Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Sadness Of Abandoning A Book ...

I rarely fail to finish a book.

If I begin a book, it is with the intention of finishing the book. I like the sensation of turning the last page. Sometimes, that moment brings with it a sense of satisfaction. Sometimes, that moment brings with it a sense of regret, not for having read the story but for having come to the end. If Memoirs of a Geisha would have contained an index, I would have read it. I hated to bid that book farewell.

I have great faith in most authors and their work. Even if a book is leaving me cold, I hold out hope that it will get better. I keep reading. And then, by the time it becomes clear that a particular book will most likely not improve, I'm so far into it that it seems a shame to not persevere. It's like quitting a marathon with the finish line in sight. May as well finish for the sake of finishing, right?

I can remember giving up on The Shipping News. Everyone raved about that book. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why. (I saw the movie because Kevin Spacey had the lead and, as you know, I will watch Kevin Spacey wait for a bus. I remember the beginning of the movie. I don't remember the end.)

I can remember wishing that I'd given up on The Fourth K. How Mario Puzo could write a masterpiece like The Godfather and then write such utter dreck will forever remain a mystery. It's not like I can ask him what happened.

I gave up on Twilight (and was amused, re-reading this post).

And now it's happened again.

I am loathe to write negative posts about books because, hey, I've never written a book. I have one with which I've been noodling around. It may be worthwhile. It may not. I may finish it someday. I may not.

But today, I gave up on a book.

On Sunday, I tweeted:

Later, I added this:

I did not finish it. It went back to the library. Someone else is waiting for it. Perhaps they'll enjoy it more than I did.

Mind you, I loved The Alchemist. Me and eleventymillion other people on the planet.

And I'm well aware that any author who writes such a phenomenon of a book is destined to never repeat that success. Lightning rarely strikes twice. Liz Gilbert knew that she would never again write another Eat, Pray, Love, though her latest book, a work of fiction, is doing very well.

But I expected a book titled Adultery to be steamy and fascinating, an examination of the complexities of love and relationships, full of moments of insight and explanation of our psyches.

It is not that. (After I gave up reading, I went to Good Reads to read reviews – I don't read reviews in advance of books or movies – and I found that I was very much not alone in my thinking. At the moment, Good Reads reviewers give the book an average of 3.14 out of 5 stars.)

Not only did I not relate to the main character, I found her rather disgusting but not in a fascinating "Oh, why would she do the things she's doing?" kind of way, but rather in a "What a vile person" kind of way. I felt no empathy. I had no desire to find a reason to empathize.

But my bigger issue was with the writing.

It's tricky for me to read books anymore because I can't disengage the editor part of my brain. Some books are so well written that they sweep me along and I can't find any flaws.

But as with Twilight and "When we entered the classroom, Angela went to sit at a black-topped lab table exactly like the ones I was used to," the sentence in Adultery that really made me want to give up appeared on page 77: "But who wouldn't like to say that her husband was president of Switzerland, otherwise known as the Swiss Confederation?"

I read that and thought, "Well, later on in the book, I guess there will be a need for me to know that Switzerland is also known as the Swiss Confederation."

There were other instances. I didn't bother to flag them at the time and I didn't take the time to find them before I returned the book to the library.

I did read the last page, so I have a general sense of how the story played out.

But meh.

I have many other books on my radar and some on my shelves. Hope springs eternal.


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