Monday, March 17, 2014

Why Do You Stop Reading a Writer?

My grandmother with her father and two brothers at Wildwood, NJ in 1921.
Sandra Seamans spoke of this on her blog not long ago. In her case, the writer had written a story that repulsed her. And yes, this happens to me often. A writer I enjoy will turn a little too dark for me. But often, I see the books from a writer have become too predictable. Or it's that too many new writers come along and grab the spotlight. I used to read every book by Ruth Rendell, for instance, but I haven't read one now in years. I am not sure why. Sometimes it's for no good reason at all. Belonging to a book group has taken time away from personal reading for sure. And writing myself means that if a voice is too strong in a novel, I might put it aside, afraid it will affect mine.

Why so you stop reading on a once-favorite writer?


Anonymous said...

Good question, Patti. It does happen fairly often, especially when you read as many different authors as I do and new ones are always coming along.

1. Too samey. Same story over and over, characters never change and clearly never will as it sells as is, i.e. Janet Evanovich.
2. Just not getting the same enjoyment as before.
3. I decide I just do not like the central character at all (P. Cornwell, Robert B. Pasrker) or find there is something about the central character's behavior that I find so off-putting that I don't want to read about her/hiim any more (S. Grafton).
4. Just too dark (so many).

Surprisingly, perhaps, I do not usually stop reading a writer because of his or her personal behavior.

Jeff M.

John said...

I stopped reading John Irving when he began to recycle his previous plots and ideas and turned out turgid unexciting books.

I usually abandon any book that is basically an action movie screenplay disguised as a novel -- about 80% of contemporary pop fiction I encounter. I have a box full of them from the past two years, mostly reviewer copies from first time writers.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

As Jeff said, new authors pull me away from my favourite writers, though I do manage to return to most of them every now and then. In the main, writers like P.G. Wodehouse, Kurt Vonnegut, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Irving, A.J. Cronin, Frank G. Slaughter, Tom Sharpe, Howard Fast, Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner, John le Carré, Craig Thomas, Jack Higgins, Mickey Spillane, Len Deighton, Frederick Forsyth, and Anthony Grey. As I grow old I realise that not all of their books hold up as well as they did in the past. For instance, the plot in some of Higgins' recent novels is downright silly. Still, I read them.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Irving's themes became too familiar and yet when he moved away from Austria, bears, infidelity, wrestling-he was no more successful. Perhaps he only had one story he could tell well.
Anne Tyler ran out of steam after BREATHING LESSONS for me.
Parker ran out of plots that had any oomph. Just recycled Spenser himself.
Why would anyone write 26 books with the same character. It boggles my mind. What is left to say about her?
I liked Robotham until he got too dark-can't read about children in jeopardy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think a lot depends on how many books you read a year. I would say only about 75-80 in their entirety so they have to be very satisfying for me.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, thanks for sharing your grandmother's family photograph. I'm struck by the year it was taken, 1921, just after the Great War. They must be witness to so much before and since then.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sometimes at least it's because they have gotten too predictable. I've never been put off an author for getting too dark, although I don't typically read book after book in which there is no hope.

causer659 said...

It's rare that I find a good book (I like mysteries) that doesn't have a weak and unsatisfying ending. So often I'm disappointed when closing the book. Why is it that writers just can't come up with a spell binder to carry through. Still like Christie and James, though. Small list. Just read Brat Farrar by Tey, on all the lists of good mysteries, and enjoyed the plot but the ending seemed pat and rushed. Again.

If the endings aren't satisfying I scratch the writer.

George said...

I stop reading writers when they disappoint me with their work. Recycled plots, stale characters, predictable settings, lifeless prose, etc. The pressure of so many new books by new writers plays into this, too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
― Frank Herbert

My husband values endings a lot more than I do. I never judge a book by its cover or its ending.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I stop reading when I sense that the writer is starting to just go through the motions. When the writer seems to stop caring, so do I.

Anonymous said...

Jackie said (and I suppose I should add a WARNING here for those who might read the books) that she quit reading Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles series when the latter (WARNING WARNING) slept with the priest (END WARNING). They have changed her character, by the way, on the television show to make her ditzy rather than cold.

I'd say when the main series character becomes so un;likable that you no longer want to read about him it's time to move on. Yet some authors can make the unlikable readable and even sympathetic, like Ken Bruen.

Jeff M.

TracyK said...

Patti, I like that quote about endings. I can forgive a book a lot if it has a good ending, but really, the first two thirds of the book should be just as important as the last third.

pattinase (abbott) said...


Richard said...

First, if I find an author I like and read several books, I have to wait a year or more for the next one. During that wait if I get onto another author or two and buy some new things I'll get distracted and it can be years before I get back to that author.

If you mean permanently stop reading an author, the only reason is that I don't like the character or plotting any more. The sameness others here mention, or I'm just bored. If when I finish a book by an author I'm not at least a little eager to read the next book, I may never get back to that author.

Dana King said...

I have many of the same reasons as cited above.

--I feel the author is going through the motions. (Late Spenser books come to mind.)

--The author has begun to repeat key elements of the books.

--The author has taken a certain element of the books and ratcheted up its intensity until I'm sick of it. (A couple of the latest Dave Robicheaux books.)

And sometimes favorite writers fall through the cracks as I discover newer voices. I've begun to keep my TBR pile on a spreadsheet so I can be sure old favorites don't fall through the cracks.

Deb said...

When I was younger, whenever I encountered a writer I particularly liked, I would go on binges of reading that authors books. I haven't been able to do that for years. Now when I find a new-to-me writer, I try to space out reading their books over a period of time or I know I'll either get burnt out or the old "familiarity breeds contempt" trope kicks in. I find that no matter how wonderful I find a writer, things begin to pall around book number six.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Kind of what happened to me.

Kathy said...

I stopped reading Cornwell because her main character and some of the supporting characters became insufferable and the plots became ludicrous. I did, however, lover her early work.

I like James Patterson at first, but then the plots and characterization became so shoddy, I just couldn't take him anymore.

Jonathan Keller is also not as good as he once was.

Bernadette said...

I think the way George above said it resonates most strongly with me...when an author disappoints me...which can be in a variety of ways

With Patrica Cornwell it was because she got too outlandish - bringing characters back from the dead and having a central character sexually assault another one then never speak of it again

With Kathy Reichs it was because she appeared not to care any more - any old rubbish went into the last book of hers I read

with Elizabeth George it was the length - someone forgot to edit her and she forgot to say thanks but no thanks to her team of researchers

with Jonathan Kellerman it was the repetitiveness of the plots - so much so that some friends and I had Kellerman bingo cards when we happened to find a stash of his books while on hoidays overseas - in pre-kindle days it was often difficult to maintain a supply of books in English while travelling so we were rather attached to the box of Kellerman tales we uncovered in a Turkish second-hand book store even though most of the books really were utter pants

Too much violence does my head in, especially if it is of the gratuitous kind - I stopped reading Linda Castillo because she seemed to be walling in graphc descriptions of the unspeakable things people do to each other. I listened to one in audio and there was almost an hour-long passage which described a crime scene and victims in way too much detail

Anonymous said...

A good author knows when he or she is ready to retire. Philip Roth announced a couple of years ago that he was through. Good for him. He had the rare ability to sense when he would lose readers and reputation.

I had a series, Skye's West, that stretched to 19 titles. I kept it going that long by shifting down a generation, and the series ends with the birth of the next generation long after Skye himself is dead.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And Roth finished with one of his strongest books, NEMESIS.
It is great when an author knows when to close the door on a character.
So many reasons here. Yes, George just got too long for me although I loved her characters.

Ron Scheer said...

Ditto what John said. The first chapter of Garp is the best thing Irving ever wrote. Mark Spragg disappointed me with AN UNFINISHED LIFE, which read like a thin movie treatment and ended up as a Robert Redford vehicle. I hope he made a bundle and that it was worth giving up the writing career he started with his wonderful memoir, WHERE RIVERS CHANGE DIRECTION.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Stupidity stops me reading somebody.

Cornwell, as has been noted, got very stupid so I quit reading her.

When the main character in book sixteen manages once again to leave the gun at home when going somewhere at 2 am and also blow up yet another car it is time to stop.

Stupidity kills and yet some series linger on.