Monday, March 12, 2012

Learning to Put Down a Book (Slice 12)

So for the longest time, I took a good deal of pride in finishing any book that I started--which is to say, any book I chose to start. Books assigned in classrooms fell outside my parameters. This wasn't so much a personal rectitude (geez, I love that word) as a component of the Type A parts of my personality. If I stopped reading a book, it would bug me incessantly. My enjoyment didn't factor in--I had started the story, and had abandoned it: characters paused mid-conversation and mid-arc. It would bother me to the point that I wouldn't dare to do it again. (For the record, I have a pretty similar stance to movies, but not at all to TV shows. I leave series on the wayside consistently.)

I've relaxed my stance a bit, but I'll still prefer to muck my way through a not-great book rather than leave it unfinished. Something about letting the characters have their full shot at winning me over.* (Insert here the ever-present response I get: "There are so many great books out there! Don't waste your time if you're not enjoying it!" Blah blah blah.)

I particularly get hung up when reading an author who I've loved in the past. Come on, I whine to the pages under my right hand, You are better than this. I know you have it in you. And sometimes they turn it around, but they often don't. (Examples: After loving Snow Falling on Cedars, I ended up abandoning Out Lady of the Forest; The Lovely Bones and particularly Lucky blew me out of the water, but The Almost Moon made me want to punch someone in the face, namely Alice Sebold and her protagonist; The Virgin Blue and Falling Angels made me a big fan of Tracy Chevalier, while Remarkable Creatures--and Burning Bright, to a lesser extent--left me wanting to sit her down for a chat, starting with, "Whyyyyyy??".)

And of course this is on my brain now because I am in the same quandary. I'm not ready to give up on Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry, but it isn't grabbing me. I remember The Time Traveler's Wife wrapping me up into a cocoon of voracious page-turning, and HFS seems every night only to be spinning webs of sleep (helpful to rest, not so much to reading).

I shall report back about how I fare in this particular war of different kinds of captivation. Wish me well.

* Incidentally: Have you, kind reader, read Inkheart? I've been meaning to ever since watching the movie a few years ago. The movie was (despite the presence of my much-loved Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, and Andy Serkis) pretty awful, but it flirted with being really good at moments, particularly with Bettany's character (a literary character read into real life) who is unsure if he can escape his novelist's limitations: "I can't help it, it's how I was written." Potentially fascinating stuff, but it isn't given enough focus to spiral well in the movie. I have hopes for the book--bookS, a triology, this bodes well!--but haven't gotten around to it (them) yet...


  1. I heard a librarian say that if you are under the age of 50, you need to read at least 50 pages before giving up on a book - after 50, you give up as soon as you are ready :)
    I listened to all the Inkheart books on CD and loved the stories.

    1. Juliann, I LOVE the 50 under 50 rule. That is excellent. I will attempt to implement it...

      And thanks for the recommendation of Inkheart--I'm glad to hear that my hopes are not in vain! :)

  2. I chuckled at the quandary you are in. Then I got to thinking of events and routines in my life that I must finish to the end or give up on quickly. Hmmmm.
    I enjoy the voice in your writing.

  3. This post once again reminds me what a sham of an English teacher I am; I have not read any of the books that you mention in your post! I just don't read for fun, and I can't even blame it on being too busy. After I hit 7th grade, I think I simply stopped reading for enjoyment. I had too many books to read for school, and I also did not like the fact that books pitched at my age were not children's books anymore. If I pick up something for fun now (like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books), it's 99% likely to be a kids' book, and an old school kids' book at that; not the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" or "Dear Dork Diary" or that kind of stuff. I am so weird! Especially since my mom reads ALL the time and will read just about anything. I bet she has read all the books mentioned on this page. I just don't like modern grown up fiction, I guess. Give me some George Eliot, though, and I might have a shot at finishing that. But sometimes I fear that this proclivity to not read for fun must disqualify me from being an English teacher again.
    Also, I love the 50 pages under 50 rule!

    1. You have read George Eliot, therefore you OWN me at being an English nerd. I cast down my crown.

      And kids' books are good stuff, too. Did you ever read Lloyd Alexander's stuff when you were a kid? I just re-read the Westmark trilogy a few months ago, and the Prydain book (The Black Cauldron, etc.) are on my re-read list (after I tackle my next adventure in YA: The Hunger Games!).