must be finished or the world would end. After DEOTO, I didn’t much care if the world ended. It was so very liberating for me – I’m no longer trapped by a book – if it is intolerable, I am able to set it aside and move on. I had been unable to do that previously. Thank you, DEOTO, thank you. But I still don’t forgive you.
Are you able to put a book away without finishing it? Or are you compelled to finish it no matter what?