Monday, December 12, 2005

Not Finishing a Book

I know some people who feel that once they've begun reading a book, they are obliged to finish it. They may complain, and procrastinate, but finish it they do. I've also heard of people with a "50 page rule" who make themselves read at least 50 pages before giving up on a book.

I, on the other hand, have abandoned books on the strength of a bad opening sentence. Any book that begins with an explanation of how the heroine came to have her (clever) name is an immediate throwaway. Likewise any book that opens with "sportswriter" narration, that is, one-sentence paragraphs.

"Jenna was tired.
Really really tired."

Out it goes. Also bad dialogue. And overuse of characters' names in the dialogue. There are too many wonderful, well-written books out there to waste time on what doesn't work.

This week I abandoned Borrowed Finery, by Paula Fox, after one chapter, because it was boring (though not badly written). There is a sequel to this called The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe, which looked interesting. But I thought I should try the first volume of the memoir first (which was Borrowed Finery). Perhaps if I had known anything in advance about Fox's life I might have been more interested. But I am interested in women's wartime stories. Can I read the sequel without reading volume 1? I guess we'll see.

I haven't decided what the system will be on this blog for unfinished books. I think I will just decide as I go along. If I have anything to say, I will say it. I don't assign letter grades to unfinished books unless I read enough to really feel I understand the book's problem, in which case I usually assign a C or D. Books that rank an F are the ones abandoned after a few pages. It hardly seems worth mentioning them here.


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