Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dilemma

Say you're reading a book that runs to about 400 pages. The first quarter is excellent, but over the next eighty pages it becomes repetitive, the plot lags, and you start to wonder why you should care. With just over half the book to go, do you a) put the book aside and instead read that brisk, funny Nicholson Baker novel you've got sitting on your book shelf; b) continue reading for another fifty-odd pages in the hope that things will pick up and with full knowledge that even if they don't you'll probably end up finishing the thing out of a misplaced sense of duty; or c) finish reading it because you've come this far and you might as well see how it turns out.

The book is The French Lieutenant's Woman, by the way. Perhaps I ought to add a fourth option, d) flick through until you find the sex scene, read it, then put the book aside and read the Baker.

4 comments:

JPW said...

Never waste your time struggling with a book. If you can't or don't want to handle it, set it aside, and move on to something else. Forcing yourself through a book is of no value whatsoever. But hang on to it - it may just be that a few days, weeks, months or years down the track, it will be exactly what you want. But read only as it takes your fancy, and not out of a sense of duty.

Tim said...

I'm not averse to turfing a book if I don't like it, but I hate it when I'm halfway through a long or longish book and I have to decide whether to persevere. Because often a book will pick up again - but just as often it won't. That's the dilemma.

JPW said...

That's why you cheat and skim ahead a chapter or two. Some fear that this ruins the plot, if it's a work of fiction, but the fact of the matter is, competent authors don't fill their books with shit and spread the good bits around the volume: it's either all good, or it's not good at all. There are too many excellent books to worry about picking the sparse diamonds out of bad ones.

Mindy said...

life is too short to read books you aren't enjoying. go for the Baker.