Finish your book or people will starve in China


Reader response to stories without a resolution

Yesterday I told you that I forced myself to read through a book of short stories even though I hated most of them. After one or two disappointing stories, a reasonable adult would have closed the book and moved on.


That’s my problem. You have to be a reasonable adult.


Somewhere on the way to adulthood, I got lost. My body has stayed doggedly on the path and looks it. The me inside the body has been lollygagging around for years, sleeping under the stars, and taking as many detours as possible. Every time I see one of those billboards on the highway to Adulthood with the sophisticated grown-ups standing in front of their shiny homes or boats or cars, I feel compelled to paint big black mustaches on their smiling faces.


So I fail in the adult part. That leaves the reasonable part because it’s possible to be a reasonable non-adult. I fail there too, but it’s not my fault. I blame it on my mother. First, she’s not here to defend herself; and second, she made me clean my plate.


Beware of beans that accuse

When I was growing up, we had strict rules at the dinner table. You had to try a little of everything. Even if it made you gag. And you had

to eat everything on your plate. You all know why it was necessary: the starving people in China. They would not have food on the table if I did not eat the food on my table that made me gag. When I was little, this made perfect sense, but as I write about it now, the logic seems a little fuzzy. (Mom, if you are reading this blog in heaven, please contact me as soon as possible and explain.)


From an early age, I learned that if you have a serving of mushy green beans from a can (yuck!), do not try to roll some of them over the edge of the plate to hide under the rim of the plate. When you are required to lie say, “Thank you, I enjoyed my dinner; may I be excused?” you will have to take your plate into the kitchen. Then, each of the spurned green beans will rise up and say, “J’accuse.” (They are French green beans.)  Your callous little heart will be exposed, and everyone at the table will know that you really don’t give a whit about the starving Chinese.


Now do you understand how important it is to finish books you start? Books are like mind food. If it’s on your plate, you eat it. Even if it makes you gag. And you do it for the Chinese because that’s the kind of person you are – kind, compassionate, always putting others first.


So, thank you internet reader, for reading this blog and conquering your gag reflex. Every word you read puts food on the table of someone in China.

17 thoughts on “Finish your book or people will starve in China

  1. Well, I read this so there must be one less starving person in China. This really amused me, especially the part where you scored out ‘lie’ ahaha :> I think that’s hard to pull off well.

  2. You know… Gretchen Rubin brought this idea up awhile back in the form of a post:

    The book finishing idea so foreign to me! I read a lot. Every day. Across the board. However… if a book (or a movie) isn’t working (for me) I put it down. (I may give it another pass-through if I think it is worth it, but if I don’t like it, I don’t read/watch it.)

    Thank you so much for writing this post. You helped to unpack a puzzling idea (to me) in a really funny and gratifying way. Now, I understand. It’s all about the Clean Plate Club. Lovely!

  3. I think they are eating fairly well in China now..Thanks to you..The nuns used that same approach on us and unfortunately for one of them,, I do not like celery in my tuna fish… And my gag reflex didn’t give a tinker’s dam(n) about those kids in China. So, “Sister” needed to clean her shoes, to a nice sheen I might add..

  4. I think Chinese mothers tell their children to clean their plates to keep the food away from the fat Americans.

    I listen to a lot of books on CD or electronic books during my mind-numbing, soul-sucking commute. I will listen to the end of even the most god-awful stuff. Once in a great while I get enough nerve to hit the eject button…

  5. MisplacedBoy

    Is that why I feel compelled to finish a book once I’ve started reading it? It all makes sense now.
    My favorite image: Indignant green beans standing up and yelling “J’accuse!”

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