DNFing Makes Me Feel Dirty

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

Thomas Wolfe kicked my ass. Look Homeward, Angel is 15 percent beautiful, partially nonsensical prose, 10 percent plot, and 75 percent WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, THOMAS, AND WHY ARE THERE SO MANY COMMAS? I only got 100 pages into it, despite employing all my tricks: reading in silence to boost concentration, reading at stoplights and in line at the grocery store, reading while drinking, standing on my head, etc. This was unusual- even with the recent addition of two attention-starved newborns in my house, I can usually finish a book at a decent clip, thank you very much.

So I gave up. For the uninitiated, DNFing (do not finish-ing) a book is a divisive topic in the book world. There are those who NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER put a book down without finishing it, no matter how painful the experience is proving. I suspect these are also people who trained themselves to be right handed despite actually being left, and who finish everything on their plate even when it’s spinach (the nasty frozen kind), and who never return an item to the store even if it sprouts legs and tries to eat them.

I am not one of those people. I hate frozen spinach. That’s not to say I DNF at the drop of a hat- that’s another camp of people. Fickle, hard to please people. These are people who only drink fruity drinks at bars and who have the attention span of a goldfish. They twirl their hair. They giggle instead of giving appropriate verbal answers to questions. They only buy books at airports when they can’t find their latest issue of People, and, like, Oprah said this book was good (giggle).

I fall somewhere in between, and I suspect you do, too. More often then not, I’ll push through a painful reading experience because I will not be defeated by an inanimate object! I am Rocky and hard books are my Apollo Creed! Sometimes, however, I do realize that giving something that is Sucky Mcsuck-Suck more attention than it deserves IS letting it defeat me. Examples of this in my life include, but are not limited to: Twilight, in which I couldn’t get past the first 20 pages. That one Nicky Sparks book about Mandy Moore in bad dresses. My grandmother gave it to me before I knew who Nicholas Sparks was, and INSISTED it was right up my alley. My grandmother, obviously, has never been to my alley. She doesn’t know the planet on which my alley exists. Needless to say, I gave up on that one when I figured out the ending at the first mention of Mandy’s “bruises,” somewhere around page ten.

There’s also a second situation wherein I DNF without guilt, and that is just plain old bad timing. Look Homeward, Angel isn’t bad- it’s weird as hell and a bit of a slog. It’s dense and punctuation-tastic. But not bad. I think I’ll save it for when I’m feeling a bit more…uh…hmm…reflective on the simpler things, but not in the mood for Virginia Woolf? Maybe at that point I can handle 5 pages on how some little kid likes to give presents to his family members. Five. Pages. Another example of A Book I DNFed Because I Wasn’t Ready isVanity Fair. I hated every character in Vanity Fair, and I’m waiting until I mature as a reader and can handle a book where literally every page causes irritation.

I suspect I’ll be waiting a long time.