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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Two books I didn't enjoy

Many years ago, in a bid to overcome my obsessive need to finish reading every book I started, however abysmal they were, I created a 40 page and 80 page rule.  If I found myself disliking a book by page 40, and could find no redeeming features, or if I found a book wasn't compulsive reading by page 80, then I allowed myself to dump it.

But I've be breaking this rule recently.

Of the last two books I read, one shouldn't have made it past page 40, while the page 80 rule should've applied to the other.  The first one I stuck with, skimming across fifty pages or so before dipping into the story again, all the way through to the end, while the second didn't get the final flick until page 136.

I won't bother naming names here - there's nothing to be gained from that, except to prove yet again that what engages one reader won't necessarily engage another - but I do find this business of reading such books useful to a certain extent, inasmuch as it reminds me what makes a story work and what kills it.

Briefly, with the first novel, I thought it had an interesting storyline and the author had created a compelling narrative voice.  However, the main characters, who I was expected to be sympathetic towards, if not empathetic with, were tedious bores.  I didn't give a toss whether they lived or died, whether their lives were wracked with guilt or whether they ever found true love.  If I was on a bus having to listen to them, I'd have got off at the first stop and waited for the next one.  I'd rather stand in a blizzard than put up with their prattling.

The second novel was touted as a 'classy ghost story', although it seemed to be working a tad too hard at conveying literary classiness at the expense of pace and... well, substance.  One slow meandering after another that seemed to be getting nowhere.  Left me cold.

Why stick with them?  Well, what's usually a tower of books at the side of my bed, waiting to be read, is at an all-time low.  Having been let down by Amazon with a couple of titles, I've also been waiting several weeks for Fishpond to deliver the  debut novel of my friend, Mike French, but The Ascent of Isaac Steward is proving elusive.  I'll have to write to them on Monday if it hasn't appeared in the post by then.  Because of this, I've been making do with reading a few books that have been lying around, but now it's time to start building that tower again. 

5 comments:

Mike French said...

Phew thought it might have been my book you were talking about! If you have no joy with fishy thing then let me know Paul and I'll personally post one out to you - you've been waiting long enough!

Paul said...

Thanks, Mike, but one way or another I'll get it out of them. Am determined to!

P.S. I added that comment at the end so that you didn't think I was being silently critical of Isaac. That's the downside, I guess, of not naming texts.

Mike French said...

heh heh - okay mate!

Jane Turley said...

I know exactly what you mean PB- I used to suffer from exactly the same condition! But now I'm of the opinion that life is just too short to waste on something you don't enjoy. I probably have one of the biggest piles of "waiting to read" books in existence but despite my best efforts to resist buying books this year I still can't resist adding more to it:) Yesterday, I bought The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufmann - as recommended by Scott Pack. I've bought a few of his recommendations and found his reviews spot on - this is a Friday Project publication though so I'll be interested to see how it squares up.

I've got my copy of TAIS but not read so far. Shame on me! The holidays are soon over and hopefully peace will reign again:)

Paul said...

It's good to be able to tap into someone's recommendations, once you've found they work for you. What else have you been reading of late, Jane?

Fishpond advised me that Isaac Steward is MIA or AWOL or summat like that. I await a replacement from them. Ho hum. And to think I pre-ordered from Amazon originally.