Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When is a Book not a Book?

When it's a cup of tea. Or not.
The question is, "What causes you to put down a book?"
It's an answer that changes over time. Right? When little I loved picture books. Then I loved adventure stories, then got serious and read a range of novels. Then got busy and life became serious enough thank you, so I looked for light entertainment. Then got even busier and read very little. These days I can rarely finish any book, no matter how excellent.

But it's not a question of taste so much at this particularly mad phase of my life. It's a question of schedule. I am too busy, my brain is fried by the p.m., and my attention span seems kind of ... wonky.

Probably what it comes down to is I need a vacation.
My day-job has me at my computer all day, and working with words. And whenever I can, I write. Words, words, and more words fill my day. And writing is no longer an option, but a duty. With publisher pressures and deadlines -- a corner I've painted myself into (which is so great!!) -- I'm more serious than ever about my writing, and have to put quality time into getting those novels as good as I can get them.

Sadly, this overload means that for now the books I want to read are going unread. By the end of the day the only kind of reading I can manage is plug into an audio book, an old classic that I don't need to listen to because I know it off by heart, and go to sleep. It's a lullaby more than a literary exploration.
But I know things will improve (maybe next month?) and I'll have time to relax. And read. I really, really want to relax and read. Disneyland or Everest, no thanks. Just a book and a day off. And then I'll be facing the question at the top of this post....

What causes me to put a book down? Or conversely, to keep going? It's so straightforward really, and it goes way back to the picture books (Madeleine! Curious George! Old Winkle and the Seagulls!): So long as a book has characters I care for, and things happen, I'll read it to the end, with pleasure.
And the opposite is true. Don't like the characters, nothing happens, book flies at the wall.
Of course the character I care for may not be the character you care for, and what I consider an engaging plot you may consider dross.  
It's a good thing that what people are looking for in the books they read is so amazingly diverse. It creates a need. It means my crime novel will not be one person's cup of tea -- what a nice phrase that is -- but somebody else will think it's splendidly blended!


colleen said...

If the conversations are stilted, if the women are portrayed as dolls, if there is no fashion, food, or mystery, if there are no heroes, if the print is too small, if there is nothing about the author on the book jacket, if one of the characters is not Dion.

Ann in Rochester said...

A decade or so ago I gave myself permission to leave a book unfinished. If I am no longer intrigued, when I really don't give a damn how it ends, when there is something in my TBR pile that is calling my name, but mostly when I get grindingly bored, then I toss it aside with elan. I am too old, and there are so many books I want to read, so why should I waste time on things that bring no pleasure. PS. I never finished Ulysses, just so you know. Or Midflemarch.

Paul D. Marks said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, RM, when you said, "So long as a book has characters I care for, and things happen." It's really down to the characters. If they're fleshed out and you/we care about them we want to see what happens to them and hope it works out okay. That helps motivate us to finish the book.