The Cut Off

For Laura Miller, life’s too short to stick with a book that doesn’t enchant you. And she finds plenty of other people that are in agreement, including Michael Chabon and Myla Goldberg.

Others described their need to read to the end of even the worst book in similarly pathological terms: ”an obsession,” ”a sick sense of loyalty,” ”masochistic.” Ayelet Waldman, a novelist (”Daughter’s Keeper”) who is married to Michael Chabon, claims to have ruined a family vacation in Hawaii because she refused, with a tenacity her husband found maddening, to jettison a book she loathed. ”The rage that it engendered kept me going,” she says. ”I have to feel personally betrayed by a book to quit, but sometimes, exactly like some relationships I’ve had, the betrayal becomes so catastrophic that I keep going back to it.” Most will persevere with a trying book only if it comes highly recommended. ”It’s like dating,” says Tom Bissell, the author of ”Chasing the Sea.” ”You need to know if this is serious or just a fling.”

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