On things left unfinished

Manguel reminds us that a book is never truly read

To begin with, no library is ever complete: like the poem in Valéry’s definition, a library is never finished, only abandoned. Neither is a book ever read fully. Having reached the last page, something has been added to the text in our reading (our knowledge of what took place, a literary web of coincidences and correspondences, a feeling of sympathy or disgust,) and therefore it is a new book that lies now before us, asking that we go through it, again and for the first time. We never enter the same book twice.

… Sometimes, after just two or three pages, if the book doesn’t interest me, I give up. Books, however, are extraordinarily patient and will wait for us for as long as it takes, and so there have been times when I’ve come back to an abandoned book and find that I like it after all, maybe because I have changed or the book has changed.

Alberto Manguel, “On not finishing a book”

Manguel, in his eloquent way, reminds us that a book is more dynamic than static. Not an object to be conquered, but one to return to with time. Pierre Bayard argues the same point throughout How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. With each reading, a book takes on a different form, according to our own thinking at the time. A book is never truly “read.” It merely waits for us to read it again.