Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Abandoning Books

I abandon books freely, but not frequently. Any book that I start has already passed my personal, idiosyncratic appeal test. There are mistakes, of course. Sometimes I can check off a whole bunch of factors in a book's favour and I still put it down after a few pages.

Cockroach by Rawi Hage is an example:

  • loved previous book by same author (De Niro's Game)
  • topic of mental health
  • immigrant experience
  • stylish, literary prose
  • Canadian

... and yet I didn't get past the first chapter.

In a different mood, I might react differently and be immediately drawn in, but once I abandon a book it is rare for me to pick it up again.

Today I abandoned a book before I even got past the front matter.

I had waited for it to come on hold at the library, then thought something along the lines of "Oh, here is this book I've heard good things about," then brought it home, so it was with a feeling of pleasure that I picked it up to begin reading. I started with the epigraph:
"here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)"                 - e. e. cummings
Cue shivers of delight. Love this poem.

Next is the half title page.

Next is a brief preface:

"By the window, she sits in her favorite chair, jumping a doll up and down in her lap. A shadow flickers in the doorway behind her. Someone else is watching her, too."

At that point, I shut the book. Nope. Not for me. Not my taste. I'm not reading this.

And then I got curious about my own negative reactions. Why had I assumed it would be for me in the first place? On the back cover is praise from authors (Lisa Gardner, Luanne Rice, etc.) with familiar names, but I haven't read their books. Because not my taste.

I flip to the copy on the inside cover and there's enough there to justify my interest: "intimate family drama;" "profound power of the truths we're scared to face;" "deeply moving;" "hope and forgiveness." I've loved plenty of family dramas involving secrets: The History of Love; The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches; The Almond Picker; The Good Parents; and Swamplandia are just a few.

The book in my hands is described as "stunningly suspenseful" and a thriller. Again, I can think of many that I've loved that are like this. Gone Girl. The Passage. Before I Go to Sleep. The Expats. Apple Tree Yard. So Much Pretty. I've got nothing against page-turners, per se.

But now I remember reading a review that recommended this to readers who like Jodi Picoult. Red flag. Wooop, wooop, wooop. I read two of Picoult's books and disliked them both. Enough already. There are too many great books waiting. My good feelings of anticipation about this book have completely evaporated. Carla Buckley's The Deepest Secret is going back to the library today, where I know that other -- more appreciative -- readers are waiting for it.

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