"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why am I Reading Three Books at Once?

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.
- Walter Bagehot

Now in all fairness I must say I don’t know who Walter Bagehot is, and my first inclination at reading this quote was to say—What? Have you not been to your local library lately? Who are you and how dare you talk so dismissively about the throes of writing anything! What do you, Walter Bagehot, know?

Then I looked at the current stack of library books competing with my uncompleted income tax returns for attention and wondered . . . why am I reading three books at once?

I started the first novel (highly acclaimed by review) with high expectations but couldn’t get through the laborious, over-written prologue. So I set it aside and started novel # 2 but soon found myself flipping through to the end of chapter one. Now this is death to a writer. To have a reader thumbing through your first chapter? Dear Lord! This is the dreaded sharpie-taken-to-your-manuscript in any respectable writer’s circle! So, how did novel #2 get past a writer’s group and an agent and an editor to become published? With lowered expectations I started novel #3 with its cleaver title and intriguing book jacket copy written to lure me in. I skimmed through the first five pages that every writer knows is paramount to success, waiting to be hooked. But sometimes it takes ten or twenty or even fifty pages to be hooked and I'm a patient reader, so I plodded ahead, only to be introduced to character after character I feared I would care nothing about. In fact, I knew every detail of their predictable lives before each was revealed and cared not a whit for any of it.

And so they sit, on top of my yet-to-be-filed income tax returns as I browse through my own bookshelves for old dog-eared paperbacks and so-called classics which might be nothing more than books written by people who knew things.

So, Walter Bagehot, whoever you are, I offer my apologies.

1 comment:

Yvonne said...

Update to this post.

I recently read two new books borrowed from the library which I'm considering adding to my list of "recommends". I know there are thousands of literary treasures out there that I have yet to discover. My point is that we shouldn't give reviews, which are nothing more than one person's opinion, so much weight. Speaking of....on certain websites that post novel excerpts, do you get the feeling that folks are just trading reviews? You give me five stars and I'll give you five?