Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Some Books Make Me Want to Scream

I don't know if it's just that time of year or if my quicker-than-normal (for me) 2007 reading pace has resulted in me becoming less patient with books that seem to be all chore and no payoff. I keep a little list of "abandoned books" here on Book Chase but I never expected the list to have more than a few books on it, at most three or four. That would have been about average for past years. (See the third-to-last list in the left hand column for a complete listing of abandoned titles.)

But just this week I've given up on two more and the total for just over eleven months is now a whopping 14 titles. I grew weary of Hank Steuver's Off Ramp after suffering through almost thirty pages of his description of what goes into the making of a modern wedding. Steuver's book consists of recycled newspaper stories that he has written over the years supposedly covering "places where seemingly ordinary people lead lives just slightly off-kilter." I don't know about "off-kilter" but the several pieces that I read were certainly filled with boring dolts, especially the young couple featured in the one titled "Modern Bride." After that one, I wondered why in the world I was wasting time in their company and literally tossed the book to the floor.

Today I quit on a Robert B. Parker book called Blue Screen. I suppose I should have known better than to even start a "recent" book of Parker's because, as I much as I still admire his early Spenser novels, he seems to have been on auto-pilot for the last decade or so. His books always seem to come in slightly larger than normal print and consist of very short chapters with lots of blank space on every page. They really have to be stretched in order to reach the number of pages that will fool readers into thinking that they are getting their dime's worth. Blue Screen is one of Parker's "Sunny Randall" novels, a series I had heard a bit about but not tried for myself. I made it through about ten chapters, something like twenty percent of the book, and found myself talking back to the books cartoonish characters more and more on every page. Sunny Randall is every teenage boy's idea of what a female detective is like. I'll let you use your imagination to fill in the blanks, but it is hard to believe that an author without an already established "name" could get something like this published.

The plot is ludicrous, the characters as shallow and poorly constructed as any I've ever run into anywhere, and the writing consists mostly of "snappy" conversation between the various characters. I knew it was over for me when I started keeping track of the number of "he saids, she saids, and I saids" on each page. Maybe that's just more padding to get the total pages up to a respectable level without having to go to a really big font.

But, all of that said, I'm enjoying a few things right now and have a huge stack of others waiting for me. Perhaps I've given up on so many books this year because I'm always looking forward to reading so many of the ones in my stack. I'm sure that's one reason for my lack of reading-patience and that I would have suffered all the way through some of the fourteen partial-reads but for the fact that their replacements were in the next room calling to me.

I keep telling myself (and I'm starting to believe it) that this is a nice problem to have. It sure beats the days when I would often find myself finishing up a book with no idea what I would read next or when I would find it.

10 comments:

  1. I'm right there with you. I find I have less and less patience for books that don't grab me from the beginning or have significant portions that feel like a chore to read or have characters that are irritating or...well, I could go on and on. The book I'm reading now and the last book I read, I'm sure I would have thrown aside (with some force) if I hadn't signed up to review them. There are just too many good books out there (not to mention all books actually in my house) to waste time on "bad" ones!

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  2. I'm getting to be a bigger book-abandoner, too. I think you're right - it's because we have so many good ones to look forward to, we don't want to waste time on crap. I have still slogged through some this year that didn't totally wow me, but I've given up on more than usual.Thank goodness for that Reader's Bill of Rights - #3 is The right not to finish. :)

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  3. I haven't been keeping a list of my abandoned books, but I have been doing more and more of it in the last year or so. I used to always finish a book once I started it -- even if I hated it. Now, however, I no longer feel the need to do that. I'm not sure what the reason for the change of heart, but I still feel a twinge of remorse when I leave a book unfinished.

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  4. Ludicrous boring dolts? What's not to want to read about?

    I've got a few in my DNF pile. I don't feel badly at all. So many books. So little time.

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  5. Meagan, I think what you said is the key to our discontent with "lesser" books. It's simply a question of why anyone would want to waste time on something that is not working for them when there are so many potentially great books stacked up and begging to be read.

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  6. It's good not to feel "guilty" about abandoning a clunker, tiny little librarian...it took me a while to get over wasting my time and money that way but I finally figured out that wasting even more of my time by struggling to finish a book I wasn't enjoying was only compounding the original problem.

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  7. It does seem to be a trend, doesn't it, Lisa? I feel a bit of a twinge of regret, myself, but I refuse to feel guilty about tossing a book aside anymore.

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  8. Ludicrous dolts might have been fun to read about, Carrie...it's the boring part that turned me off of the whole book. :-)

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  9. I've abandoned more books this month, so far, than I think I abandoned all year, and it's probably due to the big demands on my time at this time of year. It just feels like if I get only 20 minutes to read on a weekday I worked from 7:00 to 6:00, then I want it to be a damn good 15 minutes

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  10. That's another good reason not to waste time on lesser books, dewey, I totally agree. It's sort of an internal pressure that builds up sometimes.

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