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Ridley Walker - Russell Hoban - Picador, 1980
I turned forty recently and have been thinking quite a bit about the aging process and why it is that most of us become progressively more stuck in our ways as we get older. My theory is that it’s to do with reward-to-effort ratios. From our mid-twenties onwards, our energy levels decrease steadily, but the perceived reward for the things that we enjoy remains the same. So we gravitate towards those things that give us a real buzz and give up on those activities which we only quite enjoy. “Life’s too short” has become my frequent muttered catch-phrase when getting up to switch off a trashy television program or annoying computer game. It’s particularly noticeable in old or ill people who often express themselves in a sort of telegraphese which they expect you to understand. The effort of explaining themselves is too great and the reward of being fully comprehended isn’t enough.

Despite the previously mentioned signs of old fogeydom, I still haven’t quite got to the stage where I will give up on a book half-way through. I am selective in what I choose to read and if I start a book I will finish it, even if it turns out not to be very good. It just seems good manners to the author to let them have their say in full - and you never know what you might miss on the final page. However I almost gave up on this one, so great was the effort of reading it, and felt unrewarded at the end.
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