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The Hound Dogs Of Literature

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I am an avid reader and have been since I was a small child. The number of terrible books I have suffered through runs into the hundreds. Most of them I can cheerfully say were so bad I cannot even remember the title or the name of the unfortunate creature that penned it. Sometimes though, even well known and well respected authors manage to bring a true stinker to fruition. I am appalled when that happens. What were these people thinking?

One of my favorite authors is John Le Care. This man is a truly awesome wordsmith. His characters are artfully constructed and the plot has more twists in it than a road through the Canadian Rockies. With one notable exception, I have read all of his books many times each (I would be willing to wager a dollar that most have been read more than 10 times).

Which one was the hound dog from hell? It certainly was none of the books featuring George Smiley and it certainly was none of the ripping yarns from the 90’s. It was his 1971 book, The Naïve and Sentimental Lover. This should never have seen the light of day. Iit is a rambling tale that has no start, no middle, and no discernable end.

This book is memorable to me for several reasons. It is without doubt the most expensive book I ever bought and it took over three decades to read. Let me explain. It is the most expensive book because I have led a fairly nomadic life. I have lived in England, Canada (twice), and the US (twice). Every time I move, the book collection gets pared down to the bare essentials and the The Naïve and Sentimental Lover finds a new home.

Inevitably in my new locale I would see a copy of this damn book and I would end up deciding to try it one more time. I have bought this book at least five times! For the first decade I guess I tried to read it about once every couple of years. I would get to page 50 and then, bitter and frustrated, I would return it to a dark corner of my collection.

The second decade of fighting with it started off in much the same vein as the first, I would bring it out for its bi-annual airing. For several years I managed to completely avoid it. I moved and managed to keep out of the bookstores. Unfortunately for me, in 2005, I happened upon a copy of it at work.

I decided this was it. I was not going to be beaten by mere words. I did succeed in finishing it. It was a brutal battle and I still have nightmares about it, but I can now honestly say no book ever got the better of me.

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About Simon Barrett