Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The good, the bad & the never gonna finish

Recently, Goodreads did a survey.  I remember it but I did not participate.  It was about who reads books all the way through & who doesn't & why.   Personally I think the why belongs with the first set as well.  I mean, read every book you ever started ever, all the way to the bitter grueling end?  I actually have a shelf on Goodreads called "unfinished, probably forever" because I kept catching myself picking up a book, starting it & then saying "wait a minute". 

Included was a most frequently never finished list.  I have finished three of them.  & hated two of those I finished.  The fourth I am never likely to try to read & the fifth I tried to read THREE TIMES & finally said "screw this".  As for the one book on this list that I read & liked, I can see that it was a brand new direction for an established author that would leave people hanging.  My primary reason for not finishing a book is not even on the list of reasons given.  It boils down to a single idea:  something doesn't work.  I don't mean my eyes won't stay open (although that does happen), I mean something in the story just fails somehow.

For example, was I the ONLY PERSON who thought this business of Blomkvist & Salander turning off their cell phones & not leaving messages for each other along the lines of someone is trying to kill us/I know who is trying to kill us absurd in the extreme?  I was so confused about this I would corner people who had lived in Sweden & ask if there was some peculiarity of their wireless telephone network that would make this a normal thing.  Like maybe it is easy to hack someone's cell phone account; they were both privacy nuts, after all.  But there isn't, at least the system is not any more vulnerable than any other voicemail & no one ever offered another explanation.  & for the record I FINISHED this book; I finished the whole trilogy.  But only because it was 1) available on audio & 2) so pervasive that it was hard to talk with people about books with out this series coming up.  Now I can say "I hated it & let me tell you why".  I can get as lost in a story as anyone I know, but there are points when I just cannot stop thinking who would do this?  What upright walking, nose breathing sapiens would behave this way? 

Another example of a book I didn't hate that has a similar problem is Water For Elephants.  I could not accept that the son of a 1930s veterinarian who accompanied his father on calls had never seen animal abuse.  It's just not possible.  It just isn't.  I finished the book, I didn't hate it, I could even see what made it attractive, but I never really got past the narrator not having an experience (or experiences) I thought he would have had. 

Imagine a book about I don't know...NASCAR.  I know nothing about NASCAR making me uniquely qualified to sketch out this particular problem.  Or not.  We have a boy, a young man.  He grew up around NASCAR.  His father was a mechanic.  He accompanied his father to the track (it is a track in NASCAR, right?), but his father cared about him & sheltered him from the worst of human behavior while they were enjoying the races...bouts...heats?   It doesn't matter, you know what I mean.  As a result, this person, steeped in NASCAR since childhood, familiar enough with the workings of an engine to build & rebuild one several times over, fluent in the talk of gasoline mixes, etc., this person has NO IDEA that sometimes alcohol consumption gets out of hand at NASCAR tailgate events.  Does this work for you?

The book I started three times & never finished, if you are curious, is Wicked.  People who know me know my problems with Wicked stem not just from it being rather slow to build but also (& perhaps more importantly) that when the publisher put it on disc they failed to number the discs.  Think about that.  This means that if somehow the discs get out of order (& I would say every 50 or so a book on disc arrives with the numbered discs out of order, so imagine how easy it would be if the discs weren't numbered) the only way to put them back together is to call the publisher & ask them what the hell they were thinking, putting the first line stated on each disc on the label instead of a number.  I once listened to disc 1 & then disc 2 & then I don't know which-the-hell disc but I was so confused by what had happened previously (in order, I assumed) that I listened to it for ten minutes before I realized I had no idea who the hell anybody was.

If the discs had been in order, I might have made it through, but maybe not.  I plugged away through the Millenium Series with little trouble once I started thinking of it as a dark -very very dark- comedy.  Like the Keystone Kops tracking Jack the Ripper.  Eat, Pray Love & Committed both got me so aggravated that my heart rate was up where it should be during my work out, which almost never happens.  

This leaves only the one I never read:  Fifty Shades of Gray.  I think I will be able to skip the whole series.  While socializing with physicists, it helps to have certain books I never would have otherwise read under my belt (the Lord of the Rings et al comes to mind), I just don't see these making the cut.  No pun intended.

The trick is not to throw the baby out with the bath water, something I think a number of people did with The Casual Vacancy.  It is no Harry Potter, that's for sure, but what is the author supposed to do?  Never write anything else again?  Not use her own name?  This is why I plan to read Elizabeth Gilbrt's new book (a novel, which helps I hope).  & why I may very well retry Wicked, if they can get those discs numbered & I have a long drive ahead of me.  Maybe not. 

1 comment:

  1. I have started The Good Earth three or four or more times. I know it is a classic, but I can't get beyond bearing a child alone and in silence because she didn't want to offend the men with her screams.