Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's a Book Thing

I'm making big effort to step up my reading rate. At the moment I'm acquiring books faster than I can read them, which means I'll never get a kindle because I'll always have my shelves of unread, real books to get through. I also worry about dying with much good material unread. So I'm setting aside more time for reading to try to catch up.

Reading more will obviously also inject my brain with knowledge, power, love and happiness. These are side-effects of enjoying a book. Other side-effects of spending more of my day reading include being instantly smarter, better looking and a far better writer. But hey, that's not the point - it's the enjoyment I do it for.

And doing it for the enjoyment means I have no problem 'giving up' on a book that isn't grabbing me. I don't like calling it 'giving up' because it has connotations of failure. I haven't failed - the book has. Time to give another book a chance. In this particular case the book that's failed is 'Super Sad True Love Story' by Gary Shteyngart.

It's just not interesting. I got through more than half of it but found the only reason I was carrying on was to try to learn some fiction-writing lessons from it. Here's why I put it down...

1. I don't care about the characters. This might be because they don't seem real, or it might be that they're just unlike-able schlobs and mindless dullards who deserve whatever comes to them. Or it's both. I don't care enough to work it out.

2. The book is meant to be a satire on modern life. It's set in the near future, where everybody is obsessed with the 'data streams' on their shiny phones while around them the economy is screwed and America in particular has descended into a political nightmare. And that's it. OK. I get it. You've got enough material there for a decent sketch or an amusing 1,000 word article. No more. It's not enough for a novel. Instead of being rich it's repetitive, instead of making you think, it hammers you over the head with clunking... clunkiness.

3. The book has some nice phrases in it. They don't tell the story, so they are in the way. They should have been cut.

Three reasons is enough.

So I've moved on. I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction, so my next reading adventure is THE QUEST by Daniel Yergin. I've put in capitals because it's a BIG and IMPORTANT book. So far it's also BRILLIANT and far more gripping than 'Super Sad True Love Story' in every way possible. Just reading the first couple of pages was refreshing. Suddenly I remembered what it was like to be in the hands of a dynamic storyteller. Not only is the subject matter fascinating (the global 'quest' for energy) but it's written with panache and efficiency. Nothing wasted. Everything tells the story. It doesn't read like non-fiction. It's a thriller which happens to be true.

It might take me a while to finish it because it's to HUGE, but it's also a pretty zippy read, so it might be sooner than I think. Either way, I'll meet you back here when I'm done to tell you about it.

The home page of my website will always tell you one book I'm currently reading, though usually at any one time I'm part-way through three books. From now on when I finish a book (or 'give up' on it) I'll blog about it. But from now on I'll try to be nicer.


Torggil said...

I know what you mean about books. I've put books down before because

1. The characters suck. It might be they're not real enough, or it might be I don;t like them.

2. The Book shatters a premise the previous books in the series was built on (ie. Terry Goodkind's Temple of the Winds) or that the character ends up doing something contrary as a plot device.

3. Can't relate to the characters.

I like the way you say the book has failed. Best way to look at it.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes have 3 or 4 books im reading at the same time and it gets really confusing so i stop reading someand take them back to the library (their usally overdue) but then when ive finished my other books i regret putting thme back, because i take ages to get stuck in to a good book and take ages to find a book i will acctually read!