I once felt compelled to finish everything I began. Not sure why. The tendency can be just as foolish as admirable. Today I was on page 188 of Peter Arnettt’s Live From the Battlefield (Yes, I know, a certain classic) and I came across yet another scene that had me off my feed. Ever have that friend who only tells stories where they personally come out on top? Here, the young reporter Arnett confronts an older established journalist for writing a too optimistic account of a military operation during the Vietnam conflict.
I felt he had misrepresented the action.
“Son,” he grinned bitterly at me, “I was doing this long before you were born.”
“Tom,” I responded angrily, “I’ll be doing this long after you’re dead.” He looked at me in startled shock and mumbled into his Scotch. Reddy didn’t say much to me after that.
Everything about this exchange felt phony to me. The adverbs. The older journalist as “startled” by the exchange, the mumbling into Scotch, The John Wayne/Noir mix of the comeuppance Arnett is recalling 30+ years later. He lost me. I stopped reading. I give myself permission. Because written words were doing their thing long before I was born and will be doing it long after I’m dead. I only have so many books I can read in my lifetime. I now stop a book when I’ve read enough to feel I need to stop. And then pick up another.