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A Question

Reader(s), if a book is so dull and full of stereotypes and cliched dialogue that I feel like my own meager writing abilities are being drained away every time I pick it up, should I go on reading it? Skim really fast to the end? I'm trying to finish as many of the books I start as I can, but this one is a weirdly boring challenge.

I don't hate it enough to find it compelling and it isn't the fun kind of bad, but it's also not so boring that I can't focus on the words. It's just a calm sea of cliches that sometimes gets whipped up into a cringestorm.

Not naming names because being an author is hard. But what do you advise?

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
lost_spook
Apr. 9th, 2015 04:53 pm (UTC)
Life is too short and there are too many other (hopefully better) books out there!
evelyn_b
Apr. 9th, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC)
You may be right. I feel bad because I am supposed to be Disciplining My Mind, and can it really be that bad? and I feel like I drop things too easily just because they're not my particular thing and it narrows my horizons or whatever.

I'll probably try to turbo-skim another hundred pages this week just so I can say I gave it a fighting chance, but then again, I might not. It just keeps getting worse. But not in a fun way.
lost_spook
Apr. 9th, 2015 07:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, but some things are just not your thing, and that's okay? Mind, I understand; my Mum is that way with food - she hates to be defeated by disliking any of it and has taught herself to like everything she used to hate by eating it until she didn't.

I still think life is mostly too short, though. :-)
egelantier
Apr. 9th, 2015 06:34 pm (UTC)
i used to be the Finish or Perish person wrt books, and then realized that there're literally MILLIONS more books than i'd be able to read in my entire life if even if i do nothing but read, eat and sleep, so why waste myself on stuff that's boring me? i mean, a book that's actively displeasing or awful might be useful, in some way, but boredom is just itemized entropy.
evelyn_b
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:37 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's kind of been straddling the line between bad-interesting and boring -- there's a plot thread that I kind of want to see where it goes. I don't trust it to go anywhere that isn't boring, but I was curious whether it would get worse or pleasantly surprise me.
ramasi
Apr. 9th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
Is there anything good about it? Is it a classic and there's a good chance you might be the one who doesn't get the brilliance?
Imo there are enough good books that can be difficult to get into, I wouldn't waste the time and effort on one that doesn't seem to have any important redeeming qualities.
evelyn_b
Apr. 10th, 2015 04:59 am (UTC)
I can't tell! I never feel that I can trust my judgement on things like this. There's nothing about it that's really interesting to me and nothing that doesn't seem a little clumsy at best, but when I feel that way about a book I always worry that I'm just failing as a reader.

It's contemporary fiction. If it has important redeeming qualities, I can't tell what they are.
alley_skywalker
Apr. 9th, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC)
I kind of hate starting stuff and never finishing it (that's why I'm suuuper picky about picking up a book/show in the first place). But I've definitely dropped a couple of books before which I either found too boring or absolutely hated. I mean, if you've given it a hundred pages of so and still find it super boring/hate it then I see no reason to waste time suffering through it.
evelyn_b
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:08 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think this mountain may have defeated me. My normal way with books is to drop them like a hot pocket as soon as they stop being interesting, but since late last year I've been trying to force myself to finish everything and I've mostly been pleased with the result -- I've read some things, like The Naked and the Dead, that I would never have stuck with otherwise and ended up really liking. But I don't think that's going to happen here. :(
lolmac
Apr. 10th, 2015 03:12 am (UTC)
Dump it. No regrets.

I was a Must Finish person when I was a lot younger, but that ended in 1984, with Thomas Covenant. It ended with a resounding thump, which was the sound of book #5 hitting the wall on the other side of the room. The book was not actually damaged, and I returned it (and books #4 and #6) to the library that same blessed hour.

In the years since, I have achieved the end of (among many others) War and Peace and Ulysses, so I can vouch for the fact that dumping a given book does not actually corrupt your capacity fo finish a book that's in some way worth finishing.

Edited at 2015-04-10 03:15 am (UTC)
evelyn_b
Apr. 10th, 2015 05:23 am (UTC)
Hah, I love that you can pinpoint the exact moment your Must Finish resolve was broken. I've never read Thomas Covenant, but this "endorsement" is making me morbidly curious :D.

My problem has always been the opposite, that I bounce too readily off books for shallow or inchoate reasons and miss out on things I would otherwise enjoy. I think I am going to let this one go, though. Now I can start reading something good!
lolmac
Apr. 16th, 2015 04:38 am (UTC)
Ah, Thomas Covenant. The books started to come out when I was in high school, at a time when the fantasy field was basically either Tolkien (limited quantity) or EFP (Extruded Fantasy Product).

Stephen Donaldson swept in like a dose of -- well, not salts, unless maybe it was arsenic salts. He's a truly brilliant author, and brought in the first fresh ideas I'd seen in what seemed like ages (about four years, but hey, I was 16 at the time). Nowadays, it would just be called "darker, grittier, edgier", but that was new at the time.

The basic idea is that Thomas Covenant is the standard-trope hero, a typical man from the contemporary world (that is, a straight white middle-class guy from suburban USA) who is swept into a fantasy universe, where he's the Chosen One with the Power to Save the World. The difference is that he refuses to believe in any of this crap. Also, he's a deeply damaged, embittered man. He's a leper -- literally: he contracted leprosy, in his real life, from Mysterious Causes, even though leprosy is insanely rare in suburban USA. This makes him a deeply emo sufferer. Oh, the woe. Especially when the Magic of the Land starts to heal him.

Actually, he's an intractable whiner. Early in Book 1, he rapes the Helpful Native Maiden who's his guide, because wow, he just can't deal. He feels very bad about this, of course. In book 3, set years later in Fantasy-Land-time (each book is a separate journey to the Magic Land of Magicalness), he screws the now-adult daughter he fathered on rape victim #1. She's quite willing to do this, because hey, he's a hero, and also he's soooo hurt that it's the least she can do for him.

When I started reading the stuff, I was in high school, and all that beautifully written, sparkly angst was a Shiny New Thing. It didn't speak all that effectively to me as an angsty geeky teenager, but at least it was different.

The second trilogy came out while I was in grad school. By that time, I had learned to identify self-indulgent pretentious crap. I didn't yet have the vocabulary to describe the soggy view of victimhood peculiar to the entitled, but I had enough awareness to smell its stink.

A few chapters into Book 2 of Trilogy 2, I hit a complete whingefest in which Covenant and the second lead (who have been sucked into the Magic Unhappy Kingdom together) get into a one-downsmanship contest over who had the more rotten childhood. After Lead #2 describes the horrible details of (IIRC) being forced to watch an abusive stepfather bleed to death in a messy suicide, Covenant basically says, "So I suppose you think you had it tough, huh? Well, let me tell you how much my life sucks . . ." and that was when I threw the book against the wall.

An interesting point: the books sold like wildfire when they first came out. EVERYONE read them. A few years later, an interesting phenomenon could be seen at every used bookstore in the country: solid shelves full of the Covenant books, discarded and unwanted. Most copies had little wear.

I'm hoping I have satisfied enough of your morbid curiosity so that you don't actually have to read any of the stuff. Donaldson published a collection of short stories, Daughter of Regals; if you want you can sample his work with that whilst steering clear of Covenant.

Edited at 2015-04-16 04:39 am (UTC)
evelyn_b
Apr. 16th, 2015 05:59 am (UTC)
Jeezy H. Creezy on a pogo stick. I don't even know what to highlight as the most dazzling diamond in this mine of WTF. I guess it would have to be the part where the main guy has sex with his own daughter because. . . they both feel bad about that time he raped her mother? (????) is it supposed to be a Meditation on Human Evil or is it just that Faerie is a Perilous Land where the ethical norms are not the same as in the regular world? Poor emo rapist guy; that must be really confusing! :( :( :(

Thank you so much for satisfying my morbid curiosity (because I really might have picked this up from the library otherwise, and gotten a surprise rape scene for my troubles). There is a song called "Wow" by Kate Bush where the chorus is just the words "Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. . . UNBELIEEEEEEEVABLE!" and that is the song my heart is singing as I read these incredible words.

(also: EXTRUDED FANTASY PRODUCT is a great phrase! I ran into a lot of it shortly after falling hard for Tolkien, but I never quite knew how to describe it until now!)

Edited at 2015-04-16 06:01 am (UTC)
wordsofastory
Apr. 11th, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC)
I have a weird compulsion to finish everything I start, but I suspect it actually makes more sense to abandon books that aren't working for you.
jougetsu
Apr. 12th, 2015 03:44 am (UTC)
Since you've said it's not a classic and you're not aware of any merits of the book then dump it.

If it makes you feel any better I'm in the middle of a book that is Gross Shades of Cultural Appropriation, but I feel obligated to finish it so that I can better pinpoint WHY it's appropriation in a review. >_< The author clearly isn't trying to be racist, but uggggggh.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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