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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mayoral Candidates Answer: What Book Can't You Finish?

Posted on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Rough it up all you want -- it's still unreadable.
  • Rough it up all you want -- it's still unreadable.

When I was a high school senior, I had a girlfriend who was in college. She studied philosophy and was also a fiend for literature. I was so impressed with my overachieving little brainiac self. Then she gave me a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses to read. Oh, how I looked forward to the discussions we'd have over what I was already convinced would be Joyce's utter brilliance.

Except, I couldn't finish it. In fact I could barely even start it. In four or five attempts, I never made it past page 35.

Since then I've learned I'm far from alone on this one. I've encountered more than one fabulously well-read person who nonetheless describes Joyce's impenetrable method as "stream of unconsciousness" (and I've had my doubts about whether anyone -- including my high-school girlfriend -- has read it cover to cover). I've also since learned that every person, lit-head or not, probably has at least one book that resists all attempts at completion.

The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library recently asked all the city's mayoral candidates what books they couldn't finish and posted a video of their responses on its blog, The Readers Review. Watch it below -- some of the answers might surprise you.

(Spoiler alert: Skip this paragraph if you'd rather hear some of the more colorful answers by watching the video.) One candidate couldn't get through a book on Sesame Street -- even though he's a big fan. Another found Faulkner absolutely hopeless. One loves Salman Rushdie, but he found Midnight's Children so "rich and dense" that he can't come back to it if he puts it down for very long. Yet another knocked Kevin Phillips -- former Republican strategist who slams the GOP in American Theocracy -- as "great sleep-inducing material." He should be careful -- Phillips could easily turn his focus toward San Francisco politics.

The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, a fundraising and support organization, has also asked the City Hall hopefuls what books are currently on their nightstands. In the coming days it promises to air the answers to more bookish questions.

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