Posts Tagged ‘abandoned’
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I have not been having good luck with book tours of late. I am eternally grateful to TLC tours for turning me onto some really enjoyable reads, but lately I feel like I’ve been striking out with the books I’ve been covering for them. Sometimes it’s clear that a book is good but you aren’t the right reader for it, or maybe you just aren’t in the right mindframe for it (always one of the drawbacks of scheduled reading!)… I want to think that’s what happened with My God, What Have We Done?, Susan V. Weiss’s debut novel, because if I’m being honest, I did not really enjoy this book very much at all. So much so that I only read the first 50 pages in earnest before switching to skim-read mode for another 30 pages or so just to see if things would improve, and then finally I threw in the towel.
The premise of the book was not uninteresting in theory: through parallel storylines Weiss tells the tale of newlyweds, Pauline and Clifford, who have decided to vacation in New Mexico, largely due to Pauline’s crush on Oppenheimer, inventor of the atomic bomb. Interspersed with P&C’s story is that of the great man himself, Oppenheimer, fifty years earlier, toiling tirelessly amongst a group of dedicated scientists to create the ultimate weapon. For the romantic or the naïve, the correlations between a marriage and the atom bomb may not be readily apparent, but with a little imagination or some life experience, I think astute readers can see how analogies between the two can be drawn! I personally thought the notion of setting the two references up as a means of comparison was rather clever, if a tad on the nose. It’s no secret that I really enjoy novels that feature interleaved (and seemingly disparate) storylines if done well, so my curiosity was certainly piqued. I also admit that I was intrigued by the fact that MGWHWD? was published by Fomite Press, an indie publisher that I’d never even heard of before and as Trish pointed out to me her query email, it’s kind of interesting to see what these small imprints decide to pick up.
I know that I am not the only one out there who has been blown away during a first encounter with an author, vowing to read everything he or she has written, only to then find that nothing else they have written measures up to that first book. And I’m not just saying that the other books that you’ve read have been good but just not quite up to par with that first dalliance, but rather books that are so not your speed that if they were your first impression of the author, you’d never read him again. For me, that’s been my experience with Douglas Coupland. He was an author I had written off without ever trying, only to finally read Generation A, which I then fell madly in love with. I followed that up with Microserfs last year, which I found really painful and did not really enjoy at all, and now we have Player One. Which I also did not enjoy, but this time it was to the extent that I actually could not even finish it. I frequently pick up books and read a bit of them only to put them down because I’m not in the mood and they’re not gelling at the moment. I don’t really consider these books to be abandoned because I don’t really consider myself to have started them, but I have to say that it’s exceedingly rare these days for me to pick up a book, read a good chunk of it and then set it aside because I just don’t want to finish reading it. But I found Player One so unengaging and lackluster that despite reading about 80 pages of it, when I threw it into my “purge pile” I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Like many people out there, Tony and I love to travel. I am always a little bit suspicious of people who claim to have no interest in visiting or seeing new places or ever leaving the country. I truly believe that travel expands the mind and provides a perspective that books and other media simply cannot offer. For my money, there are few things I can imagine that are a better investment than travel. In fact, for the past few years Tony and I have been saving up our pennies to take the ultimate adventure once I finish graduate school: a round-the-world trip that will last somewhere from 12 – 18 months.
Of course, because I’m a planner, I’ve spent tons of time researching countries and coming up with a rough travel plan. We’ve spent countless hours watching shows like Departures and No Reservations, trying to decide which parts of the globe we need to see firsthand. It’s nice to see the vitality captured through film and television, but of course I’ve spent a lot of time reading travel books and have been really interested in bulking up on my travel memoir reading as well. So when I saw that The Lost Girls was being offered on TLC Tours, I asked Trish if I could get my hands on the copy since it sounded like a book that would be great inspiration for my own.
I try really hard to give every book a fair chance before forsaking it, because I really am loathe to leave books unfinished. But sometimes you just have to acknowledge that a book isn’t doing it for you and part ways. One thing I really liked in Nancy Pearl’s Booklust series is the sentiment that it’s all well and good to give a book a fair shot, but there’s no point sticking it out to the bitter end if indeed the end will be bitter for you:
“One of my strongest-held beliefs is that no one should ever finish a book that they’re not enjoying, no matter how popular or well-reviewed the book is. Believe me, nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren’t enjoying but think they ought to read.”
I feel I gave The Theory of Clouds a good run before deciding to put it down for good. Rather than subscribing to the Rule of Fifty, I gave this book 75 pages before concluding it just wasn’t for me. I had hoped for a book suffused with elegant poetry and thoughtful contemplation, but instead, the writing often felt trite and staid. The back cover suggested the book would revolve around a Japanese designer living in Paris who has developed a fascination with clouds. He hires a young librarian to track down a fabled tome that is rumored to exist but has never been seen, all the while bringing her up to speed with the history of cloudgazing as well as how clouds have fascinated and stimulated men over the years. I suppose this synopsis isn’t really disingenuous, but I just felt myself bogged down in fairly uninteresting history a good portion of the time, and was failing to see any kind of coherent plot develop. The balance between non-fiction and fiction just felt too heavily weighted towards the former rather than the latter. Maybe I just don’t care enough about clouds for them to serve as anything more than metaphors, or maybe contemporary French writing isn’t really my thing (I will say that the story did have a French vibe, which is fitting given the author)… The few sex scenes that were randomly scattered throughout the pages I read felt cerebral yet crude, and it seemed like they were thrown in there just because it’s French and how could the book not include some erotic tidbits?
In the end, this just didn’t have enough of a plot to keep me interested, and neither the writing nor the ideas were sufficiently captivating to me either. This book kind of gave me a similar vibe to The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, but without the thought-provoking philosophy and transcendence. With that in mind, I wouldn’t say this is a terrible book, just that it wasn’t a good fit for me. It’s a shame this didn’t live up to its gorgeous cover!
Question: Do you feel compelled to finish every book you start, or are you willing to abandon ship? How do you go about deciding to leave a book unfinished?
Since delving into the online book reading community, I’ve come across a few sites that offer members the opportunity to read and review “Advance Reader Copies” (ARC). I figured what could be better than having free books shipped to my door, and eagerly signed up for the titles that looked interesting. Eve is the second such book that I’ve actually snagged in such a way, and is due out in bookstores on Jan 27, 2009.
Eve is a retelling of the story of Adam & Eve, tracing their time together in the Garden, their fall, and their life thereafter. It is told through the eyes of Eve, as well as her three daughters, Naava, Aya, and Dara. Eve’s story is told largely in retrospect, while her daughters collectively tell the family’s story beginning at a later date, beginning around the time the family encounters an encroaching civilization, one that is polytheistic at that.
Oh bother. Mark Haddon is probably best known for his book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (which is a really great book, and if you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you do, because it is highly probable that you will like it. Also, it is vastly superior to this less than awesome book.). Based on the strength of that novel (and a debut novel at that!), I picked up his second offering, A Spot of Bother. I am sad to report that this was a mistake.