Thursday, September 2, 2010

Zero for Three

I don't know what's going on, but the last three—that's THREE—books I've started I haven't had the heart to finish. It finally got to the point that I had to wonder, "Is it me?" Then I thought long and hard about WHY I set each of them down, and here it is ... my list of what kills a book for me:

1. Snooze. The voice is boring, confusing, or full of insider lingo. Or all three. This is probably what kills more books for me than anything else. These are the books I set down in two pages ... if it's just blah, or pretentious, or if it's one of those books where the writer is stringing together all these ridiculous sentences that don't actually say anything. Writing doesn't have to be "lyrical" for me to like it, but jeez, give me something to go on.

2. What?! I set a book down last week after I finally got fed up with asking, "Are you freaking KIDDING ME?!" Listen, I'm willing to go along with a lot of things for the sake a good ride. You want me to believe that Jesus had kids and some crazy secret society has been burying clues throughout history? I'm in. But if you try to present a book as "literary" fiction, grounded in the real world, and then ask me to go along with all these ludicrous plot points that NO ONE else in the whole book thinks are weird, I'll get pissed. Every time.

3. Boring. Here's the thing: my life is fairly boring. I work. I raise kids with various degree of effectiveness. I water plants. I brown meats. I hang out with my wife a lot and friends less often. I watch movies. And every so often, I engage in the utterly impractical, but hopefully healthy, practice of moving weights around. And that's pretty much it. We vacation with family members. I don't have wings; my decisions neither grant life nor death; my profile isn't so shockingly handsome that people must avert their eyes at first glance; I've never killed a living animal with my teeth, a knife, or a bone pick; I've never caught a raging venereal disease from a rising starlet. So here's what I'm saying ... if I'm more interesting than the characters in the book I'm reading, I Am Out.

I did start a book this week I have high hopes for. So far, it has an interesting character, a cool voice, and the plot is managing to hang together. I hope—almost against all hope—that my drought is over.


Jude Hardin said...

Part of my blurb from author Leighton Gage reads Pocket-47 is a thoroughly engaging, nonstop slay ride.

When I first got the blurb, I thought "slay ride" would make a cool title for a book. So I did a little research, and of course someone had already used it. I'm reading it now. It's by an author named Chris Grabenstein, and I have to say it's pretty damn good. I'll probably read this guy again sometime.

So it's interesting how we sometimes discover an author by chance like that, or a title or cover or something strikes us as particularly enticing.

But I'm definitely with you, Jon. I don't feel any obligation to finish a book just because I started it. Life's too short to waste much time on bad fiction.

Erica Orloff said...

OK, MAJOR LOL on number 3. :-)

Mark Terry said...

Jude, I believe Dick Francis also had a book titled Slay Ride.

Anyway, it's an almost standard question at book events--do you base your character on you. I have some answer I rattle off, but what I most want to say is, "No, I want the character to be interesting."

Jon VanZile said...

Slay Ride ... Don't Look Under the Tree this Year, Kids. Santa's Mad as Hell.

Jude Hardin said...

It would be a good title for some kind of Santa horror story, Jon, but in this one the bad guy's a Russian limo driver who's out to get the client who complained and got him fired. Set during the holiday season.

Mark, I just looked and you're right, Francis also has a book by that title!

Jon VanZile said...

Is he at least a Russian sleigh driver?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hah! You guys slay me.

Jon VanZile said...