An Open Letter To The Unfinished Books On My Bedside Table

Dear unfinished books,

You are sh-tty little barnacles of guilt on my day and I hate you.

I carried you home from the bookstore, giddy with your potential, your possibility. For 25 bucks and just a few hundred pages, your seductive cover art and zesty blurbs — Illuminating! Transcendent! Polarizing! — made me think that I might become a better scholar, writer, and human. How could I pass up a chance at illumination? How could I not transcend? I conjured up imaginary masses of people who would never read the collection of words under my arm. Shame on them! I will give them verbal whiplash at parties with the knowledge I acquire from you.

But really, shame on me.

Unfinished books, must you look peevishly at me from your bedside perch of eternal judgment? You represent all that I haven’t done because I’m too busy drinking and watching How I Met Your Mother reruns. I just can’t get rid of you, can I?

For months I just stare at you and flick through your pages. I cart you around in my bag to doctor’s appointments and for long bus rides, as if the literal weight of your presence on my shoulders will force me to finish you.

You must first serve as a constant reminder of lessons unlearned, of projects unfinished, of hundreds of dollars wasted. I could have spent that money on frivolities of no academic or caloric value, like beer or makeup.

Let’s single you out first, Classic Work of Literature, you literary Godfather, you Mount Everest of unfinished books. You are a cancer upon any feelings of superiority I might have about my cultural literacy. I should have read you in college whilst under duress. I want so badly to finish you so I might get one step closer to having read all the Important Books Ever Written. I want to get 150 pages into you and beg, BEG for thousands more pages because reading tiny words, deciphering Russian patronymic names and getting wrist cramps from your weight is my idea of a good time.

I wanted so badly to improve my knowledge of the global financial crisis and dividends and the eurozone, Timely Non-Fiction Book By An Economist, I duped myself into buying you. Has anyone ever finished you? Who are these people? Are they fun? Do they own a television? They probably enjoy Lars Von Trier movies and standing in line at the grocery store. F-ck them. They compose and perform classical opuses on the bassoon or the viola before flying off to the Galapagos for the weekend to save those adorable baby turtles. They attend parties with Atul Gawande, for example, and talk about how frightfully easy it is, dahling, to perform complicated 36-hour cardiothoracic surgeries while composing beautiful and thoughtfully written essays for the New Yorker.

Don’t even get me started on you, Short Story Collection, masquerading around the bookstore like some kind of fun, approachable amusement park of tales for literary types.

Instead, each story turns out to be a 3,000-word messed-up joke with a punch line I don’t understand, and no one is around to explain it to me. I don’t give two sh-ts about the ending because there are fifteen of them. I will read hundreds of 600-page young adult fantasy novels before I ever complete you.

Unfinished books, I want to be one of those people who achieve things, who use both sides of their brain, who have goals and then act upon those goals. I want so badly to read you and to learn from you, but mostly I want you to graduate ASAP to the bookshelf. Then I can go back to Barnes & Noble.

Kate TC Mark

image – joyfuldesigns

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