Recently, I’ve read some books I haven’t enjoyed. Now, I usually set a rule for myself: no reading books I don’t like. After all, life is too short to waste time reading bad books. The same goes for re-reading books, even if I love them. There’s simply too many good books and not enough time. However, the last two books I read for recreational purposes (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills) I didn’t give up soon enough and had to force myself to finish.
That’s the thing: if you read more than half a book, you might as well finish is, right?
I read Lolita simply because I thought I ought to, and it fit into my summer book bingo (done through the brilliant Books on the Nightstand podcast, which if you aren’t listening to, you should). It’s a bit controversial not to like this novel, mostly because Nabokov’s a master of prose. Did you know he wrote it originally in English? Pretty impressive. Someone I know said that the brilliance of the text is how Nabokov manages to persuade the reader into falling into Humbert Humbert’s fantasy, but for me he didn’t. Maybe because I didn’t read it all in one go. Either way, I just didn’t get it.
The Mockingbird Next Door is an enigma. The text itself is controversial– after suffering a stroke, Nelle Harper herself called the book something the line of unauthorized and manipulative. I personally think this is a hard conclusion to come by if you actually read the entire thing. But either way, it’s a memoir that the great William Faulkner would call a failure of the author’s duty– namely being authenticity and the prevailing human spirit. This memoir made me hate Nelle Harper. Not Harper Lee, author, but Nelle Harper, grumpy Southerner with no patience for a changing world. Or that’s how the book portrays her.
The only reason I read this memoir was because it was a birthday present from my mom. I wasn’t just going to not read it. However, I think I’m going to keep To Kill a Mockingbird close to my chest. I love it too much to tarnish the memory. So, you won’t be seeing a review of Go Set a Watchman anytime soon.
In conclusion: probably stay away from The Mockingbird Next Door, especially if you love the original Mockingbird. It will sour Harper Lee a bit, but more than that it’s just not a very good memoir in general. On the other hand, you probably should read Lolita. It’s a classic, and just because I didn’t like it, plenty of people do. But if you don’t like it, please, don’t make yourself finish it.