Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What books do you never finish?

I was going to write about something else, something that I saw yesterday, and is one of my "writing" bugaboos. But I have been invited, so to speak, to tell about the books I don't finish, and the reasons I don't finish. There are many, both books and reasons.

Let's start with the books. As I say, I have read so many books I didn't finish, that I can't remember them all, either titles or authors. Usually it's because their style or writing, or the subject matter just doesn't interest me. Often, I can tell within the first few pages if this is the case. I recently attempted to read a science fiction novel, whose author and title now escape me, but which looked interesting on the library shelf. So I checked it out. Unfortunately, it was one of those science fiction novels which can only be read by "aficionados", and it's also one of the reasons why a lot of people hate science fiction! This wasn't full of "techy" stuff, exactly, just full of strange names and situations, and there was no obvious plot structure that I could see. I tried valiantly for a chapter or two, then closed it up, never to open it again. I took it back to the library at the earliest opportunity. The other book was one of those "guys adventures". Now I like a good thriller from time to time, and if the author of such a book has an idea that makes at least some logical sense, and writes reasonably well, I will read it. To the end. But this book(again, by an author I don't remember, and I can't remember the title, either), could write well. The trouble was, his idea made absolutely no logical sense, and furthermore, it was full of all sorts of military style "hush hush" "secret" stuff that just made absolutely no sense to me, even given the military mind's penchant for secrecy. It was supposed to be happening underneath a purported oil rig off the coast of Greenland. . . .and there were things about the description of that which didn't make sense at the time I was reading them.

In short, I don't put up with anything that defies logic too much. A story has to be readable, and it has to be believable. If these two qualities aren't there, it doesn't get read.

The other problem I have with some novels is, they simply don't engage me very much. For this reason, I have trouble reading most literary fiction, because by its very nature, literary fiction is designed not to have any of the kinds of "resolution" I'm used to. Call me lowbrow if you want, but that's the way I feel. But even a lot of "genre" novels may get this treatment, if they don't engage me, and this is usually a problem because of the writer's skills(or lack of them, more usually). And I tend to avoid anything, in any genre written in the present tense!(more oh this in another post). But these, I don't bother to read at all.

Finally, if it's in a historical context(again, no matter what the genre), if the writer makes glaring mistakes, either as to what might be called "cultural accuracy", or as to the events involved, the author doesn't last very long with me. The last experience I had with this was with a book that came highly recommended. It was Lawrence J. Brown's Cold Hand, Cruel Heart. The man was writing about the period my Great Science Fiction Masterpiece is set in, but he made some absolutely glaring "cultural accuracy" mistakes, which could have been easily corrected. And he had one "clownish" villain, and one villain that was so stereotyped he could have jumped off the boards of some 19th century melodrama, twirling his mustache! I don't suffer these kinds of novels, either.

Do I sound picky? Well, maybe. But I've read an awful lot of stuff, and an awful lot of what' I've read is just not that good. And I wonder why it gets published at all.
Anne G


Susan Higginbotham said...

There are a lot of books I eliminate just by flipping through them on the shelf at the bookstore. So when I actually get a book home, I'm likely to finish it--but there are a few I've given up on in disgust anyway. Enjoyed your answer!

Anne Gilbert said...


I've done that, too. But since I'm in the habit of getting a lot of my books(for the first read, anyway),from whatever local library I happen to find myself in, I end up getting a fair number of books I don't finish. That way, I kind of cut costs, because I just return the unread ones! But there's nothing wrong with your method! :-)
Anne G