Wednesday, January 22, 2014

E.L Doctorow


In the NYT on Sunday, Doctorow said that if he too easily sees what an author is up to, he puts the book aside. I do that on occasion myself but only if I don't want to go where an author is going or if the book seems too heavily dependent on plot.

If I see early on that the book is going to be about pedophilia I am unlikely to finish it. If I see it's about a serial killer, I put it aside.

What about you? Do you need to be surprised to enjoy a book? I admit it's a bonus but I don't demand it if the characters are interesting and the voice compelling.

13 comments:

R.T. said...

What if the offensive content is being used ironically? I cite _Lolita_ as an example.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not endorsing _Lolita_, even though I know that the author has created the disgusting narrator for an ironic purpose. I cannot tolerate Nabokov's novel.

But, do you think irony lets you get beyond your objections?

pattinase (abbott) said...

No. I don't think irony would permit me to read about issues I consider too unpleasant to spend time dwelling on. There are just a few red zones for me.

R.T. said...

I was also bothered by the Dexter books (and TV program). Disgusting violence is never ironic. It is simply disgusting. And life has enough challenges without wallowing in filth in novels. Am I being too harsh? Too narrow-minded? Perhaps some of your steady commenters will correct my short-comings.

F.T. Bradley said...

It's hard for me to keep reading if I recognize a plot device (a setup of some kind, or a forced character trait), because it takes me from reader to writer/editor mode. I have the same problem with movies or TV shows...

Todd Mason said...

Sadly, the reader isn't correctly certain that the story is what they are anticipating till the work is finished. You can probably safely assume, but you won't know.

It's remarkable how consistently, even when I don't read it, references made to essays in the NYTBR are so consistently wrong-headed or otherwise offputting.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's true you never know for sure but often you can see the setup a mile away.
I certainly don't mean to imply that I would censure stories that I personally find hard to read. And a very good and subtle writer might change my mind.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

My readers know exactly what I am up to from the first. That, for me, is the heart of telling a story about persons who face dilemmas. The storytelling lies in what the characters do or believe or think, or how they change.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if we are misunderstanding what he means. He can't mean that to be a good book, it has to be filled with surprising terms. That would eliminate historical fiction-something he has written himself. I think he must mean something deeper-that the book must invent a world of its own. Or something like that.

Dana King said...

I agree, Patti, otherwise he'd never re-read a book.

As for me, I'm there for the journey. The destination has to be worth going to, but I give a lot of leeway if the ride is nice.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

I usually know what to expect from a book plotwise before I read it. If I don't finish a book it's usually because of bad or dull writing.
I avoid political thrillers that center around Washington DC because they bore me, also literary novels about family dynamics(hated The Corrections). Violence doesn't bother me .
R.T.-Lolitas one of my favorite novels.

George said...

If I start a book, I usually finish it about 95% of the time. If the book doesn't grab me in the first 50 pages, I stop reading. Of course, I filter out a lot of books before I even consider reading them. Usually a book has to have some good reviews or a strong recommendation from someone like you before the book gets on my Read Real Soon stack.

Richard said...

With so many book I'm very sure I'll enjoy available, I don't begin reading ones that feature situations in which I'm uncomfortable or uninterested. If in reading a book something like that is revealed, I reevaluate my interest in reading, and based on my displeasure with the particular topic will stop, skim or continue.

Kelly Robinson said...

I don't think there's any subject matter that would keep me from reading a book on its own if the writing is good. I'm far more likely to put a book down if the writing is amateurish.