21.3.08

Bad Patch

Unlike some, I usually don't pre-plan my reading. It's all in jumbled piles and boxes and on shelves, and I grab one, read it and grab the next. Generally this works out quite well -- different styles, genres, topics and minimal boredom.

The last two books I've read were different in style and genre, but equally bad. The first was a children's/YA book that felt, well, like I'd read it before. There was nothing new here for me, either in terms of plot, motif, character, whatever.
Disclaimer: I am the sort of reader that would flunk English classes at MPOW. I don't care about literary theory. It's too much work to think of heroes and archetypes and allusions and What This All Means. My definition of a good book? Have I escaped into another world for as long as the book's pages allowed? Am I secretly participating as Mallory solves another case? Am I on patrol with Sgt. Vimes? Is Mrs. Danvers creeping me out, too? That sort of thing. Non-fiction should be equally entrancing, not Hitting Me Over the Head with the Point of the Book. Bad books do none of this -- I'm easily distracted, I start to think about where I've heard/read/done this before, and I just don't care.
I mentioned this in my GoodReads review and lo-and-behold, the author comments that clearly I've gotten it wrong, these are timeless themes. Timeless perhaps, but I shouldn't feel that he's borrowed from different books. Boy may very well meet girl, but I shouldn't be thinking "oh, yeah, it's just like in _____ book". Good may very well triumph over evil, but if I can name four other books/movies in which the action took place, the author is merely rehashing old stuff. A colleague had also read the book and her thoughts were that the characters were 2-D and the entire thing read like a role-playing scenario. Mr. Author, pffft.

The next book was supposed to be Literary Fiction/Mystery. I'd gotten it as an ARC from our book vendor, which should have sent up red flags right then. In this book, the author was just too in love with the "sound" of his own words. Adjectives and adverbs abounded, and not in a good way. The whole thing felt forced, and again I felt that there were obvious influences on the style and plot.

I've asked before, and I'll ask again: where are all the good editors? Why is the world of Children's/YA Lit so desperate that they're publishing utter crap simply to put product on the shelf? AARRGHHH.

My next read is a biography. If this one is also badly written, I may have to give up reading for a while to totally cleanse my palate!

2 comments:

camillofan said...

I am the sort of person those literary theory classes were made for. I love picking things apart and arguing about archetypes and so on. But I know that I'm more the exception than the rule, even among hard-core readers. Indeed, I've tried leading online book discussions (via list-serves) and, though I deliberately wrote what I thought were general questions that might appeal to people other than me, I always had very few responders.

That said, if a book doesn't work for me as a good read, even if it's enjoyably dissectable according to all the usual egghead templates, I'm not afraid to say that the whole was less than the sum of the parts. Conversely, a fun read that collapses under heavy-duty analysis is still a success in the way that counts most.

Here's one area in which I suppose you'd say my standards are low: as long as it pleases me, I don't hold it against a book if it seems a bit derivative (or by-the-numbers with respect to its genre). Then again, I don't read as many books as I used to; perhaps if I cranked through three or more a week, I'd insist on more originality.

Aravis said...

I can't stand it when one story becomes the same as another; it's so boring! I usually start reading a different genre for awhile when that happens. The new one might very well be formulaic also, but at least it's a different formula.

*sigh*

Better luck with the next one.