Monday, March 29, 2010

Attempted and Abandoned


I hardly ever, almost never fail to finish a book. Even if I don't like it, I usually plunge on through.

Lately, however, the philosophy that "life is too short to read books you don't like" is starting to make sense to me.

Hence, no more of this book. It is just too incoherent for my taste. It is more like a listing of facts and figures, with some personal asides thrown in. I can find no logical progressions, no connections between paragraphs, no transitions between subjects. It's as if the author did a lot of rather random research on, say, adolescence, wrote each fun fact on an index card, typed them into the manuscript without making any effort to put them in some kind of order, and called it a chapter. I'd like to buy a "however," please, Pat.

I'm on page 48, so I've given the author some time to get organized. Meanwhile, I'm constantly distracted by thoughts of "Good grief, did anyone edit this thing???" Surprisingly, the author himself is a multiply-published writer of fiction and non-fiction, an editor, and an English professor. Perhaps he is drinking too much coffee.

I'm quite disappointed, as I was looking forward to reading this one, based on the title and some things I'd read about it. But alas, it's not for me. Page 48 is as far as I go.

Has anyone read this? What's your opinion? I'd like to hear it.

Excerpt:

(2-sentence paragraph about possible evolutionary purpose for adolescent acne)

(5-sentence paragraph about testosterone, no mention of acne)

Hair grows about half an inch a month; it grows fastest in young adults, and fastest of all in girls between ages 16 and 24. Brain scans of people processing a romantic gaze, new mothers listening to infant cries, and subjects under the influence of cocaine bear a striking resemblance to one another. According to Daniel McNeill, "Our pupils reach peak size in adolescence, almost certainly as a lure in love, then slowly contract till age sixty." As [my teenaged daughter] Natalie would say--as she actually did say--"That's awesome."

When she asked me why people write graffiti, I tried to explain how teenage boys need to ruin what's there in order to become who they are. I talked about boys at the swimming pool who simply wouldn't obey the pleasant female lifeguard asking them to leave the pool at closing time; they left only when asked gruffly by the male African-American lifeguard, and then they left immediately.

(8-sentence paragraph about his father's memory of hitting his grandfather in the face with a kickball)

(1-sentence quote from Boyd McCandless about a child "being" the body)

(2-sentence quote from Tolstoy about criminal tendencies of children between 12 and 14 out of curiosity or desire for action)

5 comments:

  1. If I find myself several chapters into a book and we're not bonding, I give up. There are too many other books waiting!

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  2. I used to never abandon a book. I just didn't have it in me. I now prescribe to the theory that life IS too short to spend time on really bad books. I can now step away from an unfinished book. It's tough, but I can do it. I still wince.

    I'm not familiar with this book.

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  3. Nope, never read it and now quite unlikely too. I recently didn't finish a book I was quite anticipating too. There is something uniquely sad about a book that just doesn't measure up.

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  4. That sounds just awful!

    I can count on one hand the books I've abandoned. But two of them were in the past few months -- both books that publishers sent to me without asking. Both were textbooks trying for a wider audience. Both were as impossible to choke down as two-day old oatmeal.

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  5. I agree, life's too short, too many good books waiting.
    May you find that your next book is an excellent read!

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