Reading and that contract thing

When my TV went into the shop, I figured that I’d fall back on the train of reading a lot. Instead, I’ve cleaned, written and worked out a lot. I’ve wanted to read, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then I realized that I just didn’t want to finish the book that I started. And while I was vacuuming my couch this afternoon (hush – I have a cat and my condo is dusty and I like my couch *much better* when it’s clean, thank you very much) I figured out why.


There were reasons why I was enjoying this book. It’s fairly well written — sometimes there’s a clunker sentence, but mostly the verbs “pop” and the descriptions are interesting. I didn’t mind the going back and forth in time, or the descriptions of the instruments.

About halfway through the book something significant happens. However, the author goes to great lengths and massive amounts of hand-waving to try to get the reader not to pay attention to it. Basically, it’s like the great booming voice which says, “Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!”

This pissed me off, but I was willing to go along for a little while. However, then I got stuck because the POV character (and it’s in first person) explains that the reason why he’s not paying attention to the man behind the curtain is because, basically, he’s stupid.

This, I felt, was the author breaking the contract with the reader. The POV character up to this point could be described as being stuck in his life, stuck in a rut, possibly lazy and unmotivated, but no where is it mentioned that he’s dumb. In fact, part of the novel takes place at his old college, with him interacting with former college professors, who treat him as if he was very intelligent indeed. So him being dumb in this instance is just more hand-waving, and I’m sorry, you’re not in a parade. The hand-waving is not acceptable.

In addition, this is something that I’m very sensitive to right now, as it’s an important part of the current novel. My characters — all of them — are *smart*. They ask questions and they figure stuff out. Of course they’re still screwed, cause that’s part of the fun. But they’re never in trouble because they’re stupid, or they didn’t talk with each other, or because they didn’t know something they could have figured out (except in one instance and I’m still refining that one.)

So — I’ve decided not to finish this book. This is always a difficult decision for me, however, the author can’t make it up to me. I was hoping maybe he could, but then I went out and read the reviews of the book on Amazon and realized that there’s no way he could. So I’m putting it on the pile of books going to Powells to be recycled, as it were. I have other books to read (way too many other books) — including ones that I may actually finish.

Comments (4)

  1. I vacuum my furniture. It’s GOOD to vacuum furniture. (Also windowsills, door frames, baseboards, and the tops of exposed water pipes in the basement, although I haven’t actually gotten to that yet.) We may not have jetpacks yet, but by golly modern vacuum cleaners are amazing devices! (If only they came with robot housekeepers . . . )

    Sounds like a book that deserves to be abandoned. I quit one halfway through once because I could not escape the feeling that the characters were cardboard cutouts that the author was moving around. And I could see her hands. I read a lot of mysteries, and an amazing number of plot complications are driven by a character deciding (usually in a fit of pique) not to share critical information with another character. Or making the same mistake book after book. I hate that!

    Naturally, I am looking forward to your novel full of smart characters!

    • I agree — it is GOOD to vacuum furniture. As well as the red velvet curtains that the cat likes to rub against. I also dusted a lot, which honestly, just makes my life *better*. If I dust and vacuum and clean on a fairly regular basis, I don’t have to take allergy medicine. This is very much of the good.

      I don’t abandon books easily, and I always feel guilty when I do. But I just couldn’t continue with this one.

      I firmly resolve for my characters to *not* make that kind of mistake. Really — it’s just *stupid*. Plus, it’s easy. By removing it, it makes me work harder, find more difficult obstacles for them to overcome. I think it’s making this book *much* more interesting, because there’s been more than once when I could have hidden information, and I didn’t, and so had to come up with something different.

      I hope you like these novels. I am so *thrilled* about them. Still. I finished chapter 15 today, and there are only 17 chapters in the book, so I’m REALLY CLOSE OMG. Of course I’m going to have to rewrite them but I’m not thinking about that right now still just doing the almost finished dance of joy.

      Also — it’s good to see you on LJ!

  2. I vacuum my furniture. It’s GOOD to vacuum furniture. (Also windowsills, door frames, baseboards, and the tops of exposed water pipes in the basement, although I haven’t actually gotten to that yet.) We may not have jetpacks yet, but by golly modern vacuum cleaners are amazing devices! (If only they came with robot housekeepers . . . )

    Sounds like a book that deserves to be abandoned. I quit one halfway through once because I could not escape the feeling that the characters were cardboard cutouts that the author was moving around. And I could see her hands. I read a lot of mysteries, and an amazing number of plot complications are driven by a character deciding (usually in a fit of pique) not to share critical information with another character. Or making the same mistake book after book. I hate that!

    Naturally, I am looking forward to your novel full of smart characters!

    • I agree — it is GOOD to vacuum furniture. As well as the red velvet curtains that the cat likes to rub against. I also dusted a lot, which honestly, just makes my life *better*. If I dust and vacuum and clean on a fairly regular basis, I don’t have to take allergy medicine. This is very much of the good.

      I don’t abandon books easily, and I always feel guilty when I do. But I just couldn’t continue with this one.

      I firmly resolve for my characters to *not* make that kind of mistake. Really — it’s just *stupid*. Plus, it’s easy. By removing it, it makes me work harder, find more difficult obstacles for them to overcome. I think it’s making this book *much* more interesting, because there’s been more than once when I could have hidden information, and I didn’t, and so had to come up with something different.

      I hope you like these novels. I am so *thrilled* about them. Still. I finished chapter 15 today, and there are only 17 chapters in the book, so I’m REALLY CLOSE OMG. Of course I’m going to have to rewrite them but I’m not thinking about that right now still just doing the almost finished dance of joy.

      Also — it’s good to see you on LJ!

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