Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why Didn't You Finish the Last Book You Didn't Finish?





I read about 150 pages of this book. A friend and I had the idea we would revisit a classic that we had read as teenagers. I loved it then but perhaps my love of it was associated with the movie version  with Natalie Wood.

The novel now seemed overwritten. Every issue presented went on for many pages of dialog. I like dialog but sparser dialog. Also Marjorie seemed uninteresting as well as unlikable. Superficial. I don't mind unlikable characters If they do interesting things. She did not. At least not in the first 150 pages.

Why didn't you finish the last book you didn't finish? 


23 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Good question. Too long, too many other books on hand, library due date coming up, way too much description and not enough dialogue, just was not grabbing my interest to the point where I felt like I wanted to keep reading, and did I mention too long?

For me to read a 500+ page book these days either I have to know the payoff will be worth it (I read the 600 page Justin Cronin book, The City of Mirrors, but it was the third of a trilogy and I'd read and liked the first two.) or it has to pull me in from the start. An example that didn't? The J. K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith books.

Margot Kinberg said...

Sorry to hear you didn't want to finish this one, Patti. I've definitely done the same when I couldn't find a single likeable character, or at least one that interested me!

J F Norris said...

I don't finish a lot of books. In fact, I keep a list of unfinished books to compare against those I did finish.

Here are some reasons I close a book never to return: Dull, pedestrian writing. Unimaginative plotting. Characters tell each other everything instead of the writer showing us the action. Plots I am so tired of that I can't bear to read another rehash.

A few months ago I attempted to read one of those overhyped books (I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh) hoping to be wowed or see what a new writer was doing with a very familiar plot. I had planned to review it on the blog. But the writing was so commonplace, the ideas presented so completely ordinary, I felt like I was listening to a whiney woman tell me her troubles on a radio call-in show. I had no idea why anyone raved about the book let alone so many. I didn't last three chapters with that book.

Al Tucher said...

Part of the problem is, my attention span is shot to hell, and I really do think the internet is primarily to blame.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, yes, yes, Al. I think that is part of my problem for sure
GONE GIRL certainly shepherded it a lot of book about young women up to no good, John.

Charles Gramlich said...

Probably been years since I abandoned a book after ten or fifteen pages. I do end up scanning stuff sometime, or speed reading it to get to the end.

Richard Robinson said...

The last book I didn't finish, in fact I returned it to the library after only 20 pages, was Book Scavenger by Chambliss Bertman &Jennifer
Book. Why? Written in first person, present tense. I really don't like that, and though I struggled through those 20 pages, I finally gave up, and with a hearty "the hell with it" tossed it onto the table where things from and to return to the library reside.

Other reasons for not finishing a book: slow, boring, no characters to pull for, pretentious writing, tired plot, or crimes against children, though that last one I usually know about before I even decide to read it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The writer is using first person present to try to put you in the moment. Takes a lot of skill. I usually end up changing one or the other. It can be effective though for the commission of a crime.

"I walk into the bank. Two guards flank the row of tellers, but neither notices me. I am that kind of person. Maybe that's why I rob banks instead of running them."

Doesn't that put you right there?

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Yes, but usually I like it to be a story, not an entire novel. I find it off-putting.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I probably would too unless there were several povs.

James Reasoner said...

The last one I gave up on had a twist ending that was 'way too obvious. I figured it out in the second chapter. I did check out the ending to see if I was right, and I was. The main reason I give up on books, though, is that they're just too long and I burn out.

Richard Robinson said...

Yes, Patti, it puts me right there, but so would third person, and more comfortably so. At least for me.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

The last time I didn't finish a book was a little over a year ago. I'd taken it along on a train ride from Seattle to Portland, hoping to be entertained. Instead, the story was amateurishly composed, the characters too bizarre to be credible, and the whole air of the tale like something that a complete amateur might have produced. Coming from a new publisher that promised great things, I was shocked and disappointed. Furthermore, I was appalled by the frequency of typos and missing words in the text. I wound up leaving the book on my train seat. Maybe someone less demanding than I found the damn thing and actually read it cover to cover. I should have left a note of warning on the front ...

Todd Mason said...

The last I stopped out of profound disappointment rather than time constraints/other activity would be THE LOVELY BONES. Happily, it's been a while.

Anonymous said...

The last time I failed to finish a book, it was not entirely a problem with the book. The book did not really grab me from the beginning. But I was also during the same period browsing a travel guide for an upcoming trip, and that simply turned out to be more interesting than the novel. So I dropped the novel, returned it to the library and kept on browsing the travel guide. Yes, a pretty shallow reason to stop reading.

I have also stopped reading books because I found the main character irritating.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Anderson's ILL WIND: the book had a great premise (after an oil spill, a company releases a petroleum-eating bacteria which quickly mutates and starts consuming anything containing a petroleum-based product, which is essentially almost everything man-made), but the writing was flat, the characters were of the white-hatted hero or mustache-twirling villain dichotomy, and the politics were Fox News level. What should have been a fast-paced thriller was instead a dull screed full of tell not show. I couldn't finish it.

--Deb

George said...

I try to choose books carefully so I don't have to abandon them after 50 pages. Every once in a while I read a clunker and can't finish the book. But my biggest reading failure is Proust. I've attempted SWANN'S WAY three times. My eyes glaze over and I just close the book.

Mathew Paust said...

Swann's Way. Thank you, George! It's not the last one I abandoned, and I must insist I have 't really abandoned it, but I've had little incentive to open it again. I rarely abandon novels once I've gotten past the first several chapters. I did with Moby Dick and Gravity's Rainbow, each of which I started several times before buckling down and grinding my way to the end. With MD there was too much technical crap about whaling and whales that distracted from the narrative. With GR each time I quit it was at the scene with the gigantic animated adenoid. Oh, I just remembered 100 Years of Solitude, because of what I felt was an over indulgence in magical realism--a little hint here and a tad there can add to a story's magic, but not when it's so prominent. And this was after Marquez won the Nobel. Another was Marilynne Robinson's Lila despite the rave reviews. Too slow, too much dreary dialect and an annoying sense of preciousness. Voice, I suppose, is the simplest way to put it. I usually don't consider it abandonment, but rather postponement until I'm in a different mood.

Gerard said...

Boston Mob: The Rise and Fall of the New England Mob and Its Most Notorious Killer

This had a rave review online. I couldn't keep all the competing mobsters and killers straight. I was kinda enjoying the stories of who-did-what but realized I remembered little to nothing of what I read 10 pages back.

TracyK said...

I abandoned Chiefs by Stuart Woods after about 150 pages because I could not handle the extremely horrible treatment of blacks which was part of the story. I know it would have been a good book and I was reading it for the theme of the changing relationships over decades but I got so tense I just could not go on.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I read the Wouk (who is 101 and still with us) decades ago, quite liked it, especially the bittersweet ending :) - however, I get very stubborn about finishing books, but occasionally I have raced through them (I usually abhor speed reading) - I think the last time I didn't finish a book was because I was reading it on holiday and didn't want to finish it having got back to my 'regular' life - only happened the once though. It was an Italian book and just didn't feel like reading it in the UK ...

Todd Mason said...

Sergio is much more tolerant of Wouk than I.

Mike Dennis said...

I remember my mom reading Marjorie when I was a kid. I read it after she did, only because she read it. I finished it, but had no opinion that I can remember. I did, however, like Wouk's WINDS OF WAR series.

On the other hand, a few years ago, I read James Ellroy's THE COLD SIX THOUSAND and put it down seven pages from the end. That's right, seven pages. Ellroy, as I'm sure you know, writes these looooong books, and this one was no exception, weighing in at around 700 pages. He happens to be one of my two or three favorite authors, so I actually bought the hardcover (!!!) and gave it every chance. But seven pages before the end, I'd had enough.