6.12.06

Compulsions

It's that time of the year: Best Books (in genres, in age groups, in you pick the category/criteria). Waterboro Library has a nice round up here.

This got me thinking about the Little Professor's recent post about "must keep on" authors. She then goes on to ponder the related phenomenon of "must keep on tv".
[P]eople who feel obligated to press on, dutifully or otherwise, with a television series or a film franchise--even though they announce to the world at regular (and, to be honest, aggravating) intervals that said series or franchise is relentlessly bad. Unbelievably awful. Mind-blowingly terrible. (Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, as the King of Siam likes to say.) Thus, people trooped off to see the second and third Star Wars prequels because, goshdurnit, they had invested themselves in this story; just because the execution left something to be desired (a lot to be desired...) didn't mean that they were going to act like the proverbial rats. Similarly, when television shows go off the rails, die-hard fans may rant and rave, but they'll grimly announce that they're sticking it out until the bitter end...
Bringing it back to books, she writes
To what extent does this sense of self-imposed obligation extend to the written word? Do people feel that they have a ball-and-chain connecting them to a given author--or, perhaps, to a given series? For example, do longtime fans feel that they must pick up the latest Pern or Xanth novel?
Given that the plethora of lists touting the New/Best of the year have "repeat" authors, it seemed like a good time to examine my own thoughts on the topic.

As we know, I have many books by the same author in The Collection (and some authors are also on Mt. Bookpile). Does that mean I automatically purchase their books without thinking? No. Particularly in the area of genre fiction (mystery, sci-fi) it depends on the series and the author. One mystery author has a series that is teetering: there was a 'bad patch' of a couple of books, then a mediocre book, then a couple of good ones. I'm sticking with this, but this is not necessarily a Must Read Author. Another few authors are Avoid The New Book authors because they've declined in quality. It's not a hard-and-fast rule for me: sometimes, the subject matter just does not appeal. Other times, well, I'd read anything they wrote.**

I feel the same about tv. Several series I'll stick with "until the bitter end" (no names, because they were truly awful series!). Many, including some real "what do you mean you didn't watch that" shows, I've dropped after the first couple of seasons because the charm of the start got lost. This is particularly true of a gimmick show (about, say, Nothing) that gets too self-aware. And there are certain movies I won't go to, unless dragged, because I just don't care about seeing the next [your favorite director/series/actor] here. I'll even fake being violently ill to avoid certain actors/directors.

You?

(** this freedom of choice does not include books that I Must Read for work reasons. Let's just say I'm very very happy that a certain series about a boy wizard with a facial scar is ending soon)

5 comments:

Sherri said...

I have surrendered authors because either I felt their work declined or it veered in a direction I did not like -- even authors whom I revere for some of their writing, like Ursula Le Guin (I've been roundly unhappy with most of her post 1970s writing, although I occassionally pick up a new book just to see what the status is). I read a lot of series oriented genre literature, so I tend to check out the newest titles in a series until I hit the One That Is Awful. I hae no guilt at all about not reading any more (and I am under no obligation to read about That Boy Wizard...after the 4th book, I lost interest, although the movies are ok enough if I don't want to think about them much.)

I have slogged through less than great books in a series under one condition -- I bought them in omnibus editions and I'm holding out for the better books ahead. I do have a "thing" about continuity and I hate missing middle bits, even if they are not well written middle bits. We are all, in the end, victims of our predilictions and obsessions.

I don't watch series TV anymore because anything I liked tended to be canceled. I guess that indicates my tastes in TV.

camillofan said...

I abandoned Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes-Mary Russell mystery series after just loving it to pieces through three entries. I mean, I was a *fan*. I'd seen King in person, my first online community was the RUSS-L mailing list, I routinely listed the first book in the series (which combined my 3 favorite things: Holmes, Oxford, and theology) among my top 10 novels ever. And then...

One day, all of a sudden, the whole premise of an aging Sherlock Holmes married to a girl young enough to be his grand-daughter (and whom he'd half-raised from adolescence) utterly creeped me out. I keep buying the books in paperback, but I haven't read one since I gave up most of the was through #4 in the series.

I'm sure there are others, but that was a real 180 for me.

Aravis said...

Yes, I've started reading authors compulsively only to eventually give up on them after a time, usually because after reading multiple works it began to feel formulaic and predictable. I do tend to feel guilty about not finishing a book or even the occasional series, so I try to slog through them. It's that touch of OCD that kicks in and tortures me before I'll finally stop reading. But with series especially, I might give up before the end.

I'm more apt to continue to watch a tv series in hopes that the writers will get their heads out of their backsides at some point and start cranking out a better storyline again.

Aravis said...

Oh, and I won't go see the movies of certain actors (and actresses) either. I dislike them so much that I simply can't get into a character that they are playing; I only see the actor.

Sherri said...

Cammillofan, you might give "O Jerusalem" a try. It is set BEFORE the marriage, and is not only a wonderful mystery, it is a very interesting look at pre WWI Palestine. I still follow the series, and while the quality of the books is mixed, I've really only hit 1 that really didn't do it for me.

The age thing never has gotten to me. It's uncommon in modern US culture, but young girls wed to elderly men is standard elsewhere and historically. I figure this fictional pairing, unlikely as it is, is a better match than the ones that actually happen. I'm such a Utopian sometimes :)