Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Vacation Day #10: How?

I pay attention to the crime novels that get a lot of pre-publication buzz. It's both an essential part of my job, and a perk.

Recently there was a lot of buzz about The Cartel by Don Winslow. I'd read an earlier book of his and loved it. I looked forward to reading this new one; there were comparisons to The Godfather by Mario Puzo (a seminal book in my crime reading eduction.)




I started it pretty near pub date, then set it down for something else.  During this vacation, I picked it back up again thinking I'd have a block of time to finish a 600+ page tome.

And set it down again at page 200. (I'd started over again cause I'd lost track of the plot in the intervening weeks.)

There wasn't a single character I cared about, there seemed to be no depth of character at all. No sense of these characters as real people.  And the violence, dear god, the violence.

I decided to put this on on the stack of "did not finish" rather than invest another 12+ hours in the remaining 400 pages.

How much time, how many pages do you give a book before saying "nope, not gonna finish."

85 comments:

Susan Bonifant said...

I'm really aware of the other books I want to read while I have one in progress, so I'm not patient after a hundred pages. The most recent exception was Light Between Oceans but I had to be talked back into it a few times by my book group before I got past those first hundred.

It
just
took
forever
to

MOVE.

W.R. Gingell said...

Depends. If there is...

...rape...
...sex scenes...
...bestiality...
...graphic torture...
...homosexual themes...

...I stop when I get to it. Blech. Don't wanna read it. Also, having rape or torture in there makes me feel physically sick, and it seems to imprint so I feel awful for days afterward.

Boring characters or bad writing I give at least a chapter, unless it's SO BAD that I'm laughing hysterically after a few sentences. Sometimes I keep reading for laughs, but very rarely.

Sometimes I'll read a book with a great plot but unlikable characters, but I'm more likely to continue reading a book with characters I relate to and a dubious plot.

Also I have less patience nowadays for stuff I don't like/can see myself disliking it. Too little time, too many great books.

Joyce Tremel said...

I used to feel compelled to read the whole thing whether I liked it or not. With the limited reading time I have these days, I don't want to waste any of it. A book has to interest me in the first chapter or I'm done. I've quit reading more than one book on the first page.

W.R. Gingell said...

I used to feel like that, too. The older I get, the less I feel like that :D

Kitty said...

As they say, out of sight out of mind. The only book which came to mind was Gone Girl, which I started to read because a couple of my friends had LOVED LOVED LOVED IT! Gotta read it, Kitty. You'll LOVE IT, too! It didn't take me long to figure out the ending, and I'm usually lousy at that. I got about a third of the way through and hated it so much that I quit. Other than that book, I had to consult my goodreads list for others, and here are two and the comments I posted:

A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York: I couldn't wait to read Anjelica Houston's memoir, although in retrospect I don't know why. And, yet, I read about 56 pages and quit out of sheer boredom. One star, because I had to give it something.

Thin Air: It pains me to say this, because I've loved all of Ann Cleeves's other books in the Shetland series, but "Thin Air" is just horrible. Not the story. The basic story idea was good, but AC’s writing DROVE ME INSANE! She’d write one sentence of dialogue and then blather on about feelings and/or description and/or back story, so by dialogue sentence #2 I had completely forgotten what DS#1 had said and had to go back and re-read. “Thin Air” was as angsty as a pubescent girl’s diary. It was larded with all sorts of angsty characters and their angsty mates. I’ve never cared for a lot of description to begin with, since picturing it requires time and energy to form a mental image, and I lose the story thread in the process. And sometimes I can’t see the image as intended. Give me, the reader, some credit for imagination and get on with the story. Reading “Thin Air” gave me the distinct feeling Ann Cleeves was merely filling a word count quota. I'm being very generous giving it two stars.
...

Theresa said...

Life is too short to waste on books that don't draw you in.

I usually make it through two or three chapters before bailing. (The books come from the public library.)

Amanda Capper said...

Not long. Short attention span. I've never finished The Regulators by Stephen King. The Tommyknockers took me about three tries and Gerald's Game, four.

Can't always trust your favourite authors, but I give them more chances than I would new authors. Which is why I feel, as an author, it's very important to get every book as perfect as possible. You never know which of your books a new reader is going to dive into first.

Hence, I have frozen-second-book syndrome.

Steph said...

Tricky question, for me it depends a lot on the type of book. Fiction + first book + boring/overly vulgar: I'll quit after a couple of chapters; a few times I've only needed a page to quit.
If I've already read several books in the series, I'll give later books a few additonal (prime example: George R. R. Martin).
Biographies I usually force myself to finish even if I don't like them overly well, because I tell myself it's about learning. (A few months ago I read Eric Metaxas's "Bonhoeffer" an amazingly well-written biography, compared to that Sonya Sotomayor's memoirs and "The Map that Changed the World" both felt like work to read, but I was glad to have chugged through them.)

AJ Blythe said...

No given page length.

I usually only abandon a book when I would rather scrub the toilets than have to read another page. I try and stick it out as long as I can - although more from a 'why don't I love this? what should be done differently? how can I learn from this? point of view.

I now have a folder on my kindle 'unfinished', and box under my desk for 'those' books which I donate annually to Lifeline (a charity which holds a humongous book fair every year to raise money).

RobCeres said...

y poor daughter, a rising hs senior, had to read Madam Bovary this summer. I well remember that gruesome chore, but at least it wasn't my summer reading assignment. With so many great books why are we still inflicting books like that on our kids?

Given the choice I might have read a chapter into that book, but only because so many people have declared it to be great. Life is too short for mediocre books, never mind the truly awful.

Matt Adams said...

I have an obsession with endings, so it's hard for me to put something down once I've gotten into it -- if I make it a hundred pages, I'm going to make it all the way through.

But they can lose me early -- 40 or 50 in, if it just feels stupid. I gave up on Dark Places and John Irving's last three books early. But if I make it that far, I'm usually going to finish.

It's aggravating to me because I've run into a lot of books lately where nothing happens -- everyone is in the same place at the end of the book as they were in the beginning, and that bugs me.

Donnaeve said...

I'm generally very careful when choosing books, especially lately because I'm reading for inspiration, entertainment, and to learn. I'm back to reading more in the genre I write, i.e. southern fiction, so I always hope I won't be disappointed.

Recently I was not only disappointed but puzzled, while reading LIAR'S BENCH. I DID finish it (with a lot of eye rolling however) because I thought, this is bad enough I still have to see how it ends, if that makes any sense.

I didn't care for the MC - at all. She was an annoying, for the most part. I saw through several contrived plot points. The time frame of two days where a good chunk of the story unfolded was incredibly unrealistic. It ended rather cheesily.

To top it off, there was this phrase which stumped me, being a southerner and familiar with quite few of them. Can anyone tell me what this means? "My pink gills speckled green." This was a thought the MC had when the boy she liked picked up her hand. I Googled it because I figured, huh, what an odd turn of phrase, what does it mean? I thought it had to be regional, (book is set in fictional town of Peckinpaw, Kentucky). There were ZERO hits on Google for that specific wording. ZERO. Oh, sure, Google found "matches" for the words. Stuff about mushrooms. Fish. Algae. Etc. etc. You can search any southern saying and Google will find it. Not this.

Strangest thing I ever read.

I have books at this point in my TBR pile I may never read unless I'm desperate. FIFTY SHADES. That other McCarthy book I've had sitting for a while, BLOOD MERIDIAN. Not sure about THE GOLDFINCH. Like GONE GIRL, I've heard you either hate it or love it.

MB Owen said...

When the 1st line reads: "I’m going to die tomorrow morning," and I don’t care. This followed by the MC’s miserable, rotten existence, gouged out eye, a monstrous father who hates his daughter for no apparent reason, a sisterly relationship gone sour, people throwing food and hacking at the poor girl as she gets trucked out for said execution the following day.

All in the first chapter.

In short, when the author forgets to make me care about the story or the characters.

Mister Furkles said...

It depends on how many things are missing or uninteresting: plot (obvious is bad), characters (no depth or color--monochromatic paper dolls--is bad), voice (no personality is bad), prose (flat, factual is bad), setting (mondane is bad), and verbose writing is bad.

Most of the books, by authors I haven't read, come from the library. So, no-money-invested makes it easy quit. Sometimes thirty pages is enough to lose interest. At most, one hundred pages.

I also hate political and social diatribes pretending to be novels.

Dena Pawling said...


I've been haunting the “new books” section of my local library. I recently found The Mangle Street Murders by MRC Kasasian in the audio book section. This is a mystery set in 1882 London. I wanted to like it, but I think I got to chapter 3 before I was in serious danger of falling asleep while driving. The narrator was meh and there was no story question by chapter 3. I stopped there.

I also found Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn on the new audio books shelf. This is a contemporary mystery set in Washington DC, narrated by a dog. The dog narrator was sufficiently humorous that I was able to get to the story question, which didn't happen until chapter 4. I'm glad I finished it because it was funny and a good story, but it started waaaaaaay too slowly.

CynthiaMc said...

I'm in the "life is too short" camp. Make me care right away or I'm off. But I've also learned timing is important. When I first tried to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea I thought it was snooziest book I had ever read. I picked it up again at a thrift shop a couple of years ago, read a paragraph and could barely put it down. I read it during hammock time on a summer afternoon.It is now one of my favorite books. It wasn't the book all those years ago. It was me. I wasn't in the right place to appreciate it. Now I am.

KC said...

...rape...
...sex scenes...
...bestiality...
...graphic torture...

AND

...homosexual themes...

After all these years it's still a punch in the face to find myself in the same list as rape and torture. I guess I shouldn't have finished reading that comment.

W.R. Gingell said...

KC, I didn't say that they were on the same level, I said I stopped reading when I came across any of them. They're all things I won't read, not things that are on the same level. There are some people who stop reading a book immediately when Christian themes are mentioned. I don't get cranky about that: it's something they don't want to read.

Steph- I've just started reading the Bonhoeffer one: picked it up ages ago and haven't yet got around to it.

Mister Furkles- hate, hate HATE books that are barely concealed social/political commentary. I re-read a trilogy again recently that was read in my preteens, and discovered it to be unreadable :( Just didn't see all the blatant preaching then.

W.R. Gingell said...

KC- You'll also notice that sex scenes were in there. Don't read those either. Wasn't equating those with rape and bestiality et al, either. Just don't wanna read 'em.

LynnRodz said...

I can only think of 3 books I didn't finish once I started. One was so poorly written, I had to stop. I was laughing when the book wasn't meant to be funny.

Another was by one of the most popular French writers today. I bought all of his first books. They were good, but long. You could cut out 200 from the 500 pages and the story would've been much better for it. He puts out a book a year. The last one I bought was two years ago, I never finished it and haven't bought another one since.

The third one was simply too boring to continue reading. I used to force myself to finish a book once I started it, now I'd rather not waste my time.

Adib Khorram said...

I try my best to make myself read until the 10% mark in the book, regardless of length.

Even though I knew about ten pages in that I absolutely hated ATLAS SHRUGGED, I gave it until page 100 because I felt like it was something so often talked about, I should probably know what it was about—but I could. not. do. it. I hated all the characters in it.

I really enjoyed GRAVITY'S RAINBOW but after about page 50 I gave it up, too. I honestly had no clue what was going on anymore. But I liked the style and maybe one day I'll give it another go.

The last book I put down unfinished was HOW MUSIC WORKS, which I was certain I would love but which ended up boring me to the point where I was thinking longingly of the other books in my pile.

For the most part, though, if the voice is there, I'll follow it to the end, even if I end up not liking it. There are quite a few books I read start to finish, sometimes in a single day or two, but ended up giving one or two stars on Goodreads because when all was said and done, I had crossed over the fine line between "love it" and "hate it."

Gail said...

As a serial non-finisher of books, partly because I've got such a long list of things to read, what makes me go past 20 pages or so? (and I don't go past those 20 pages very often)

--humor (from wry to laugh out loud)
--unusual and vivid observation and metaphor
--active characters who seem real right off the bat (distinctive voice, interacting with their environment in convincing ways)
--an intriguing immediate problem, but not too much intense conflict at the beginning (I need to know the characters first before signing on to worry hard about them)

In any event, if I do leave a book after 20 pages, I often read the end just to see what happens. If I do go past the 20 pages, I often read right to the end







Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I choose books by apparently arcane criteria that don't involve things like synopses or jacket copies, so I know pretty quickly if I'm not going to like/finish a book. Typically.

I pick up a book because of the title, author, or cover. Then I read the first page. If I can't make it through the first page, or if it doesn't sear its hooks into my brain, I'm out.

But, there are sometimes books I think I should like, and I try longer. Like Erin Morgenstern's THE NIGHT CIRCUS. I really wanted to like it, I felt like I should like it, but I got to page 223 or so and just petered out. I tried reading Mark Danielweski's first volume of FAMILIAR and was like "nope, sorry dude" (though I friggin' love HOUSE OF LEAVES and might read that again.) But, I allow myself nowadays to stop reading books if I'm not enjoying them. This was not always the case, and I made it through some doozies before hitting upon the Ultimate Dealbreaker™. So I guess that book changed my life, though perhaps not in the intended manner.

LynnRodz said...

WR, I have a question that has nothing to do with the conversation between you and KC. Let's say you're reading a book you're enjoying and a sex scene or a rape scene comes along, do you skip over that scene and continue reading, or do you, as you said, stop reading?

Scott Sloan said...

It really depends…

When Harry Potter first came out, and the buzz was so overwhelming – plus a dear friend was absolutely gobsmacked by it – I got through the entire first book. But it was a serious struggle. And I didn't want to get left behind on what was surely THE seminal literary event of my lifetime.
I quit the series a quarter of the way through the second book, and haven't revisited it.
I have since stopped watching TV, or listening to the radio. It's amazing how easy it is to ignore the hype, if you just simply refuse to expose yourself to it.

Other books aren't as fortunate.
And it's not really the subject matter, per se, as much as it's the way in which it's presented.
I read a lot of stuff, where I just feel that the idea is more to shock, than to tell the story.
Not a real big fan of form over content.

Colin Smith said...

Usually--in fact, 9.999 times out of 10--if I start a book, I'll finish it. Reasons?:

* The book was recommended, so I want to give it a fair shake.
* It's popular, so I want to know what all the fuss is about, and that might not be discernable without reading it through.
* An agent thought it good enough to represent, and a publisher thought it good enough to publish. That at least deserves my attention.
* Good or bad, I might pick up some craft tips ("do" or "don't do" depending on how good or bad the book is).
* I'm a bit of a complete-ist, so no matter how bad, it pains me to put a book down unfinished.

Most of the books I've been reading over the past 10 years have been from recommendations, or by authors I know and enjoy, so I've had very few reasons to put a book down unfinished. In fact, most of the books I've read have been 3 Goodreads stars or more, so I've been blessed.

There is ONE notable exception: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT by Mark Twain. I just could not get into it at all. It dragged from one event to the next, the humor came across as condescending, and I was just NOT enjoying it at all. After putting it down for a year, I realized I wasn't going back to it. Maybe some other time, when I'm desperate for something to read. This from a guy who last year read WAR AND PEACE, found it a bit dry, thought the translation was at fault, and is prepared to give it another go in a more modern rendering. Sorry, Mr. Twain--that's how much I didn't enjoy that book. :)

W.R. Gingell said...

Lynn, if it's a sex scene between husband/wife (aka, not adultery), I might keep reading (some books just go sex scene after sex scene, and that's just boring). Rape, I stop straight away. Makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Even if I was LOVING the book before then, I'll stop. I had to leave the house when hubby was watching Game of Thrones because I didn't want to throw up or start blubbering all over him :D

If it's an off-page sex scene I MIGHT keep reading, but doubtful. It ruins the book for me.

Colin Smith said...

Amanda: GREAT point! No matter how successful you are as a writer, EVERY book needs to shine like the first, because you never know which book a first-time reader will pick up. I've read two Grisham novels, one that was good, and one that was not-so-good--downright disappointing, in fact. Neither were among his first. I can't say Grisham is the first writer I'll turn to next time I want to read a legal thriller. I enjoyed INDEFENSIBLE by Lee Goodman more than both those Grisham books. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I give it a couple of chapters, then I skim if it sucks, then it becomes a doorstop.

LynnRodz said...

WR, thanks for answering. It's interesting to see the perspective different readers have.

Timothy Lowe said...

All of this really just underscores how incredibly difficult it is to get somebody to buy your book. You're climbing quite a mountain by getting even avid readers to turn the pages. Even with good books. I put down The Stand after 300 pages. Left it alone for years before finishing it, and then I wondered why I had ever stopped. What a book!

Same with Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. Couldn't get into the style (it was my first Vonnegut) - picked it up years later and wondered what was wrong with me. It was soooo good!

As a working father with a lot of distractions around me, I can honestly say that even with good books, it's hard to find 10 uninterrupted minutes to get through a chapter of something. The ones that turn you off (King's Insomnia was an example of one I will never ever drag myself to finish) are a waste of your time.

W.R. Gingell said...

No probs, Lynn :) everyone is different with their reading tastes, and everyone has different things they don't care to read. Nothing is clearer than that when you read reviews for a book you absolutely loved amd find out that not everyone loved it too :D

Ardenwolfe said...

One page. The first page on average. If the first pages are a trap, meaning they're super good, but the rest is bunk, I'll usually get through the first twenty-five pages before I toss it or speed read. Thank God for that talent.

Otherwise, if I bought it, it's another donation to the library. I won't even keep it on my shelf.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

When I buy a book in a brick and mortar or get a book from the library, I read the first pages, skip around throughout the book and read pages to see if the writing holds up, read towards the end. At least I know the quality of writing is consistent and I get some idea of dialogue and characters.

Even with that, I still get fooled at times. I won't read a very famous, very successful fantasy author. I forced myself through two and a half books and literally threw the third one at a wall and I don't throw things. I was so sick of one of the main characters tossing her titian locks I wanted to strangle the author with them.

I normally don't care that much for memoirs, but just finished Mosby's Memoirs and would gladly read anything else he wrote. A publisher at the time declined the book because it didn't have enough romance in it. Mosby responded, that's because what I wrote was the truth.

I'm currently reading a book by a well known and successful fantasy author who is at the top of many must read lists. I'll finish plowing through it because I want to know why he's so popular, but I don't know if I'll read the other two in the series I bought. *hangs head*

I just don't really care about the characters or what happens even though the writing is decent.

Sadly, I probably won't finish The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. I was in the mood for a Stewart lately and found that book someone had given me. I despise the doppleganger/lost relative scamming rich, dying relative trope. I'm sure it's a good story, I just can't stand that premise.

I don't like leaving books unfinished. I'm a completionist, but life is too short spending it reading books I hate or don't care about. I despise it when someone tells me, "Oh keep reading. It gets better after the first 100 pages." Someone didn't do their job if it takes me 100 pages to get interested.

W.R.

..rape...
...sex scenes...
...bestiality...
...graphic torture...
...homosexual themes...

I've been having this discussion with my beta readers. I don't show the torture, but it's in Far Rider.

I'm sure the penisectomies are a huge turn off to some agents. Do you whore the book to make it more acceptable to modern sensibilities or stay true to the story? I don't know.

I don't write graphic scenes because I don't like reading them, but sometimes allusions might be as powerful.

D. B. Bates said...

It depends. Way back on Vacation Day #1, I mentioned that I abandoned The Long Embrace by Judith Freeman. This was, roughly, midway through chapter 2 (maybe 30 pages into it). I had tried several other non-starters before that, crime novels that struck me in the first chapter as poorly written and not worth any extra time investment. I gave a little extra chance to The Long Embrace because the writing itself was fluid and I was interested in what the subject was supposed to be--but I gave up when I realized the subject was actually Judith Freeman, not Raymond Chandler and his wife. Yawn.

There are a lot of books out there where I can objectively say they're not doing anything wrong, but they don't push my particular buttons. Doesn't make them bad, doesn't make them not worth reading, so I'll give them more of a chance. Typically, if a book is well-written but doesn't immediately grab me, I'll give it until the halfway point to win me over...unless it's really long, in which case I'll give it 100 pages, and if I think it's going somewhere, I'll give it another 100.

The exceptions to this rule are classic novels, which I think are an important part of my cultural education. Some of them I love, but some of them feel like homework. I'll stick with them regardless of my interest level, because there's a reason these works have endured and continue to be reference points...even if I don't personally like them.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Colin,

"* Good or bad, I might pick up some craft tips ("do" or "don't do" depending on how good or bad the book is)."

Precisely. Said author of the titian locks fame has made me very aware of how I describe characters. I describe them once. I might make reference to something passing after that, but I don't use anything unusual frequently. Describing someone's hairs as "locks" repeatedly is beating the reader over the head with it. Stop. It's annoying and it musses my locks.

So it goes with good writing. Sometimes I just need to prime the pump and revive my writing soul, so I read or re-read books that speak to my heart. Gabaldon, Foote, Mary Stewart especially her Merlin series, Patrick O'Brien, Byron, Burns, etc., reinforce me and teach me.

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

MVB said...

Usually, if I start a book I finish it. However, nowadays, I am very, very slow to read past the first book in a trilogy (or larger set). Even if I like the first book, I won't get the next one. I have to absolutely love it and think it is incredibly original to be tempted past book 1.

CynthiaMc said...

Julie - when I played Rosie in Simpatico one reviewer praised my acting but didn't like that I tossed my hair. After the next show a group of guys hollered "You keep tossing that hair, honey. That's why we keep coming back."

My pet peeve is "turned on his/her heel". Who talks like that? Yet it's in almost every book. The kids and I make a game out of. "What page is the heel turn on in this one?"

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Cynthia,

That would have gotten on my nerves also. The reason the guys in the audience like it is because it's body language for, "I'm young, healthy, sexual, and attracted to you. I'm available."

Or it can be like me flipping my hair, "This danged hair is driving me nuts."

I'm going to guess the guys went with option a, though.

bjmuntain said...

I'm more likely to not read a novel than to give up on it part way through.

I have a very hard time reading these days - part of a health problem I've had for years. And fiction is harder to read than non-fiction - I just have a hard time getting into a novel. So I'm very, very picky about what fiction I read.

I liked Robert Asprin's Myth series. I still haven't read the last in that series, though (more because I've been broke than because I didn't enjoy the other books). I enjoyed the first two in his Phule series, but the third... I set it down, years ago, always intending to read it again, but haven't picked it up since. In the Phule series, he had one main character and a large supporting cast. He handled all this well in the first book or two, but by book 3, the main character was off-screen a lot, and the supporting characters had become cardboard cutouts. Someday, when I can read again, I'll try that novel again.

Me, I've always been stubborn. If I started a series, I would finish that series. I started reading Anthony's Xanth series. It started well, and I was still liking some of the characters up to book 12... and then it started becoming formulaic: X number of characters must travel from X to X in order to fulfill someone's destiny. Then I read (in his autobiography, I think) that he just used Xanth to make some regular money. He could rattle off a Xanth novel in no time. And then... there was one novel which he said he had to stop writing a couple times (due to real life), but because Xanth was so easy to write, he could pick it up again and you couldn't even tell where he'd done it.

I could tell. I could also tell that he didn't really care for his readers that much, if he couldn't be bothered to go back and make sure it all really did read smoothly. That was the last book of his I will ever read.

But I think the most important thing (for me) in a novel is the characters. I have to be able to get into the characters (not easy, these days) and really get into a book. Action is good, too, because it keeps my flighty brain in the story. Without a character I can *be*, though, I just can't read the novel.

I once thought I should read some military SF, because it's similar to space opera, which is what I write. I found a novel at the library from a well-known author so thought I'd try. It wasn't the first book in the series, though, and it started at the end of a battle. That's not a bad place to start a novel, but it started with a list of characters and their injuries (some of them gruesome). Gruesome doesn't turn me off (although sex scenes do), but I had no idea who all these people were or what had happened to them. I had no anchor to any of these characters. I stopped reading on the second page (maybe the third or fourth paragraph) because I just didn't care enough to keep reading.

Donna: There's probably a species of fish whose pink gills become speckled with green when it's aroused. That doesn't make it a good turn of phrase, though. It may seem to cool to someone who knows that particular fact, but as you noted, it means nothing and does nothing for a reader who doesn't know it. And that seems to be a very specific, rare fact to expect a reader to know.

And CynthiaMc:

I've tried turning on my heel. It doesn't work. I've taken to just understanding what the author means (as in, simply turning and walking away), and otherwise ignoring the 'heel' part.

I've never been military, but I was checking up this idiom, and it relates 'turn on heel' to a military step. Is this so? Inquiring minds want to know. At least, mine does.

french sojourn said...


I give up on books if I'm not drawn in. Boring characters and gratuitous killing, rape , and gratuitous campy decorating turn me off. I write scenes where the killing is off to the side of the page, so to speak. I don't elaborate on the gray matter redecorating the Rose Cummings chintz covered sofa.

I read voraciously...I got to the point where I had to start deleting books from my Kindle device in order to download new ones. Bookbub is my bestest buddy.

If I can figure the story line early, I bolt. If the writer is pushing his or her political beliefs, even on Flash fiction enrtries, I bolt. But the worst is treating their characters like Game of thrones and just saying fuck you to the reader / audience and killing or raping with no relevance to the story, I bolt.

Hey what do I know?...I'm not published.

Be well
Hank.

Elissa M said...

I try to be very careful about which books I select to read. I tend to finish whatever I start, so I don't want to start a book that's going to be a chore to finish.

I guess you could say I make my decision in the first page, before I even buy the book. If I end up with one that's a struggle to finish, I'll probably finish it anyway. But you can be sure I'll never read another one by that author.

racherin said...

I was thinking about this last week, because I finished LILA, by an Marianne Robinson, who I really admire, but whose work I've never been able to finish. I love her prose, her characters, her settings, just at some point I pick up something else.

I made myself push through on this one, and I'm so glad I did, because the story just got more and more beautiful. I do still wonder if she could work her pacing a little bit differently...but I'm not a pulitzer prize winner =).

Things that make me put a book down: not caring about the main character, too many factual errors (especially if the factual errors are serving some kind agenda - think Dan Brown), too many coincidences, too much agenda (I also loathed Atlas Shrugged and could not finish it), or if it feels like a rehash or spin off.

I also can't read graphic violence and skip over sex scenes - even loving ones. I have more leeway in books than movies, because I can kind of skim.

allierat said...

I can think of two books that I read in the last few years that were a total waste of time. One was just not my thing, but I borrowed it and felt I had to finish it.

The other was a self-pubbed book. I chatted with the author, then felt I *had* to buy the book. ("WHY??" I asked myself when I got home.) The book was BAAAAADDDDD. So bad I couldn't give it to a library or Goodwill, because someone else might waste time or money on it. I finished it to pound into my head why an agent and editor can be a writer's or reader's best friends.

Time is more precious to me now. 100 pages, MAX, if I bought the book. If I borrowed it, more like a chapter.

InkStainedWench said...

Adib Khorram, don't feel bad about not finishing Gravity's Rainbow. Nobody has EVER finished it.

nightsmusic said...

Three chapters at most. If the author hasn't grabbed my attention about something in that amount of information, I'm outta there. I just don't have time to waste my time on something that might take 8 chapters to get into. I have a whole pile of books I didn't finish that are due to go to the donation center next week.

And then there's the only book in my long lifetime of reading that just popped right out of my hands and into the fireplace...

W.R. Gingell said...

Julie, as with some of my others on the list (rape and bestiality being the only ones that never change) there is some slight leeway in what I let myself read.

And it should be mentioned that these are my personal reading preferences. I don't tell other people what they can/can't read, and I'm not insinuating you're a bad person /writer if you inclide them in your books. I personally simply don't care to read them. Heck, there's a writer I adore: her work is wonderful, her characters hugely engaging. ..and I can't read her books cos there's a swear word literally every second paragraph. Great books, but not for me.

Kate Larkindale said...

I very rarely don't finish a book, even if I'm not enjoying it. Too often I've read books that completely changed my opinion about them in the last third, and I guess I'm always afraid I might miss that moment if I quit too soon….

It means I often read some very unsatisfying books. But I try to choose wisely when I'm at the library, so it doesn't happen as often as you might think.

Amanda Capper said...

Timothy, isn't that the strangest thing? When Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear first came out, I could not get into that book at all. Ten years later, or somewhere around there, I gave it another try and couldn't put it down. Devoured the others.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

W.R.,

A friend of mine kept urging me to read Diana Gabldon's books. I adore her personally and greatly admire her professionally. I picked up Outlander time and time again and thumbed through it, but as my luck goes, every page I landed on had c0ck on it. I thought, criminy, is that all she writes about?

Then Fiery Cross came out and a mutual friend asked me if I'd picked it up yet. I had by this time bought Outlander, but hadn't read it. Diana had me in acknowledgments of Fiery Cross, so I bought it also. Then I decided to stop being such a prude and read Outlander. Luckily, I started it after I hit deadline with the magazine because I couldn't put the book down.

I don't have any rapes in FR, but they are alluded to. I couldn't write such a scene, I don't think. Have no desire to. My single sex scene is pretty tame and not graphic at all. A scene in the dining room is probably much more sensual and not a word is mentioned about sex.

Even so, I'm sure it would be a turn off to some people. But, I don't think I can write for the world. I have to write the true story.

It will find a home or it won't. There are other stories to tell.

AJ Blythe said...

Colin, I've skimmed the comments so apologies if someone else asked this. You said: An agent thought it good enough to represent, and a publisher thought it good enough to publish. That at least deserves my attention.

Does that mean you don't do the same for self-published works? Or you don't read self-pub'd?

Just curious because on my kindle the majority of books in my 'unfinished' folder are self-published (I can see how they've published too soon and how the hand of an agent might have salvaged my read).

Joseph Snoe said...

I've not finished books because I was distracted by other things, and some when I thought the book quit making sense.

I did finish one book this past year that took forever to read. To this day I think the only reason the book was published was because a well-known English author wrote it. I finished it but I will walk across the street to avoid being near another of her books.

I'm struggling to make progress on my current book - a very popular book with some rave reviews - movie trailer out - the whole bit - so much promise - but just over 100 pages in, I don't get it. Nothing fabulous about the story and the writing is, let's say, unappealing. Every night I take a deep breath and read on, hoping sooner or later it'll grab me. Who knows, it might.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

It's less a matter of how far into the story I've gotten than depth of attention - if I get bored or irritated with a book, my mind sort of loosens its grip and I start skimming and skipping ahead, which is always a red flag. This gives it a sporting chance to get better and lure me back (which it sometimes does, and then I pick up again).

But once this process starts, it usually means that some vital holding-link has broken, and my focus diffuses and floats away. This can happen at any point, and I always feel let down (which bothers me more than the money I've wasted buying the thing). But guilty? Nope. I don't figure I owe it any taxing effort just so I can say I crossed the finish line.

There are already more books out there than I'll ever have lifetime to read, never mind all the ones that haven't been written yet. So those precious hours are not to be wasted ploughing through stuff that feels like work. That's not what reading is meant to do.

Great blog topic, Janet!

Joseph Snoe said...

Donnaeve,
Put me in the camp who loved Gone Girl; and who bought but are working up the energy to read The Goldfinch. I'm nervous because I hear so much The Goldfinch characters are all unlikeable, but I also hear the writing is wonderful.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

Joseph, you remind me of my stepdad! He was very conscientious about finishing any book he started, and possessed admirable stores of discipline. His reading time was just before bed, and I could always tell when he didn't like something and was motoring on sheer determination because he'd say, "G'night - gotta go read on my book some more". It made me think of chewing on a bone, and was probably about as much fun.

PS: I absolutely adored The Goldfinch. Bought Gone Girl too, but haven't read it yet. It's in the queue.

Donnaeve said...

@Joseph Snoe - I'm in that camp too - loved it. And no, I didn't see "that" coming when she flipped it on it's head midway.

I've always prided myself on choosing books b/c I WANT to read them, but lately (GOLDFINCH, SHADES and MERIDIAN) I've bought them b/c of hype. Out of those, I'd likely read GOLDFINCH first, the MERIDIAN. Probably will never touch FIFTY SHADES - unless I catch my husband reading it. :)

Joseph Snoe said...

Donnaeve - Your comment about "My pink gills speckled green" got my curiosity up. I found the line in a chapter reprint and, sure enough, no clue from the context; EXCEPT I recall from long ago mood rings. I Googled "Pink Gills Necklace Mood Color" (and later added "change"). Pink means "Very Happy, Warm, Affectionate, Loving, Infatuated, Curious" and Green indicates "Mixed Emotions, Restless, Irritated, Distressed, Worried, Hopeful." See https://www.bestmoodrings.com/blog/mood-ring-color-chart-meanings

I have no clue if the author mentioned a mood necklace (I guess it could have been any type of jewelry) earlier in the book or not, or if this is what she meant, but it fits, and I'm no longer curious. Baseball game is on. Gotta go.

nightsmusic said...

@Joseph Snoe

I'm curious about the English author and if you'd read any other of her books. If so, do you think your expectations were based on her earlier work and a different genre and you were expecting that same...feeling through the new book?

I had an author who I devoured. She did a 7 or 8 book series that though they were stand alones, the characters were all intertwined. Then she switched genres, went from third to first person and it took the first five pages of the new story line which still called the old series into play for me to know that I would absolutely never read them. Thankfully, the excerpt was on her website so there was no money spent. But through the first series, I loved it enough to buy print, eBook and even the audio books.

I was devstated. Go figure.

Colin Smith said...

AJ: That's one criterion that leads me to want to finish a book. It doesn't mean I won't read non trad-published novels. Just that for trad-published novels, I consider the fact that an agent/editor liked it enough to invest in it.

Fact is, AJ, most of my reading these days comes from recommendations, and I can't remember the last time someone recommended a book to me that wasn't trad-pubbed. And I'm slowly working through a shelf full of those books. But I'm open to recommendations of self-pubbed books. I prefer paper to digital, but I'll certainly add them to the TBR if they sound interesting to me.

Joseph Snoe said...

nightsmusic - I probably shouldn't mention the author and book but I will (and if you love the book, bless you: I'm sure you're in the majority).

The author is P.D. James and the book is The Murder Room.

It was the first and only book of hers I have read. My expectations to the extent I had any were based on having seen her name over the years and knowing she had published many successful novels.

In line with your experience, I was disappointed in an English author who changed genres (and I've decided to omit the author and book title, but it must be a different author than the one you discussed). The writing was not the problem. The problem (at least two of them) (and I hesitate to disclose them fully in case some here wish to give it a try - it's not a bad book; I just expected better) was that the premise of the resolution and the motivations of why the detective was called into the story was [was is the correct verb here] used a ton in old time radio programs (which I love to listen to) and in fact heard the same gimmick the day after I finished the book. Cheesy - boo. Also I had two major complaints about the 'smoking gun' evidence - how it was found, and why the villain hadn't destroyed it long ago.

John Frain said...

Hank,

Just so you're aware (you don't have to care, I'm just compelled to mention), every time I read one of your messages now, I close it like this:

Be well
Hank Azaria

as a nod to your sisters' names. And then I laugh a little cuz I think I'm kinda funny especially when no one else does.

John Frain said...

Gosh darnit, I forgot the assignment again. And my dog didn't eat it.

I don't stop reading once I've started. But I cheat to get to the end quicker. I skim and sometimes I read only the first sentence of a paragraph. The only book I can remember not finishing -- but I will -- is Jon Franzen's The Corrections. I happen to like the guy, which probably puts me in the minority at the moment. Also, I'm not female, and I hear that helps.

kdjames.com said...

John said: "Also, I'm not female, and I hear that helps."

OMG. John, that was hilarious. Yes, you are very funny. (I haven't read Franzen, so this is a comment on his reputation, not his fiction.)

Reading all these comments is fascinating, and revealing. Taste in reading is so subjective. Kinda gives you a better understanding of why agents issue so many rejections and why it's not always a reflection of the quality of the work. But I am sorry to hear this assessment of THE CARTEL. So many people whose opinion I thought I respected purported to love it. But I also respect Janet's opinion of the genre.

As a writer, I think I learn more from truly horrible writing than I do from writing that is compelling and pulls me into the story and makes me not notice or care what the writer is doing. So it has value (to me) for that reason.

It's interesting, sometimes, to delve into a favourite writer's backlist and see how very far they've come with time and practice. Or, sadly, to see how they've lost some of that ability.

I have to confess that I read for different reasons, at different times. Sometimes, I just want to read something that demands very little from me. Something I can read after an intense night of writing that will push my own story out of my head for a while so I can sleep. Something completely predictable and unmemorable and safe, that won't surprise me or make me think or follow me into dreams. I'm so very grateful for those books, even though I realize it's a bit of an insult to the writer (and why I'll never name them) (because I know they'll get better, and who the hell am I to discourage that?).

And then there are the writers who I know will suck me in, without fail, and not let go until the last page. I save those books for other times, when I'm not writing, when I can give them the attention they deserve.

So subjective.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Someone, my brain is mush now, but Joseph is reminding me of this, mentioned turning away from books that get details wrong. This is a big stumbling block to me. Don't have someone in medieval England saying, "OK." Don't have a gazelle being born with horns. Commons sense, please. Horses are remarkable animals, but don't have them doing stupid stuff or galloping a hundred miles to save the day. If you're going to add historical details, get them right, because I am one of those nuts who will check to see if that's correct.

I don't care if it's historical fiction, at least try to stay true to the story, otherwise write historical fantasy and don't make any pretenses.

No, Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter or Jane Austen Sex Kitten wouldn't appeal to me.

Shaunna said...

I read the first 200 pages of Neal Stephenson's Anathem before I got into it. My brother, who gave it to me, made me promise to read that far before putting it down. I'm very glad he did because I loved the last 700 pages, but I would never have read them if not for him.

The Seasick Mermaid said...

I loved Lillian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who . . . books, but her final was was so painful to read. It was very much a draft, parts of it just notes strung together by an editor, maybe hoping to cash in on her name (at worst). I wish I'd stopped reading before the end. I very much doubt she'd have wanted it published in that state.

french sojourn said...


John Frain, I'm still laughing, and you are funny. Cheers.

Bonnie Shaljean....YES......."my mind sort of loosens its grip and I start skimming and skipping ahead, which is always a red flag"....a hundred times yes.

Be Well
Hank Azaria

french sojourn said...


Love the name "the seasick mermaid"

William Plante said...

Same experience with J.K. Rowling The Casual Vacancy.

nightsmusic said...

@Joseph Snoe

Ah! I thought it was the same author @William Plante mentioned. I couldn't keep track of all of the reviews that said the reader was so disappointed and I wondered if it was the change in genre and the reader expectation. I think maybe that's why she tried to distance herself from the Potter series but when you've been that absurdly successful with one genre/series, I would think you would almost have to expect the backlash she got.

I haven't read any of the Potter series *ducks,* but I wonder if I read the Casual Vacancy, would I like it for itself. Does that make sense?

And I'm back to the cabbage again! ARGH!

Elena said...

I don't want to write this. I don't want to be That Person. I love this blog, lurk it regularly, and enjoy the smart, witty comments just as much as Janet's wisdom.

But @W.R. Gingell, I had the same reaction as KC when I read your initial post. It felt like a punch to the gut. To be honest, your defense/qualifying responses to KC didn't make me feel a whole lot better.

I have zero interest in starting an internet fight, nor do I want to derail the thread. I've read/lurked this blog enough to know that everybody here has good intentions.

I'm writing this because I want KC to know that she wasn't alone in her reaction, and in case other queer readers felt the same but didn't feel safe speaking up.

I'm also well aware that the world--and certainly not the internet--is not obliged to bend to my feelings.

But as a reader/fan of this blog, I would ask this, of W.R. Gingell and everyone: don't dilute your honesty, but please be kind when you post.

It is guaranteed that there are commenters here that don't share your race, gender, sexual orientation and the myriad other things that are a part of one's IDENTITY.

It only takes a second to review a post before you hit the publish button, and I don't think it takes much energy to clarify/be mindful of things that could legitimately hurt other people who are only here to learn and laugh with everybody else.

Janet, I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds here, and I really hope I'm not coming off as attack-ish. Have a great day everybody.

Lurkingly yours,
Elena

Waverly said...

Seattle's celebrity librarian Nancy Pearl has a handy rule she's developed. You must 50 pages of any book before stopping but once you turn 50 you can subtract your actual age from 100 and you only need to read that many pages. By the time you turn 100, you can judge a book by its cover.

I am a big fan of this rule. So many books, so little time.

Also I wanted to chime in (sorry I forgot who said this) but I could not read the first Harry Potter. The writing made me cringe. Have tried several times since with no success. I admit the story is brilliant. I wanted to find out what happened but couldn't get through the amateurish writing. I'm sure it got better as she went along.

I tend to get my books from the library so that makes it easier to stop reading them if I don't like them. Then I buy them if I love them so the writer and the publisher (and the agent!) will get some money.

W.R. Gingell said...

Elena, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I can't let you or anyone else dictate what I do and don't read.

You'll notice I also remarked that I stop reading when I come across characters I don't identify with. Do you also assume I associate that with rape?? It was in the list of stuff I don't read, too, further down. I also said I don't read sex scenes. Do yo also assume I associate that with rape and bestiality?
I also said I don't like to read bad language. Tack on that 'do you also' here again.

It really seems that people are just trying to take offense here. I haven't gone over your lists and said: "Oh, you don't read that! You horrible person!"

Because that's your right. You can read whatever you want. I can read whatever I want.

Why so judgy?? Why so intolerent?

These are things that I personally do not like to read. How about anyone who is offended just decide to step back, realise that not everyone likes to read what they like to read, and stop taking offense at everything?

I have been on blogs that do not read Christian fiction. It is listed as such:

Do not read:

*Child Molestation
*Animal Killings
*Rape
*Christian Books

Am I supposed to get offended because they listed Christian books in with rape and animal killings, et al?

No.

Because it's just something they don't like to read about.

Honestly. You know where else you find Homosexuality listed with other unpleasant things? The dictionary.

Are you going to be offended at that, too?

I also apologise to Janet if this has gone astray, but I like to defend myself against people who simply take offense at everything. I like the people on here, but I thought we were allowed to have our own thoughts, and read the books we like to read, not the ones that a consensus decides are suitable.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Things that'll make me put a book down:

--Voice'n'style that's difficult to read (including too many grammar/spelling errors--common in indie books published before their time, alas).
--Too many swear words. Swear words are powerful, especially F. Because of their strength, I feel their use needs to be limited. If a text is peppered with them, it throws off the power balance and ruins the tension of the scene for me. But the occasional one, placed for best effect, works for me.
--Unlikeable characters. Why on earth would I want to know their story?
--Rape scenes, more for the unlikeable character aspect, rather than the violence (though that is also a bit factor). A rapist is a pretty nasty character. Why would I want to spend company with him or have to cope with the emotional devestation he's racked on his victim(s)?
--Sex scenes that don't have significant impact on the plot. I know, I know, I'm a Romance author, but sex scenes for titillation's sake just doesn't do it for me. If a sex scene furthers the plot, I'm okay with it. (Currently, I have no sex scenes in any of my Romance novels, but have a few in my Fantasy novels, and they do serve to forward the plot.) I will skip through sex scenes in Romance novels as I tend to find them dull. If the novel is mostly sex scenes and the plot or characters aren't working for me, I'll put it down.
--Lack of optimism--One of the reasons I refuse to read most literary novels. I've encountered far too many that are all doom'n'gloom with no light at the end of the tunnel. If I'm reading any book (regardless of genre) and it's not got any hope or light or hint of positivity, I'll give up. I read for escapism. I've got enough grief in my life; I don't need to add to it through fiction.
--Dull plot with no other redeeming characteristics. I love plot. If you don't have a good enough plot, and you don't have anything else to make up for it, it's bye-bye.
I recently read an indie author who had a hooky voice'n'style and appealing characters, but was absolutely hopeless when it came to plot. I read to the end, but felt disappointed in the tepid plot arc. As his voice was a MAJOR redeeming feature for me, I attempted another of his novels. This one was more character-based, and worked better. Still, I believe he could have been one of our literary greats, if it wasn't for his appalling plot skills. So sad.
I LOVED Harry Potter because plot.
--Pacing too slow. Ain't nobody got time for that.



As for pink gills with green spots, that sounds like a metaphor for envy.

french sojourn said...

Elena, well put and stop lurking and join in. I am probably the most guilty of posting and then realising how abrasive I sound. I believe the group here understands and puts up with it as they get I have hoof in mouth. As an observer the list struck me as well, but I honestly believe it wasn't malicious. K.C. has bullet points to her desired reading criterior as I'm sure you do. The beauty of this group is all are welcome and appreciated for the light each give off.....hell Colin and I are still allowed. ....even though we are roomies on Karkoon. Be well
Hank

Jeff Deitering said...

There's enough drama in real life so I tend to stay with books I believe will be heavy on humor and low on gratuitous violence. I don't have to like the main character but if I don't find any character with any redeeming qualities within the first 25% of the book I'll move on to something else.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

Same here. I have to like the character enough to root for them, even if I don't admire or approve of their actions.

And absolutely under no circumstances will I read torture or physical mutilation scenes - if they don't make me put the book down altogether, I skip past them, allowing plenty of leeway. Those just overload the emotional circuits (not in a good way: it has a paralysing effect) and ruin my day. I've often wished that the mind could barf stuff out the way the body can, and just be totally rid of all memory of it.

W.R. Gingell said...

Elena, also ditto what Hank says: always feel free to stop lurking and join in, even if we two don't agree. I'm sure you mean no offense just as I mean none, and I also just delurked recently (some months ago).

I meant no offense to KC or anyone else, but I will still hold to it that taking offense at someone's don't read list is an entirely alien and odd concept. It certainly wasn't aimed at anyone, it's my own personal list.

Elena said...

@Hank, thank you. Love this blog.

@W.R. Gingell

I wasn't "trying to get offended." I was trying to read the comments to an interesting question that Janet posed. Then I read your comments and felt unwelcome in a blog I love to follow.

I tried to point this out to you respectfully but honestly. I very specifically pointed to what you wrote rather than who you are as a person. I also thought I made it wicked clear that my intent wasn't to be attack-ish and assumed good intent.

I mean, I mostly lurk. Attention and controversy are not things I seek. I'm usually too much in awe of the other commenters to offer any insight. I’ve got "carriage wit."

Your response assumes I get some sort of self-righteous pleasure out of this. I don't. I felt sick to my stomach after I posted yesterday. It's TERRIFYING for me to be a dissenting voice about something so personal. Because I admire the people on this blog and I don't want them to dislike lurky ol me. Because I knew very well no matter how even-handed or clear I tried to be that I wasn't out for a fight, that you or other people might still respond with hostility--which you did. Not to mention risking the wrath of the shark!

Your initial post in this thread was thoughtless. Not as in, "you're a bad person and you should feel bad" but "what you wrote was thoughtless."

More context, which may help: there's a whole thing in the world where people declare gay folks to be one step away from bestiality, or associate gayness with other bad things and it's all just super depressing. As written, any reader would assume you were equating those things.

No one is trying to force you or anyone else to read "homosexual themes" if that isn't your thing.

Look, a fellow reader and commenter alerted you to the fact that your post was hurtful. KC and I both had a visceral, unpleasant reaction to what you wrote. Because when it comes to stuff like this, it's not an intellectual exercise in offense. It's like, our existence.

Everyone at some point has typed and posted quickly and then realized that they came off, as Hank said, abrasive. Most of the time it's just a matter of people not thinking things through for the sake of expediency. Most people, myself included, totally get that and give other folks the benefit of a doubt when they say or do thoughtless things.

And I get that when someone calls you out, the knee jerk reaction is to come back full throttle, WHAT I SAID WASN'T A PROBLEM, YOU'RE THE PROBLEM...YOU...PROBLEM, i.e. defensive.

But this is a pretty close-knit blog, right? I mean, if a friend comes to me and tells me that I did or said something hurtful, my own sacred opinion or not, I'm going to take her feelings into consideration and apologize, own up to whatever I said or did, and clarify if there was a genuine misunderstanding (and accept the fact that the wounded party does not owe me forgiveness). Because that is the respectful thing to do.

Instead you made it out like KC and my reactions are the problem here, that the issue is us not getting it, or being oversensitive.

I'm using words like "hurt" and "feelings" to be clear I’m coming from a place of "fellow reader" rather than "person with agenda."

So there's no doubt: there's no hostility or pc police afoot here. Again: It doesn't take much energy or self-sacrifice to be mindful of things that could legitimately hurt other people who are only here to learn and laugh with everybody else. I don't think that's unreasonable to ask.

Allison Newchurch said...

I'm with Theresa on this.

So many books; so little time.

I'd normally give a book 2-3 chapters before I hit 'delete' on my Kindle. There are just far too many books that I want to read to waste my time on something that I am not enjoying.

W.R. Gingell said...

@Elena

Okay, hang in there, I'll try not to be too long!

I wasn't "trying to get offended." I was trying to read the comments to an interesting question that Janet posed. Then I read your comments and felt unwelcome in a blog I love to follow.

After your comments, which to me honestly came across as condescending and (please excuse me) self-righteous, I felt unwelcome on a blog I love to follow. That's not your fault, that was my perception. All I ask is that you consider that your perceptions did the same thing to you. I'm sick of repeating that sex scenes and character that I don't connect with were on the same list. Your perceptions led you to ignore the simple logic that in that case, I cannot have been equating homosexual themes with rape, bestiality, et al. If you still do after all the times I've pointed that out, I'm afraid I can't say anything that's going to make sense to you.

I tried to point this out to you respectfully but honestly. I very specifically pointed to what you wrote rather than who you are as a person. I also thought I made it wicked clear that my intent wasn't to be attack-ish and assumed good intent.

I mean, I mostly lurk. Attention and controversy are not things I seek. I'm usually too much in awe of the other commenters to offer any insight. I’ve got "carriage wit."

Your response assumes I get some sort of self-righteous pleasure out of this. I don't. I felt sick to my stomach after I posted yesterday. It's TERRIFYING for me to be a dissenting voice about something so personal. Because I admire the people on this blog and I don't want them to dislike lurky ol me. Because I knew very well no matter how even-handed or clear I tried to be that I wasn't out for a fight, that you or other people might still respond with hostility--which you did. Not to mention risking the wrath of the shark!


I also become sick to my stomach at conflict, so I'm sympathetic with you here. It's horrible to start shaking and feeling like you're gonna chuck because you feel that you have to speak out. I feel the same way, but from the other side of the fence. We can agree that neither of us deserve to feel that way. It's why I took so long to even comment on this blog, because I knew that sooner or later, someone would take offense whether I meant them to or not. What you assumed to be hostility in my previous post was, in fact, frustration. Frustration that no matter how many times I pointed out the logic of the situation, people were still gonna be offended because they didn't really read my comment, and took a knee-jerk reaction of the matter. If this came across as hostile to you, I'm sorry. I don't want anyone to feel the way I feel when I have to argue a point.

Your initial post in this thread was thoughtless. Not as in, "you're a bad person and you should feel bad" but "what you wrote was thoughtless."

More context, which may help: there's a whole thing in the world where people declare gay folks to be one step away from bestiality, or associate gayness with other bad things and it's all just super depressing. As written, any reader would assume you were equating those things.


I disagree. It wasn't at all thoughtless. I've pointed out the logic of this above, and so so many times since. I can't be blamed for Your perception of what I said, only of what I said. I stop reading when I come across homosexual themes. I stop when I get to sex scenes. I stop when I get to rape scenes. The only common factor here is that I stop when I get to any of the things on this list. Not that they're similar to each other. Again, logic should tell you that if you read the rest of the comment and the other things in the list.

W.R. Gingell said...

No one is trying to force you or anyone else to read "homosexual themes" if that isn't your thing.

Look, a fellow reader and commenter alerted you to the fact that your post was hurtful. KC and I both had a visceral, unpleasant reaction to what you wrote. Because when it comes to stuff like this, it's not an intellectual exercise in offense. It's like, our existence.


And i'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm not responsible for your feelings, or your knee-jerk reactions. A logical reading of the list should have informed you otherwise. You're the only one who can control your reactions. Your reactions just made me feel that you hadn't read my comment properly- or any of my subsequent comments.

Both of your comments made it clear that you'd taken the list personally (KC for instance saying 'finding myself in the same list'. I don't know how you can think that a list of my reading preferences in any way refers to you personally.

Everyone at some point has typed and posted quickly and then realized that they came off, as Hank said, abrasive. Most of the time it's just a matter of people not thinking things through for the sake of expediency. Most people, myself included, totally get that and give other folks the benefit of a doubt when they say or do thoughtless things.

And I get that when someone calls you out, the knee jerk reaction is to come back full throttle, WHAT I SAID WASN'T A PROBLEM, YOU'RE THE PROBLEM...YOU...PROBLEM, i.e. defensive.

But this is a pretty close-knit blog, right? I mean, if a friend comes to me and tells me that I did or said something hurtful, my own sacred opinion or not, I'm going to take her feelings into consideration and apologize, own up to whatever I said or did, and clarify if there was a genuine misunderstanding (and accept the fact that the wounded party does not owe me forgiveness). Because that is the respectful thing to do.

Instead you made it out like KC and my reactions are the problem here, that the issue is us not getting it, or being oversensitive.

I'm using words like "hurt" and "feelings" to be clear I’m coming from a place of "fellow reader" rather than "person with agenda."

So there's no doubt: there's no hostility or pc police afoot here. Again: It doesn't take much energy or self-sacrifice to be mindful of things that could legitimately hurt other people who are only here to learn and laugh with everybody else. I don't think that's unreasonable to ask.


I get that, but I don't think I was thoughtless or unreasonable. All that occurred to me was that people were getting hurt and taking things personally because of a knee-jerk reaction of their own. I still think that. And I can't apologise for my comment, because I said nothing wrong. I can't control your reactions, or what you decide to get hurt at; and honestly, yes- I do think it's your reaction at fault, and not my comment. But I can't do anything about that, just as you'll feel you can't do anything about what you're certain is my 'thoughtlessness'.

We're gonna have to agree to disagree, I'm afraid. I will, however, try not to let my frustration make me snarky again, because I know very well how sick conflict makes me, and I really don't want to make you feel like that, either. That, I can control.

Liz Mallory said...

I used to read books all the way through no matter how much I hated them. But as I've grown as a writer, I've come to recognize when there are underlying problems that won't (usually) get better -- for instance, no early-on moment where the author gives us a reason, however small, to care about the protagonist's journey. Or when stereotypical portrayals of minority characters show no introspection that suggests the author used the stereotype on purpose.

Elena said...

@ W.R. Gingell

For what it’s worth, if you’d written that you don’t read books with identity perspectives outside your own—which, if I understand you correctly, isn’t as specific, but still generally true to you and your reading preferences—it’s unlikely that anyone would have read your comments and experienced an unpleasant punch side effect. For all anybody would have known, you’re a mermaid living in the Mediterranean Sea and you do not care for the novels of the Pacific.

Singling out a specific minority group in the context of the rest of your list was the source of the hurt for me. I wrote in because K.C. had the same reaction, and I wanted her to know “not just you.” I did not want her to feel alone, or for other queer lurkers to infer her reaction was an isolated one.

You answered a question from Janet honestly. Just as you have the right to be honest, other commenters have the right to be honest and say so if a comment hurts them, signal support for each other, and send out a friendly reminder that there are all sorts of people reading this blog.

So yes, it was about you because it was a reaction to your comment, but simultaneously it wasn’t about you. Sincerely. I did not assume ill intent, and I didn’t suggest that unless you read certain books you are reading all wrong and should feel bad as a person, or alternatively that people who read Lambda award-winners are somehow better people. Truly, we’re not at odds on that issue. Plenty of people read widely and never pay their parking tickets or whatever.

I agree we’ve reached an impasse, and welcome a new day.

Elena said...

@kdjames "Taste in reading is so subjective. Kinda gives you a better understanding of why agents issue so many rejections and why it's not always a reflection of the quality of the work."

That's such a good point. I once had an editor at a business journal reject an article by a couple of client authors of mine. Normally I wouldn't question the decision, but it surprised me because I'd gone back and forth with the editor when my clients were in the early draft stages and the editor seemed very interested and invested.

When I asked the editor why, he said, "It's the we."

Me: "The 'we'? Oh, do you mean ex. 'We've found...' etc? Would it help if they took extra steps to clarify exactly who the 'we' is within the text?"

Editor: "It's all the plural pronouns. Them. Like they're watching me."

Me: "........Sure. Gotcha."

On a whim I edited the article in question, changed the title and did my best to strip as many plural pronouns as I could--which, you can imagine. I resubmitted to the editor and he was like, "Great! Looking forward to publishing this."

These are our gatekeepers, lol. Said editor has since moved on from the journal. I think of him sometimes and wonder how he's coping in a plural pronoun world. But yes, I keep the "it's not always the quality of the writing" mantra in my head because it often genuinely isn't.

Thick descriptions of setting--pages--can force me to put a book down. I think that's why I don't read a lot of spaceship/high tech-type Sci-fi, as those can be pretty description-dense.

I mean, I will totally hang in there for the 10 pages describing the dashboard if I know that an antago-naut is planning to rewire the cup holder button to open the airlock, but otherwise it's hard to keep reading. A lack of sustained tension I guess.

A lot of other times it's a matter of "come for the plot, stay for the voice." And sometimes the voice drops.

If nothing surprises me. There's definitely a pleasure in reading a story where you know from the cover what you're in for, but if I can literally predict what a character is going to say or see things coming a mile away, it's tough to keep going.