The Seven Deadly Sins of Literature

I did a bad thing last night.

It was a thing so dreadfully bad that I’m having to will my fingers to even pound out this confession. My hands are quivering reluctantly over the keyboard, begging me to stop writing this incriminating post. “It’s not too late,” they tell me. “We can still walk away. Nothing’s been published yet.”

But I fear that if I don’t relieve this burden, it will bury me in its crushing weight of shame and disgrace. I order my fingers to keep moving; we can’t turn back now.

…I have something to confess.

It is only upon a foundation of hope and desperation that I entrust this admission to you, dear reader. I pray my transgression does not forever shade your opinion of me. I hope your eyes don’t narrow in loathsome disgust when you discover this wretched, despicable truth.

Last night, in a moment of pure weakness and absolute lunacy… I skipped a chapter of my book.

Make no mistake, it is a true measure of your character that you’re still reading right now. My heart is filled with fervent gratitude for giving me the opportunity to explain.

I would tell you the title of the book, but I’m so ashamed that I’m afraid to divulge it.

But I’ll tell you what the chapter was about: it was metaphorizing military tactics and their application to business philosophy – discussing a general in the Vietnam war who lead his troops to victory through keen split-second decision making and meticulous dedication.

I would go into more detail except that I don’t know anymore, since I skipped the rest.

I couldn’t help myself, it had gone on for so long already. Reading this chapter was like trudging through molasses – every paragraph, every sentence required excruciating effort to absorb. I found myself dragging my eyes across the page in slow, deliberate strokes, willing myself to digest each syllable. The cogs in my brain churned reluctantly, pace as steady as a prisoner’s gait.

I couldn’t take it. Not for another instant.

I did something I’d never done before, in my entire life. Blinded by numbing frustration, I flexed the paperback, released some pressure from my right thumb, and let the pages tick by without granting them more than a passing glance.

There was something exhilarating about each leaf settling from right to left. They fanned my face deliciously, and I felt wicked satisfaction bubble up inside my chest.

When I finally reached the next chapter, its bold text waking me from my indulgent ecstasy, I found palpable relief.

I was free.

No more Vietnam generals, no more metaphors connecting military strategy with leadership skills, no more sloshing through miles and miles of impenetrable text.

I assumed my reading position again at full attention, my book none the wiser. The next chapter, mercifully, was much more interesting.

…But it began to gnaw at me.

I thought about every other book I’ve read – for school and for pleasure. There have been times, sure, when I just stopped reading entirely (Textbooks aren’t exactly riveting). And on occasion, I would come across a book I read for pleasure which also didn’t grab me enough to want to keep going.

But to skip? To completely take the wheel of my reading experience? This was a concept totally new to me. I have never taken ownership of a book like that. My entire life, I’ve been the undemanding passenger, allowing the author to take me on his or her journey without asking them to slow down or change the radio station. This is their work, after all. This is their story. I’m just along for the ride.

Did it matter, the rest of that chapter? Were the points made there vital to the overall message of the book? Would the author circle back to them later? Leaving me in the dark, an ignorant bum who couldn’t be bothered to muscle through one of the drier portions?

The thoughts swirled around my mind like black clouds before a storm.

I was a fake. A fraud. A cheat. I was the lowest type of person, who took the easy way out rather than doing the right thing.

This philosophy of books has spilled into other aspects of my life – most notably with mix CDs. Whenever I have received a mix CD, I’ve considered it my moral obligation to listen to the whole thing start to finish. I don’t jump forward to see what other songs it holds, I don’t skip around to my favorites. I start at Track # 1 and don’t stop until it’s over.

Because that’s how it was meant to be listened to. That was its original intention, its overall purpose. Who am I, to say that this song deserves to be listened to now, that the second half of the CD is better than the first? Someone took the time to sculpt this experience from the clay, just for me. And I believe in carrying it out the way it was intended.

The same has gone for books, for me… until now.

This author, the artist, sculpted a literary experience for me from the clay, and I cast it aside like an ungrateful child. I progressed, undeservedly, to the next chapter, and will likely never achieve the true vision of this book. Even if I were to go back and re-read, now, it would be out of sequence and insignificant.

I did not follow the true path. I shunned my destiny.

I hope you will accept me for what I am – truly disgraced and ashamed. A repentant girl, begging for your forgiveness.

10 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Literature

  1. I think a book is meant to be read in only the way a reader wants, and not the writer. So you can rest assured you will not be crucified. At least I think you won’t.

    1. I like that outlook! I was trying to decide how I’d feel as an author if someone skipped through my book, and I actually don’t think I’d mind. So thank you for not crucifying me! 😉

      1. I knew exactly what you were doing and didn’t feel let down at all. Susie being dramatic? NEVER! Unpossible! Also I’ve done the exact same thing before and then had the same feeling that I’d betrayed the story… and how much had I missed? I remember the first time I gave up entirely on a book. I was 10 and in my long long life had never had to give up on a book before, so it stayed with me for weeks. Had a given up too early? But the book was so stupid.

        You are not alone in your new life of book-crime.

        Also my phone autocorrects your name to Aussie. I remember you saying awhile ago that you like Australians, so I thought that fact would please you.

  2. I have the same guilt! I will slog through a boring chapter or section, but feel that I just can’t skip ahead without serious consequences. Hearing of your rebelling (and subsequent freedom) gave me hope 🙂

  3. I agree with pussyhasfurballs. If people have been reading you, they know that hyperbole is a pretty big part of what you do. I know EXACTLY what you mean as a reader. I slogged through over 2000 pages of Game of Thrones and happily finally closed off that series forever about 3/4 of the way into book 3 when the author wipes out all the characters I was pulling for. It was really hard but I’d had enough of the hordes of characters and the glacial pace at which everything happens. The mans desperately needs an editor!!

  4. If after that you imagine yourself to be guilty of a crime, then it may reassure you to know that I too am guilty of such wanton depravity, and much worse. I usually start by opening to the middle of a book and reading the most important points of the author’s argument. That way, before I’ve committed any time or money to the reading, I can ascertain whether I even agree with the author’s points in the first place. Even if I’m thoroughly interested in a book, I’ll usually scan the contents and go directly to the chapters which I feel are most pertinent to me. I believe that literature serves me, and not vice versa. 🙂

    1. Blasphemy!!! Well, your blatant disregard for the rules does make me feel better. 🙂 There was a girl in my book club who couldn’t stand books written out of sequence, so she would flip back and forth through it to get a more chronological experience. I always thought it was so scandalous. And YOU! You got guts, kid.

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